In a surprising, and do I dare say personal, move, Steve Jobs issued a “Thoughts on Music” piece dealing with the sensitive topic of DRM, music protection and the record companies. He’s feeling some heat on FairPlay and has responded accordingly:
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.
He wanted to bring them a new audience with new consumption strategies and options. He offered a new marketplace. They responded with fear.
Funny thing is, I’ve often seen the same thing. Many of the info-marketers I deal with (actually, the ones I do business with) are very prosperity minded – they see opportunity as opportunity – not a chance for someone to rip them off. But a good chunk of people respond to my passion with the new opportunities in front of us with a “but they’ll rip me off” response. None of them have launched a Podcast yet.
Apple has concluded that if it licenses FairPlay to others, it can no longer guarantee to protect the music it licenses from the big four music companies.
That’s marketing for “we ain’t giving up the code.” Ignore that whole part – it’s something the lawyers made him put in there.
In 2006, under 2 billion DRM-protected songs were sold worldwide by online stores, while over 20 billion songs were sold completely DRM-free and unprotected on CDs by the music companies themselves.
Now that’s an angle I never thought about – but I don’t really know how true it is. Interesting fodder but …
The copy I bought and burned (I’ve been burned myself from buying music that I can’t re-download – I burn a backup of everything I buy) of the last U2 album is just as unprotected as anything I might buy at the record store.
I think there is still one in this town somewhere (record store – there are plenty of U2 albums).
I could let someone steal that just as easily as the copy of the previous album that I bought at a store.
Actually, the new one only has the title drawn on with a sharpie so it sure looks less official.
If such requirements were removed, the music industry might experience an influx of new companies willing to invest in innovative new stores and players. This can only be seen as a positive by the music companies.
Want a case study of what happens when you produce a media player with strong focus on protecting the music companies? Take a look at v1 of the Zune.
Wonder why it’s so hard to get a decent player that isn’t an iPod? Read Steve’s last quote one more time.
Sure, this was a CYA piece, but certainly one worthing thinking and talking about.
Question #1 – What would this media look like if players were built to keep the customer happy – instead of the music industry?
Question #2 – What would commerce look like if DRM wasn’t the most important issue?