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Jobs would offer DRM-free music in a 'heartbeat'

updated 03:00 pm EST, Tue February 6, 2007

Jobs embraces free music

Apple CEO Steve Jobs in a letter to the world at large has openly embraced DRM-free music, but says his company cannot remove digital rights management (DRM) protection until the big four record labels agree. "Imagine a world where every online store sells DRM-free music encoded in open licensable formats," said Apple's chief. "In such a world, any player can play music purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is playable on all players. This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat." Jobs says if the big four music companies would license his company their music without requiring that it be copy-protected, Apple would switch to selling only DRM-free music on its iTunes store. The executive also notes that every iPod ever made will play DRM-free music, and questions why the big four music labels refuse to let Apple follow this path. [updated]

"Why would the big four music companies agree to let Apple and others distribute their music without using DRM systems to protect it?" asked Jobs. "The simplest answer is because DRMs haven't worked, and may never work, to halt music piracy. Though the big four music companies require that all their music sold online be protected with DRMs, these same music companies continue to sell billions of CDs a year which contain completely unprotected music. That's right! No DRM system was ever developed for the CD, so all the music distributed on CDs can be easily uploaded to the Internet, then (illegally) downloaded and played on any computer or player."

Under 2 billion DRM-protected songs were sold worldwide in 2006 via online avenues such as Apple's iTunes Music Store, while more than 20 billion songs were sold completely DRM-free and unprotected on CDs by the music companies themselves.

"The music companies sell the vast majority of their music DRM-free, and show no signs of changing this behavior, since the overwhelming majority of their revenues depend on selling CDs which must play in CD players that support no DRM system," Jobs continues. "So if the music companies are selling over 90 percent of their music DRM-free, what benefits do they get from selling the remaining small percentage of their music encumbered with a DRM system? There appear to be none."

Apple's head notes that if anything, the technical expertise and overhead required to create, operate, and update a DRM system has limited the number of participants selling DRM protected music.

"If such requirements were removed, the music industry might experience an influx of new companies willing to invest in innovative new stores and players. This can only be seen as a positive by the music companies."

Turning to swelling concerns over DRM systems in several European countries, Jobs suggests that those unhappy with the current situation redirect their energies toward persuading the music companies to sell their music DRM-free. Universal -- the largest of the big four record companies -- is 100 percent owned by French company Vivendi, while EMI is British owned. Sony BMG is half owned by German-based firm Bertelsmann, making two and a half of the big four record labels European-based.

"Convincing them to license their music to Apple and others DRM-free will create a truly interoperable music marketplace," said Jobs. "Apple will embrace this wholeheartedly."

A Scandinavian-led effort to force Apple to open its closed iPod/iTunes ecosystem in several countries has continued to grow in recent months, attracting an increasing number of European nations as they lobby for consumer rights. Countries that have expressed interest in the movement currently include Norway, Sweden, Finland, France, Germany, and the Netherlands.

A French law that repeatedly threatened to shut down that country's iTunes Music Store officially went into effect on August 3rd of 2006, following several drafts that would have forced Apple to open its FairPlay DRM to competitors and ultimately leading to the music labels revoking their catalogs of music from the iTunes Music Store. The final revision of the law, which went into effect after the final version was declared unconstitutional, has yet to produce a visible impact on Apple's French iTunes ventures.




by MacNN Staff

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Comments

  1. libraryguy

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Fix the headline!

    I think you mean DRM free music.

  1. Nostromo

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    URL?

    Where can the rest of us read this "letter to the world"? URL?

  1. fishtech

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    It's here

    http://www.apple.com/hotnews/thoughtsonmusic/

  1. e:leaf

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    linky

    apple.com/hotnews/thoughtsonmusic/

  1. hokizpokis

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    ta - da

    the same reason why Apple refuses to license it's OS to other computer hardware manufacturers...profits; yes its' an ulgy world where profits are king and nobody, I repeat nobody is going to work for free...hense the concept of copyright (content author) and patents (on hardware and software) ... 'music' is in fact a 'worthy product' and 'record companies' or 'music creators' should be able to prevent 'stealing' from whomever purchases electronic music downloads... a geniune DRM that benefits everyone has yet to be designed and I predict will never exist in the free market... unless some innovator in the industry comes up with a real solution; imagine a world wide database that 'understands' that you have already purchased 'Black Sabbath' on vinyl, 8-trk, cassette, CD and digital download, and when your vinyl is stolen by your ex-girl friend, you 8-trk player quits, cassette tape gets eaten, CDs are scratched; your digital downloads will still work on any future system as long as they are mp3's and not AAC's...blah, blah, blah

  1. Tins

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Tomorrows Thread

    Ballmer and Gates would except DRM-Free music in a heartbeat!

  1. iolaire

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    this is notable:

    However, a key provision of our agreements with the music companies is that if our DRM system is compromised and their music becomes playable on unauthorized devices, we have only a small number of weeks to fix the problem or they can withdraw their entire music catalog from our iTunes store.

  1. fishtech

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Useful clarification

    It's useful to have this clarification in the public domain at a time when some EU member states are moving to penalize Apple for anti-competetive behavior.

    With Universal being wholly owned by French multi-national conglomerate Vivend, is it a coincidence that iTunes Store was almost banned in France first, and that other EU States are now kicking the idea around?

    And remember... the largest of the 4, Universal Music, earns direct commission by Microsoft on the sale of EVERY Zune.

    Talk about having cakes & eating them. Universal are trying to eat everything.

    ft.

  1. 319please

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Somebody post reference

    Where is the open letter to the world at large?

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Comments

    First, its easy for Jobs to say this, because he knows they won't go for it (hey, if they could, they'd DRM all their music, they just haven't found a way to do it yet).

    Or maybe he's running scared of Norway.

    Also... The executive also notes that every iPod ever made will play DRM-free music, and questions why the big four music labels refuse to let Apple follow this path.

    While true, the statement implies that all DRM-free music is created equal (i.e. you have all these whacked DRM'd formats, but there's one DRM-free format). While the iPod can play some types of DRM-free music, it also lacks the ability to play other types of DRM-free music. The only lossless format is their own propietary format. No FLAC. No OGG. No WMA (well, there might be someone out there who wants it....). So even if everyone decided to go DRM-free, your probably still have limits on where you can buy based on what formats others decide to use.

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