Thoughts on Music in the 'Hot News' section of the Apple website. He starts off by explaining the background to Apple's DRM on iTunes:Apple CEO Steve Jobs has posted his
"Since Apple does not own or control any music itself, it must license the rights to distribute music from others, primarily the “big four” music companies: Universal, Sony BMG, Warner and EMI. These four companies control the distribution of over 70% of the world’s music. When Apple approached these companies to license their music to distribute legally over the Internet, they were extremely cautious and required Apple to protect their music from being illegally copied. The solution was to create a DRM system, which envelopes each song purchased from the iTunes store in special and secret software so that it cannot be played on unauthorized devices."
Fair enough, Apple had to play by the rules of 'the big 4' record labels. Apple’s DRM system then, called FairPlay, is all about protecting the copyright of the music companies. And who can argue with the success of that strategy - Jobs notes later in the article that up till the end of 2006, customers purchased a total of 90 million iPods and 2 billion songs from the iTunes store.
The crux of the article is Jobs' 3 alternatives to DRM for the future:
1) "...continue on the current course, with each manufacturer [meaning Apple iPod/iTunes, Microsoft Zune, Sony] competing freely with their own “top to bottom” proprietary systems for selling, playing and protecting music."
However Jobs argues that there is no lock-in, since "97% of the music on the average iPod was not purchased from the iTunes store".
2) "...Apple to license its FairPlay DRM technology to current and future competitors with the goal of achieving interoperability between different company’s players and music stores."
However Jobs doesn't like this option, as it'd mean revealing "secrets" about the DRM to competitors. Also Apple would then not be able to guarantee "to protect the music it licenses from the big four music companies."
3) Which leaves the third scenario: abolish DRMs entirely. At which point Jobs passes the ball firmly back into the record companies court, arguing that "DRMs haven’t worked, and may never work, to halt music piracy."
In effect (and Apple fans please don't get upset with this phrasing of words), this article is a piece of propaganda from Apple. The position is that Apple and Steve Jobs hate DRM just as much as you and I, so they will gladly support the abolition of DRM - if the big record companies choose to do so. Apple is positioning itself on our side, in the war against DRM. This is all very well, and a very commendable stance from Jobs and Apple. But I'm left feeling that surely there's more Apple can do to fight DRM than to simply give a hospital pass to the record companies? Apple is after all totally dominant in the online music industry, so it now has considerable power of its own. They are not totally at the mercy of record labels.... are they?! Because that's what this article from Steve Jobs makes it out to be.