What's with Apple and DRM?

Partly inspired with the thread about why people hate iTunes (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=485852) - why is Apple not supporting some of the copyright protection that allows Windows users to do things like watch downloaded videos from Netflix?

They also don’t support the media expiration requirements that would allow me to borrow audiobooks from my library’s online inventory. If I had a Brand X MP3 player, I could listen to a fairly decent selection of stuff… but with an iPod, I can’t. Oh, I could buy them from Audible, at a hefty price for something I’m going to “read” only once, but I can’t borrow 'em because my technology is too advanced (from the website, they don’t work on the Zune either which is odd).

So what’s the problem? Why doesn’t Apple support this sort of thing? Should they? If not, why not?

They don’t because they’d have to license the codecs from Microsoft (since all of the uses you mention are based on proprietary Microsoft codecs), and I would imagine that they don’t want to be paying Microsoft, a major competitor, license fees.

Apple doesn’t need to do that because they already have their own audio and video shop, desktop software and media players with DRM, which is working very nicely for them, thankyouverymuch. In case of audio, they’ve probably got the largest legal market all to themselves - the itunes store is the largest music vendor in the US. Why would they make it easy for people to go and spend money somewhere else?

Apple has pretty much taken the stance that they’re not going to license their DRM to anyone, nor are they going to license anyone else’s DRM for iPods.

It (probably) makes good business sense for them because they have a huge installed base of players, and the services you’re talking about are their competitors. Apple doesn’t want you to rent movies from Netflix and watch them on your iPod. They want you to rent movies from Apple and watch them on your iPod. Similarly, they don’t want you to get audio books from the library. They want you to buy them from the iTunes store.

Now, you can argue that being more flexible would allow them to sell more iPods, but they’ve already sold quite a lot of iPods, and the success of the iPhone has increased that even more. Why would they make concessions to the competition when they don’t need to?

I keep wondering why people love Apple so much when they so frequently seem to have such a “fuck the quality our customers’ experiences, and fuck making things convenient for them! We’ve got a bottom line to think about!” way of looking at things.

If this was a question about browsers and Microsoft, the comment above could easily be re-phrased to read:

It (probably) makes good business sense for them because they have a huge installed base of Windows, and the services you’re talking about are their competitors. Microsoft doesn’t want you to download a browser from Mozilla and go online with Firefox. They want you to browse the internet from Internet Explorer.

Of course anyone putting THAT idea forward would be flamed incessantly so let’s all pretend I didn’t do it. :wink:


Sigh… I suppose you’re right. In my case, it doesn’t benefit anyone, unfortunately - I already have a subscription to Netflix (something Apple doesn’t have, that I’ve heard of), that allows me to watch on any TV in the house using the DVD player, and this allows me to watch stuff free on my PC, so I’m not going to pay money to Apple over and above that to allow me to watch movies only on the computer (or if I spend $ on the hardware, on my TV). In other words, they’re not getting another dime from me for movies by taking this stance.

And with the audiobooks: I won’t buy them from Apple. If I can’t borrow them electronically, I’ll just borrow the CD media from the library and return it when I’m done. Again, no money in Apple’s pocket. (oh, and the rare audiobook I do buy, I get directly from Audible. Plays just fine on my iPod, costs less than iTunes, and if Apple gets a cut, so be it).

If Apple were to make a separate, extra-cost download (maybe comparable to the purchase of a cheap MP3 player) to allow it to play the borrowed media, I could go for that. As it is, they’re pissing me off, AND they’re not profiting. Lose-lose proposition. :mad:

At least Apple’s DRM won’t leave you shit out of luck like that fly-by-night Wal-Mart’s crap.

But this isn’t really about companies. It’s about DRM. There is absolutely no way to make DRM work and certainly no way to make it a good value for the customer.

Steve Jobs is full of shit…pure and simple. He said he’d drop DRM in a heartbeat and was only forced to use it because the media companies insisted. That is no longer true but of course Jobs has let Apple’s DRM stand. The media companies learned the DRM thing built a monster in the form of iTunes. Apple controls so much of the downloaded music market it is screwing with their music sales. As a result the big ones all backed off their insistence of DRM.

As a business choice I can see why Apple wants to leave it as is but Jobs is still full of shit and frankly a liar.

(bolding mine)

Sounds pretty good doesn’t it! But wait…

So, Steve Jobs is a prick and a liar.

Apple already sells songs without DRM!

Some but not even most. Nor have they removed the DRM on the hundreds of dollars of songs I already own.

I doubt they ever will, but if you offer to pay them the extra 30¢, maybe they’ll consider it…

I’m not quite sure what you’re getting at, here. Are you suggesting that Microsoft doesn’t do the same thing? How else can you explain their continued “expansion” of web standards, and extensions like ActiveX?

The phrasing of your comment leads me to believe that you think my explanation of Apple’s behavior is flawed (and should lead to me being flamed), but the example you chose is one that supports it, so I think I must be misinterpreting things.

All of Steve Jobs’ bullshit posturing about wanting to drop DRM can be clearly seen to be just that when you realize that he only decided to drop it on (some) music files when it was no longer advantageous to Apple’s business model to keep using DRM. If he really believed that DRM was a bad idea, we’d see un-DRMed movies in the iTunes store. As the single largest shareholder of Disney, Jobs could easily push them to make Disney and Pixar movies available without DRM. The fact that he doesn’t indicates that he doesn’t actually believe his own purported arguments against it.


Whoosh. :wink: My whole point is that Wal-Mart isn’t going anywhere but its DRM scheme is, and anyone relying on that scheme to listen to music they paid for is SOL. Apple could do the same thing even if the company lasts 4,000 years. As usual, only the law-abiding customers suffer.

This is so completely untrue.
If Apple vanished today, all your music would STILL play, and would continue to do so.

Actually, I believe the point was quite the opposite–Microsoft is constantly getting flak for this sort of thing, but you never seem to see the same level of vitriol when Apple does it. A double standard, in a way. It’s ‘cool’ to rag on Microsoft, whether it deserves it or not.

Songs bought from itunes only work on itunes. If Apple vanished, you could play your music until itunes stopped working. Then all those songs you bought would be unplayable. So the last clause of your sentence is false.

Definitely so. If Microsoft treated their customers like Apple treats theirs, there entire Internet couldn’t hold the flamewar.

If Apple vanished, what would stop anyone and everyone from either supporting their previously proprietary formats directly, or producing a conversion program to unlock or bypass their DRM? I mean, the only thing stopping some guy in Russia from selling an Apple DRM stripping app today is Apple. If Apple disappear up their own arses tomorrow, the vultures would have apps to rip off their shit by next Tuesday, at the latest.

Why would iTunes ever stop working?