Steve Jobs Calls For an End to DRM

Like I said, that’s a lame excuse. Yahoo music (I think they use a Microsoft DRM) is compatible with 14 different companies mp3 players. If Yahoo can do it, Apple can do it also. Even if Apple is concerned about their DRM getting out, there is no reason iPods shouldn’t be able to play Yahoo’s or Napster’s music.

No, but they have almost turned me to piracy just to have actual control over the media I want to watch.

I think this is part of it, since his plea is unlikely to happen soon; by decrying DRM, Jobs gets to eat his cake and have it. And on the off-chance that it does happen, Apple is in a very good position. Jobs sees the day coming when there will be serious challengers to the iPod and iTunes.

So far, the iTunes store and iPods are far and away the most successful online music store and portable music player, respectively, in terms of both absolute numbers and profit. They’re so dominant that companies like Real have been trying to reverse engineer the protections to get in on the iPod-owning market. But if someone else manages to make a viable competitor, people who get locked into another player will be much harder for Apple to win over with the next swoopy iPod model.

Now, let’s say that Jobs manages to convince the music industry to sell unDRMed music. All the music that’s already been sold will remain under DRM, so all the iPod users are still well-locked into their iPods. And any new customers are just as free to choose any player as they were before. Removing DRM gives Apple a huge advantage by maintaining their current user base, with no corresponding decrease in ability to attract new customers. If he only manages to sell music without DRM, while keeping video DRMed, then Apple gets to play the same market-capturing game again in a few years.

Yeah, but the issue isn’t player compatibility, it’s if every service used the same DRM, then if you cracked Yahoo’s, you’d have cracked everybody else’s as well. (Of course, they all have been cracked, so there’s not really any point in having them to begin with, all it does is suck up corporate dollars that could be better put to use elsewhere.)

Also, why should Apple bother to support players made by other companies? You don’t go into a Ford dealership and demand parts for a Honda. The non-DRM’d AAC codec that Apple uses can be played by anyone willing to write the software for it. Linux has a number of MP3 software that can play AAC’s, just AFAIK, nobody makes a portable MP3 player, other than Apple that plays them. IIRC, the ogg codec, which is the darling of the Linux community is unsupported in Windows and the few portable players which do play it, don’t work with Linux.

Not true. There is a DirectShow filter that allows you to play OGG files in pretty much all of the most popular media players for Windows.

You’re probably right that it doesn’t make sense from the consumer perspective. But the industry basically wants to control what people can and can’t buy easily. That makes the marketing department happy.

Not always. My nephew burns the anti piracy message onto any DVD he is asked to copy for anyone. He knows how to skip it but chooses not to.

I don’t understand this. Jobs says they can’t license their DRM to other companies because of security risks. Yahoo licenses their DRM to 14 different manufactures. If Yahoo manages to do so to the satisfaction of the recording industry, why can’t Apple?

Why should Apple do so? I dunno, they seem to be making a shit load of money without doing so. I can’t really come up with a compelling reason for them to do so.

Why should iPods support other DRMs? Because an open and fair marketplace serves the consumers better. Consumers are better served being able to choose an mp3 player and content providers separately. I, for example, most likely would get the Yahoo service if it were compatible with my iPod. Since it’s not Yahoo loses out on a sale and I get reduced enjoyment out of my music.

I forgot to add. If Apple truly wants to get rid of DRM they would minimize it’s impact on their products. Since they haven’t, I question their motives.

Actually, if Yahoo’s using MS DRM, then it’s MS that’s licensed it and not Yahoo. Apple could do it, but choses not to. Why, I don’t know. It may have something to do with the licensing agreement they signed with the record labels. ISTR, that iTunes has the easiest DRM to crack, and it could be that if they licensed the DRM to more content providers, they’d have to make it tougher to break. (Again, a pretty pointless exercise, since all DRMs get hacked eventually.)

Note, also, that MS is following in Apple’s mold with the Zune player that has it’s own unique DRM and no other player but the Zune will work with MS’s Zune service. (Apparently, this hasn’t done much to endear MS to the folks who’ve bought their other DRM.)

As for your argument that you should be able to buy your MP3 player and pick your content provider seperately, yeah, that’d be nice (not that I’d buy anything other than an iPod at this point), but what would be even better is if I could buy my cellphone seperate from my service provider. That way, I wouldn’t be forced to chose between crappy service and a great phone or a crappy phone and great service.

neutron star, thanks for that correction.

The industry wants to control everything, but even they know there are limits where consumers just won’t put up with it anymore. The problem right now is that while many consumers are putting up with DRM, far more are finding their music elsewhere – whether it’s buying CDs so they don’t have to put up with DRM, or downloading them with whatever P2P or torrent program they prefer. Moreover, the harder the industry tries to control everything, the more people they will push into looking for their music elsewhere. DRM also limits where one can play their music, and you can bet that there are plenty of people who bought DRM-protected music that have switched to a new player and, upon finding they couldn’t play that music on their new player, went and downloaded a DRM-stripper so they could.

