Wednesday, 7 February 2007

DRM roll, please

The blogosphere is alive with the sound of unrestricted music. Steve Jobs has announced, in an open letter, that he'd like to see the back of DRM. Hooray!

Now I've always been a big believer in fair use, and DRM flies in the face of that. But while I'm pleased to see such an important player making this announcement, lets not pretend that Jobs isn't just trying to solidify Apple's position in the market.

First, Jobs makes the claim that people aren't downloading as much music from iTunes as they might if the songs were DRM-free. But many people haven't even heard of DRM (although the number is increasing, every time someone tries to play a track they've bought on iTunes on their mobile phone).

Second, Michael Markman made an interesting point on Robert Scoble's blog that, if Apple wants to get rid of DRM so badly, Steve Jobs could start with Disney film content sold over iTunes (Jobs sits on the Disney board, after all). I found this quote (sorry, it's a Google text-only cache version) from a Disney executive, admitting that "If consumers even know there's a DRM, what it is, and how it works, we've already failed". Well, they know (at least several of them do), it's failed, and your colleague has put his head up above the paraphet. It begs the question: should different DRM rules apply to film content versus audio content? I think not.

Third, how about the timing? Why didn't Jobs push for this before iTunes had the biggest market share? OK, fair enough, I suppose he didn't have the weight of an established market behind him at that point, but he could have taken his stand much sooner.

Anyways, here we are. I'm looking forward to seeing how the music companies react - they won't have liked being bossed around. And if they do agree to remove the DRM restrictions from iTMS content, will Apple update all content sold to date for free? The bandwidth bills would be enormous!! Let's see....2 billion songs...let's say 5mb each on average...that's 10 million terabytes! Or 10 exabytes (if I've done my maths correctly)! I feel an odd compulsion to add a picture of Commander Data....



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UPDATE 8 February 2006: ZDNet has written an article citing five reasons why Jobs made the announcement now. Good stuff.

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UPDATE 9 February 2006: Warner says that Jobs' suggestion was "without logic and merit" (boo!), while EMI are considering offering its products online "without anti-copying software" (yay!).

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