Apple denounces DRM

I always though this would happen. Steve Jobs has posted what amounts to an open letter to the music industry to stop the use of Digital Rights Management for online music downloads. The thoughts contained within it are clear for all to see. Apple Inc. would switch the iTunes Music Store over to a non-DRM format “in a heartbeat” if the big-four music companies would allow it. Jobs elucidates the options they have today: to stay as they are and watch a market fragment into proprietary formats, license FairPlay and watch it get compromised quicker than the blink of an eyelid, or convince the music industry that DRM has never, and will never work.

Interestingly, Jobs effectively issues a call to arms to the citizens of Europe to put pressure on the big four, both because we have been most vocal in criticizing DRM and as the music industry is effectively centered here. Where do I sign up?

5 thoughts on “Apple denounces DRM

  1. To me this feels more like Steve is upset about the success (or otherwise) of iTunes than being opposed to DRM in the first place. As he states in the letter, just 3% of the average iPod’s contents are from iTunes. I suspect that if iTunes was flourishing, he’d be quite happy with the current DRM situation, but when you can buy an album on CD for £10 and be able to rip it to work on as many players as you like, why would you buy the same contents from iTunes for ~£15 and be tied down by the DRM?

    In my opinion, if Steve was really that committed to abolish DRM, he wouldn’t be releasing a phone that is closed to third-party application developers. To me, this announcement is about making more money rather than anything else. Which is, of course, absolutely fine – it’s what a successful business should be trying to acheive. But does he have to come across so altruistic?

  2. Yes, after posting and suddenly realising that the US half of the blogosphere has already done this to death, there are of course two sides to argue. However, speaking personally, I buy all my music from iTMS nowadays, simply because it is the easiest way for me to get hold of it. Putting aside the well worn argument about only buying a single track you like rather than needing to purchase the full album, I like the on-demand nature of the store rather than going out or waiting for postal delivery. I also like the fact that I only need to worry about backup of digital media rather than storage of CDs. With about 1000 CDs already that is a big pain.

    I’d also argue your point about the pricing. Last time I looked, iTMS albums generally go for around £8. Admittedly, this isn’t as much of a differential as one would hope for, but is certainly not more expensive than CDs. Of course, there will always be the fact that CDs are often discounted in sales I guess. So far we are yet to see the music companies discount their stuff on iTMS (and it is usually the music companies which allow the promotions which see discounted CDs in stores, not the stores themselves. It is an effective way of dumping excess manufactured stock.)

    On the point about the iPhone, well yes I agree it is a shame it is not opened to 3rd parties. This is a new avenue for Apple in many ways (not least partnering with a cellular provider which will have to help support the phone) and I am pretty sure that as they grow their experience, so they will open things up.

    As for Jobs’ self-promotion, well it isn’t the first time and it won’t be the last 🙂

  3. Ah, my mistake – not having used iTunes personally (I owned an iPod for a month and then sold it, after deciding that however cool it was, I still didn’t really have a need for a personal music player), I assumed that the album cost was equivalent to the cost of purchasing the tracks individually. Of course, it makes sense that they would discount the cost of buying the complete album*.

    I would certainly agree that the on-demand aspect is excellent, and I am another person who would choose to buy individual tracks rather than entire albums in the most part. So if Jobs does succeed in removing DRM from iTunes, he might well get another subscriber.

    I too am hopeful that Apple will open the iPhone up to third-party apps – and even if they don’t I suspect there’s a good chance that someone else will figure out how to! It’s just disappointing that they’re not doing so from the get-go – my parents, neither of which are techies, both have Windows Mobile 5 based phones with useful third-party apps on them. While being prevented from doing this would probably not stop them buying a phone, it would certainly reduce the appeal.

    * Out of interest, if you purchase individual songs from an album, i.e. the latest single from a band, can you ‘upgrade’ to the full album merely by paying the cost difference between the single tracks you purchased and the full album price?

  4. Nope, you have to buy the full album, or each track individually. This is a bummer, especially for albums with >10 tracks, which is most of them. Fortunately I still prefer to buy the whole album for new releases, saving single track purchases for specific needs, for example occasionally filling in the gaps in my collection of the Rolling Stone top 500 songs of all time.

  5. I just hope that pressure doesn’t include legislating against DRM. I’ve a sad feeling it will.

    If it’s such a bad business model, it will die of its own accord (and some would argue already is).

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