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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Sour Apple Wants to Free Music

Steve Jobs is acting like a 5-year-old by suggesting that all copy protection be removed from digital music. The much adored Apple chief is responding to Europe's threatened boycott of iTunes by suggesting that if his protectionist policies aren't followed, then no one should be able to protect music.

It doesn't have to be so. iPods and iTunes are both proprietary and protectionist in nature so that Apple can continue its policy of allowing (for the most part) only Apple software to be used with Apple hardware and vice versa. Apple wanted to maximize iPod sales, so it would not license iTunes software to other MP3 player companies. Europe didn't like that plan, and sued to open up iTunes or end sales there.

So Jobs says instead of allowing iTunes and iPods to mix and match with other digital devices, let's remove copy protection altogether. But Apple could make money by allowing other devices to play their music through licensing deals. Or, they could allow tunes to be converted by licensed users to MP3 format if they want to burn them to CD and play them (gasp) in the car or on the home stereo. But Apple wants none of this new world reality. RealNetworks similarly makes it a pain in the arse to move music from its proprietary format to other devices.

While many music fans would undoubtedly love removing all copy protection, the music industry and Apple's competitors won't be so thrilled. I'm doubtful that all copy protection will go away, and in the end, a compromise will be reached. But we'll have to suffer Jobs being Jobs for a while, as he threatens to take his toys and go home rather than sharing.

By John Gartner at 08:50 AM | Comments (6)

(6) Thoughts on Sour Apple Wants to Free Music

I believe you are wrong. The reason Apple instituted DRM in the first place is at the insistence of the record companies. Without DRM, they would not have allowed digital downloading. Now that that path has been blazed, and consumers have embraced digital purchases and downloads, who needs the DRM? As far as licensing, as Jobs noted himself, one crack in the system would mean countless numbers of licensees would have to update their hardware/software, and coordinating this would be a nightmare. Come on. Most people buy DRM-less music already in the form of CDs. The record industry'd Napster-phobia is unfounded. They should keep it simple. We're not all criminals.

Comments by Doug Adams : Wednesday, February 07, 2007 at 11:14 AM

The least you could do is get your facts straight.

(1) The Europeans have an issue with iTS (that would the the iTunes store) and not iTunes.

(2) iTunes can rip CDs. Those CDs have no DRM on them.

(3) iPods cn play MP3s. iTunes can import MP3s. Not sure why you label these as proprietary. That's like call Microsoft Office proprietary because you don't get the source code.

(4) Just like nobody has ever been convicted of holding a gun to another's head to force them to buy an iPod, neither is anybody holding a gun to your head and forcing you to suffer Jobs being Jobs.

Are there ulterior motives behind Jobs' thoughts? Sure. Just like anybody involved in business or politics.

What I have no clue about is YOUR motives behind calling Jobs a 5 year old. I'm guessing that since you obviously think DRM is good, and confuse DRM with interoperability, that you must be a shill for the RIAA.

Comments by Dave : Wednesday, February 07, 2007 at 11:23 AM

I'm not sure where you've been getting your information, but some of the statements you make in this article are misleading. For one, you imply that iTunes can not burn CD's, which is not the case. It's actually quite easy to burn a CD from iTunes, even using files purchased from the iTunes store.

If you had actually taken the time to read the entire article that Steve Jobs posted, you would see that he is not threatening to "take his toys and go home". He explains, rather clearly I think, that the reason things are set up the way they are is so that the record companies won't take their toys and go home.

Also, you say that Apple's competitors wouldn't be thrilled with the removal of DRM. Why not? While I've never been involved with implementing a DRM scheme, I have to imagine it's a huge pain in the ass.

I think the events of the past decade have proven that people that are willing to pay for music will pay for it, and those that aren't willing to pay for it will steal it. As long as there is a way to get audio out of a computer, there will always be a way around any DRM scheme anyway.

Even now, if you really want to, you can burn an audio CD in iTunes, and rip back as MP3's. All removing DRM would do, is make life simpler for everyone. The people who are willing to pay for music will still pay for it, the people who aren't willing to pay for it will still steal it, and choices for the consumer will expand exponentially.

Comments by Eric Webster : Wednesday, February 07, 2007 at 12:46 PM

Not only that, Apple should not have to license what it owns if it does not want to, unless you can show that its doing so deliberately to skew the market. But I think you will find that difficult to prove.

Microsofts Windows Media Player is even worse wrapping DRM around your own generated content. iTunes does not even wrap DRM from a ripped CD.

Comments by Mohan Paul : Wednesday, February 07, 2007 at 03:27 PM

Unfortunately, as we see time and time again, no amount of please to get the facts straight will change the minds of Jobs/Apple/Mac/iPod haters.

It's amazing to see somehow you claims to be "knowledgeable" still promoting inane myths like "iTunes can't burn to CD."

Even worse is when Jobs haters are so irrational that they start putting words in Jobs' mouth, just so they can accuse him of "lying" at a later date. Where in Jobs' article did he even imply that he would "take his toys and go home?"

Unfortunately, the writer of this article MUST have the reading comprehension of a 5 year old to have drawn that conclusion. Jobs basically said, either we continue with what we have now (proprietary DRM schemes all competing continuously for dominance, whether it's Sony, Zune, or iTunes) or we just forget that the horse is already out of the barn and locking the doors 20 years after the fact is a waste of time and money.

Comments by Paul : Wednesday, February 07, 2007 at 05:55 PM

I also believe you are wrong.

The need to control things is a disease that corporations have these days and the individuals are revolting.

This is a very important admission by the largest implementor of DRM in the world that it just doesn't work. This confirms things that have been obvious for a long time.
Apple attempted to create Fairplay as the largest walled garden of DRM and it still wasn't large enough to overcome the network effects that the DRM free music enjoyed, despite having a lot of advantages (Legal, Big Music, 50% market share etc, Early mover).

Watch history play out and then we'll see who was right.

Comments by Andrew Russell : Wednesday, February 07, 2007 at 06:43 PM

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