What the industry doesn’t seem to realize is that an open, DRM-free market benefits everyone. It doesn’t protect against music piracy, certainly – but neither does DRM’ed music. I challenge anyone to find a DRM-protected album that you can’t get DRM-free from less legitemate sources. You can’t. There’s no such animal. So what protection is the industry deriving from DRM? They’re just insuring that the music that one person downloads can’t be distributed to other people. It cuts off one avenue of music piracy – while leaving all of other common and easy methods open. It’s like locking the safe door while leaving the windows, roof access and emergency exits wide open.

DRM serves little purpose. Maybe the music industry is hoping people who switch players will go and pay to download their entire music library again so it will play on their new machine. I don’t know anyone who would, though; the very idea is absurd. I can buy a physical CD and rip it to play on any machine I care to – as many times as I want to, whenever I want to, for the cost of that one CD. While the industry may want to implement some kind of DRM on CDs, it won’t work. Sony already soured people on that idea with their infamous rootkit debacle. Plus, it’s easily defeated: Just turn off autorun.

The industry will probably figure it out eventually. EMI seems to have the right idea, so that’s one of the big four out of the way – even if it’s the smallest of the 4. I can potentially see Warner following suit if EMI follows through and ends up showing them that it’s a successful idea. Sony and Universal though … I can’t really see it. They’re the stodgiest of the lot – those two alone cover more than half the market and may just see EMI’s elimination of DRM as a means to strengthen their position on DRM even further. Who knows.

Regardless, the point is that their competitors are able to do license their DRM to a ton of companies. Apple’s argument that they can’t without breaching security is falsified by the fact that other companies are able to.

Again, I don’t think that Apple’s point is that by licensing it, the DRM will be easier to crack, but that once it’s cracked, every service out there can have it’s music de-DRM’d, and that could potentially open Apple up to a myriad of lawsuits, not only from the record labels and artists, but from the companies that they licensed their DRM to. Even putting in a “won’t sue” clause in the contract wouldn’t be enough, since someone could argue that because the DRM was broken, Apple didn’t work hard enough at making it and thus is in violation of the contract, rendering the “don’t sue” clause null and void.

My understanding is that when Apple stuck their deal with the record labels, Apple managed to get them to agree to Apple’s very wimpy DRM by not taking a significant cut of the sales price for each song. (The iTunes store is more to ensure that Apple can sell iPods than it is to make money off of each song.) The labels now find themselves in a rather precarious position, since Apple is insanely dominant and the labels want to charge more per song, but Apple says, “Nope, sorry.” If the labels bail on Apple, they run the risk of losing everything, so they’re hesitant to do so.

Apple, meanwhile, is rumored to be crafting a very clever strategy. The original deal they had with the Beatles Apple Corps was that Apple wouldn’t become a record label. Apple Corps argued that when Apple introduced the iTunes store that they were a record label. This didn’t get settled until a week or so ago, and all we know about the terms is that Apple now holds the rights to the name Apple and is licensing it back to Apple Corps. The thinking is is that Apple will now go directly to the artists and offer to cut the middleman (i. e. the labels) out of the picture entirely. Given that the artists (for the most part) only make a few cents per CD (the rest going to the label), if Apple offers to pay the artists even half of what they’re paying the record label, the artists stand to make more money, even if they sell fewer songs/albums.

Also, given Apple’s near domination of downloadable music, they can offer to promote every artist to a greater level than is currently being done. One of the reasons John Mellencamp agreed to license his song to Chevy is that he realized with the way radio is these days, he’s probably not going to get much airplay and his fans might not realize that he has a new album out. Mellencamp says that he didn’t like to do it, but felt that he had no other choice. If Apple does become a “label,” then they can offer an alternative to allowing your music to sell pick up trucks.

As I’ve said at least a few times in this thread, that argument is weak because other companies are able to license their DRM. If Microsoft, or whomever, can do it, Apple can do it too.

But Apple, at least in terms of sales, is the big fish in the pond, and thus more likely to get sued. The labels suing Yahoo wouldn’t break the industry open to higher prices like suing Apple potentially could. MS and some of the others might have more money, but nailing them for cracked DRM won’t get you anything in the long run. They can just pack up their toys and go home with no effect on the market (other than driving sales towards other music services). If, however, you can successfully sue Apple, then you’ve broken the market wide open.

Apple’s already had to weather one suit because of their pricing scheme. Seems that someone felt the prices were artificially low and filed suit. Don’t know how it turned out as my google fu is weak this evening.

I don’t know about that. I know quite a few people who can’t or won’t cough up the dough for an iPod. Several of them have gotten other mp3 players that were more affordable. I’ve also known a number of people who, before the widespread proliferation of mp3 players, had iTunes as a way to get songs they like, and burn them to CD’s. I would submit that Apple’s iTunes store must be profitable to maintain the service over time. Therefore, wouldn’t Apple benefit from expanding their potential customer base by being able to sell through iTunes to anyone with an internet connection, and not just to those who have an iPod or still prefer CD’s?