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Music Companies Mull Ditching DRM

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the dogs-and-cats-living-together-mass-hysteria dept.

Music 318

PoliTech writes to mention an International Herald Tribue article that is reporting the unthinkable: Record companies are considering ditching DRM for their mp3 albums. For the first time, flagging sales of online music tracks are beginning to make the big recording companies consider the wisdom of selling music without 'rights management' technologies attached. The article notes that this is a step the recording industry vowed 'never to take'. From the article: "Most independent record labels already sell tracks digitally compressed in MP3 format, which can be downloaded, e-mailed or copied to computers, cellphones, portable music players and compact discs without limit. Partially, the independents see providing songs in MP3 as a way of generating publicity that could lead to future sales. Should one of the big four take that route, however, it would be a capitulation to the power of the Internet, which has destroyed their monopoly over the worldwide distribution of music in the past decade and allowed file-sharing to take its place."

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Undermining Apple? (5, Interesting)

P(0)(!P(k)+P(k+1)) (1012109) | more than 7 years ago | (#17712212)

From TFA:

[DRM-free music] could change the equation for Apple, which has dominated the sales of both Internet music and digital music players.

Makes me wonder if they're not motivated to undermine Apple, who fought tooth and nail to maintain $0.99/download against the industry's will.

The record industry views the Occident, paradoxically, with more suspicion than the Orient, though we're their biggest customers; it wouldn't surprise me, therefore, if they began to roll this out first in the East:

EMI Group last week said it would offer free streaming music on Baidu.com, the leading Web site and search engine in China, where 90 percent of music is pirated.

Can someone say, “chutzpah?

Re:Undermining Apple? (4, Interesting)

simm1701 (835424) | more than 7 years ago | (#17712304)

The industry wanted higher prices however. If they came in selling mp3s at double the price on apple, it would be very interesting to see which way customers went...

On the other hand apple might decide to ditch DRM at that point also - I don't think its ever been completely decided if DRM helps ipod sales and loyalty or not (I dont have a single ITMS store track on my ipod and its full) - its certainly possible that apple would use mp3 instead if they had the option - first and foremost DRM was used to appease the record companies and persuade them to let their music be downloaded legally.

Re:Undermining Apple? (4, Insightful)

GizmoToy (450886) | more than 7 years ago | (#17712490)

I doubt Apple would ever switch to MP3s. They've got too much invested in their format to abandon it now. However, I think that if the music industry would let them they'd be more than happy to sell unprotected AAC files. They've gotten as far as they have because of the iPod itself, not the DRM locking users into the system. If you ask iPod users without any iTunes Music Store purchases if they'd switch players when it's time to upgrade, I doubt more than a small percentage plan to follow their iPod up with anything else.

Re:Undermining Apple? (4, Interesting)

PygmySurfer (442860) | more than 7 years ago | (#17712762)

It'd be interesting if the rest of the industry started selling DRM-free music, yet Apple was forced to continue selling their DRM'd music (it's likely in their contract, after all). I'm sure they'd love to stick it to Jobs, especially after he screwed them out of their variable pricing scheme. I think all that would do is hurt the iTunes Store, though, and not iPod sales.

Re:Undermining Apple? (2, Informative)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 7 years ago | (#17712764)

They've got too much invested in their format to abandon it now. However, I think that if the music industry would let them they'd be more than happy to sell unprotected AAC files.


Interesting. What makes you say that? I haven't seen any behavior out of Apple that indicates that it would be willing to sell DRM-free music or movies of any kind.

Re:Undermining Apple? (1)

soft_guy (534437) | more than 7 years ago | (#17713374)

They've got too much invested in their format to abandon it now. However, I think that if the music industry would let them they'd be more than happy to sell unprotected AAC files.

 
Interesting. What makes you say that? I haven't seen any behavior out of Apple that indicates that it would be willing to sell DRM-free music or movies of any kind.
 
iTunes Music Store carries DRM-free podcasts.

Re:Undermining Apple? (2, Interesting)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 7 years ago | (#17713470)

Interesting. What makes you say that? I haven't seen any behavior out of Apple that indicates that it would be willing to sell DRM-free music or movies of any kind.

Apple is not in the content business for profit. They are in it out of necessity as a way to motivate sales of iPods. They'd give all the music away if they could without losing money. DRM provides lock-in to iPods for users who already purchased ITMS music (small number compared to iPod sales) and who don't want to backup to CD and re-rip for one reason or another. That benefits Apple a little. Now look at the drawbacks. They come under criticism for non-compatability and it brings to light anti-trust issues now that their share of portable players is so large.

