Home Steve Jobs Asks Record Labels To Abolish DRM

Steve Jobs Asks Record Labels To Abolish DRM

Apple CEO Steve Jobs has posted his 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:

“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.

About ReadWrite’s Editorial Process

The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

Get the biggest tech headlines of the day delivered to your inbox

    By signing up, you agree to our Terms and Privacy Policy. Unsubscribe anytime.

    Tech News

    Explore the latest in tech with our Tech News. We cut through the noise for concise, relevant updates, keeping you informed about the rapidly evolving tech landscape with curated content that separates signal from noise.

    In-Depth Tech Stories

    Explore tech impact in In-Depth Stories. Narrative data journalism offers comprehensive analyses, revealing stories behind data. Understand industry trends for a deeper perspective on tech's intricate relationships with society.

    Expert Reviews

    Empower decisions with Expert Reviews, merging industry expertise and insightful analysis. Delve into tech intricacies, get the best deals, and stay ahead with our trustworthy guide to navigating the ever-changing tech market.