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Music execs insist on protected music

updated 12:40 pm EST, Wed February 7, 2007

Music execs stand fast

Executives from the music industry have made it clear that while they may not stick with digital rights management (DRM) as a means to protect their digital catalogs, they are not willing to abandon copy protection altogether as requested by Apple CEO Steve Jobs in an open letter published yesterday. Responding to the letter, a senior executive at one company who asked to remain anonymous said "we're not going to broadly license our content for unprotected digital distribution." Another executive said record companies are concerned that lifting restrictions on digital music might have serious ramifications on the parallel market for protected video content, according to the New York Times.

Apple is facing increasing pressure overseas as several European countries led by Norway proceed to crack down on consumer rights laws in those regions. Involved countries and consumer agencies believe consumers shouldn't be locked into playing tracks purchased from the iTunes Store exclusively on iPods and iTunes software, or to any closed proprietary system.

France in 2006 passed a law that repeatedly threatened to close down the iTunes Store in that country as it proceeded through both houses, but the law was eventually watered down and has resulted in no visible consequence to Apple thus far.

Italy is also joining Norway, Sweden, Finaland, Germany, France, and other European countries in the fight against closed proprietary systems locking consumers into playing digital music on one type of portable player. The country is hoping to achieve an online music market with no barriers by formally contacting the Italian Antitrust Authority, the Italian trade ministry, and the ministry for the economic development. Italy hopes Apple will review its DRM policies for a more open model that would serve as an example to other vendors and major music companies, arguing that Italian consumers should have the right to use any player on the market to listen to music acquired from the iTunes store.

Senior advisor Torgeir Waterhouse of the Norwegian Consumer Council yesterday responded to Jobs' open letter, acknowledging that music labels need to carry their own weight to ensure fairness for customers on a global scale but maintaining that Apple is responsible for consumer rights in Norway because it is the storefront actually selling the music to customers.

"It's quite clear that the record companies carry their share of the responsibility for the situation that the consumer [is] stuck in," exclaimed Waterhouse. "However no matter what agreements [the] iTunes Music Store [has] entered into, they're still the company that's selling music to the consumers and are responsible for offering the consumer a fair deal according to Norwegian law."

Jobs in his letter to the world at large questioned why the big four music companies are straining to protect digital music offerings when a majority of their music is already sold with no copy-restrictions at brick-and-mortar retail stores such as Wal-Mart and Target.

"If the big four music companies would license Apple their music without the requirement that it be protected with a DRM, we would switch to selling only DRM-free music on our iTunes store," Jobs wrote, who clarified earlier in his letter that Apple would breach its contract with the music labels under the current terms if it failed to protect their musical assets from piracy, adding that Apple only has "a small number of weeks" to repair any situation that results in pirated content.

Apple leads the digital music industry with a vast majority of both online music sales and portable media players in the U.S., making the Cupertino-based company a prime target for advocates of free music aiming to broaden consumer rights. As Apple fights to maintain its lead in the industry against competitors such as Sony and Microsoft, the legality of its closed system -- imposed by the four major record labels as a requirement to maintain its wide array of digital music offerings -- continues to threaten Apple's iTunes store in numerous European countries.

by MacNN Staff



  1. rtamesis

    Joined: Dec 1969


    A rock and a hard place

    In essence, Norway is asking Apple to breach its contract with the record companies to implement a DRM system. Unless the music industry agrees to a DRM-free system, I don't think Apple has any choice but to pull the iTunes music store from Norway and other countries that insist on such a thing. In the end, the consumers in those countries lose.

  1. 7stringdude

    Joined: Dec 1969


    right on, rtamesis

    I couldn't have said it better myself. The consumers will be the real losers in this deal.

  1. Zak Nilsson

    Joined: Dec 1969



    In this case, Norway is being unreasonable. The record labels are the only reason DRM exists on the songs on the iTS, Norway should be going after them, not Apple, because that would actually accomplish something in line with what Norway wants. Going after Apple will only result in Apple pulling the iTS from Norway.

  1. legacyb4

    Joined: Dec 1969


    The joke is...

    as long as the media companies continue to release unprotected content in the form of CDs, that "digital content" will always be subject to "unlicensed digital distribution"...

  1. whackjob

    Joined: Dec 1969


    dumb, dumb

    "European" countries getting on Apple's case because the "European" record companies (that's who owns most of the music sold) will not accept DRM free files.

    Maybe the European governments should get over theeir arrogant attitudes and direct the issue at the "European" based record execs.


  1. Benton

    Joined: Dec 1969


    All Talk And Nothing...

    Nothing will come of all this talk by EU consumer organizations. They have a constituency who wants to be heard. They know the music labels control by contract what Apple is doing. France's parliament went through the same discussion and nothing happened. Why don't we hear from knowledgeable nationals about what the other side is reporting in the press?

  1. horvatic

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Europe is unreasonable!

    Europe is being unreasonable as they don't understand that Apple is under contract and has no control over how the music is locked. It's easy to say license fair play but who's going to enforce it if someone then leaks the key? If they are all so against fair play then Apple should shutdown all iTunes sites. Let's then see how the consumers in Europe react when they have no place to download legally.

  1. Elderloc

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Okay I don't see how this is Apples problem. If people know it will only work with an iPod and they still choose to buy it then how the h*** is that Apple's problem? If they don't want to be locked into a single player go else where, if there is no where else well to bad. Geez..

    This is almost like buying a GM car and getting pissed later that you can't put put a ford engine in it, when you knew that it was a GM from the start.

  1. dynsight

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Missing the obvious

    Read carefully. The sole point is NOT that there is copy protection on the music, it is that Itunes songs are played on the iPod. If Apple licensed the DRM to play on the Zune (God Forbid!), or other less successful player, then this would go a long way to meeting the demands.

    It could be argued that you are not limited to the iPod, that you can play it on up to 5 itunes (workstations), and that would be a valid point. However, ultimately, it comes down to portability to small .mp3 players.

    What is unknown is if this "iPod" only restriction is party of the Recording Industry contract(s), and thus cannot be breached by Apple.

    BTW, Burning the songs to a CD and re-ripping it back does remove the protection, but it is still a PITA!

  1. danviento

    Joined: Dec 1969


    ... a PITA

    but necessary under the current requirements of these Label companies.

    And it really isn't that hard. It takes me 5 minutes maximum to enter the info for a completely filled burned CD of purchased music upon re-import. If you do a print ->save as PDF, you can copy and paste the info to each category quite easily. I think it's worth it so that my friends can stream my music and movies over our network.

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