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Jobs Caught Lying About DRM

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It was never a question of if, only a matter of when. I recall an article in the recent past discussing how Apple relied on DRM to lock people into the iPod and iTunes just as much as the big music labels were relying on it to keep people from pirating it. I didn't have the interest in digging it up to refute the absolutely ridiculous words coming out of Steve Jobs mouth recently about freeing music from DRM, but a special person who has a history in the DRM game did the job for me.

Jon Lech Johansen dug up this snippet from a New York Times article that ran not even one full month ago that proves conclusively that given the opportunity, Apple has refused to abandon DRM.

Among the artists who can be found at eMusic are Barenaked Ladies, Sarah McLachlan and Avril Lavigne, who are represented by Nettwerk Music Group, based in Vancouver, British Columbia. All Nettwerk releases are available at eMusic without copy protection.

But when the same tracks are sold by the iTunes Music Store, Apple insists on attaching FairPlay copy protection that limits their use to only one portable player, the iPod. Terry McBride, Nettwerk's chief executive, said that the artists initially required Apple to use copy protection, but that this was no longer the case. At this point, he said, copy protection serves only Apple's interests .

It doesn't take a genius to know that the largest benefactor of DRM is Apple, not the music labels. If you've only bought ten or twenty dollars worth of music from iTunes, then it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world to have to rebuy it all from Rhapsody or another provider if you decided to upgrade to another player such as a Zune. But what if you've sunk a couple of hundred into iTunes not just for music, but for TV shows and in the future the inevitable feature film downloads? You're completely screwed and will have to buy that stuff all over again, assuming what you purchased before is even available on a different service that is compatible with your new hardware.

That's the problem with DRM, this was never about rights management and keeping people from illegally copying music, this has always been about the music labels wanting you to rent their music, not buy it. They could never push through that kind of paradigm shift if people saw it for what it really was. DRM has given it the cover of darkness that many people are still fooled by, but wait another five or ten years when the iPod isn't king of the world anymore and your music collection "bought" from iTunes doesn't work anymore.

Reality is that companies and copyright holders already have rights protection; it's called copyright law. It allows them to take any infringer to court and bleed them dry of money in about 1.5 seconds, and they are doing it all the time. That is their recourse, and it's perfectly suited to them since they have more lawyers than you probably have living relatives and friends combined.

You can't blame the labels for trying to protect music, nor Apple for trying to gain advantages over their competitors, even when those competitors are pathetically inept at this point in the game and you can bet they damn well know it by now. Blame however seems perfectly reasonable when Apple's interests turn from intuitive competition to monopolistic anti-competitive behavior.

I have never bought a song that was wrapped in DRM and I never will. If that shuts me out of the music download market then I suppose I'll have to spend the rest of my life buying and ripping CDs.

People adore Apple, and I can't blame them for it, the company has done a number of remarkable things for it's users before. If something happens and you lose your entire bought music collection, they'll replace it for free under many circumstances. There aren't many companies out there that will do that for their customers, and it's no wonder they have so many zealous fans.

It's not an excuse for this kind of behavior, and certainly not grounds to give Steve Jobs a pass for lying about Apples intentions toward DRM'ed music.

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The text of this article is Copyright © 2006,2007 Paul William Tenny. All rights reserved. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. Attribution by: full name and original URL. Comments are copyrighted by their authors and are not subject to the Creative Commons license of the article itself.