Apple doesn't particularly need to lock-in those few users. They do need to counter MS's attempt to monopolize music DRM with a format they own and which is anti-competatively bundled with Windows. They also need buy in from the music publishers, and that means compromise. They have fought hard to keep prices low and DRM as unobtrusive and un-restricting as possible. If the courts mandated only open formats and/or open formats with open DRM Apple would happily comply because it would partially de-fang MS while losing them little. If the record companies agreed to DRM'less files, I think Apple would jump at that too. It fits with their strategy for music and everything they've done to date.

Re:Undermining Apple? (5, Informative)

Khuffie (818093) | more than 7 years ago | (#17713262)

Apple has been given permission by indie labels to sell their music without DRM, music said labels sell without DRM in places like eMusic.com. Apple refuses to sell unprotected AAC files, even at the request of copyright holders.

Re:Undermining Apple? (0)

falcon5768 (629591) | more than 7 years ago | (#17713438)

For logistical reasons, far safer to sell them all with DRM than to accidentally sell major label releases without it and break their contract which could cause serious legal ramifications (to the tune of millions for breech of contract). Its not that they wont do it, its that there is just to much riding on a screwup to justify a few indie labes here and there saying go ahead.

Re:Undermining Apple? (5, Informative)

nine-times (778537) | more than 7 years ago | (#17713592)

I doubt Apple would ever switch to MP3s. They've got too much invested in their format to abandon it now.

On a side note, it's not "their format". AAC [wikipedia.org] was made by many of the same groups that put together MP3, and it's just as standard as MP3, but actually less patent-encumbered than MP3 (though still not patent-free), and with generally superior quality at the same bitrate. Apple's DRM is proprietary, but the AAC format is not.

And no, they won't switch. There's no compelling reason for Apple to move to MP3, and technically Apple would have to pay patent-holders to distribute MP3s. According to the wikipedia article, AAC doesn't require licensing fees to be paid to patent-holders for content distribution.

Re:Undermining Apple? (4, Informative)

vought (160908) | more than 7 years ago | (#17712430)

Digital music sales are flagging? Looks to me like they're still growing.

What the linked article doesn't tell you is that they're counting all music sales - not just online store sales. Overall, music sales are still falling, and the increase in digital music sales isn't offsetting the collapse of CD sales. Record companies are looking for anyhting that will open the field up and get people to start spending money on any delivery format for music.

Of course, don't tell the astroturfers who write articles like this. You might bring them a little too close to reality.

Digital Music Sales Doubled in 2006 [msn.com]

Digital Music sales to more than double in the next five years [forbes.com]

Re:Undermining Apple? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17712556)

Good use of words - "chutzpah" indeed! How will the poor jews manage now, if they can't screw over millions of people with their monopoly on the world of music? Heavens- Hymie might actually have to go and do some manual labour! Oh the Holocaust!!!

The RIAA have had it, most people aren't stupid enough to pay for music any more.
Now all we need to do is get the jews out of Congress, and take back our media from them, and maybe the world can get back to normal.
One Third of the Holocaust says it all... (Google it)

Re:Undermining Apple? (4, Insightful)

killbill! (154539) | more than 7 years ago | (#17712798)

I suspect they expected the PlayForSure side to prevail. PlayForSure meant an atomized online music market. It meant no single company dominated it. It meant labels still controlled access to the market.

But Apple prevailed. FairPlay prevents current iTMS customers from switching to another online music store. It ensures current iTMS customers remain future iTMS customers. FairPlay is the cornerstone of Apple's total domination on the (legal) online music market. It means Apple controls the access to the market, and no longer the music labels.

Every time a customer downloads a song that is infested with DRM at the request of the RIAA, record labels are putting an additional nail into their own coffin. If they want to break free from Apple's de facto monopoly, they have to drop the DRM requirement. Looks like they finally got it.

Re:Undermining Apple? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17713382)

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Achilles' Heel (4, Insightful)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 7 years ago | (#17712298)

From the article:

Most of the push for music unencumbered by digital rights management, or DRM, systems over the past six months has come from technology, electronics and Internet companies. In part, it is because these companies have been largely unsuccessful in their efforts to produce digital locks that are simple and flexible for the consumer, foolproof to the hacker and workable on numerous makes and models of players.

Which is why DRM is quite useless. Come on -- if worse came to worse, people would play the music on the stereos and record it using digital recorders then run it through their favorite piece of audio manipulating software and have just about the same quality recording. The music industry cannot hope to stop the myriad of innovative ways of copying music and they are fooling themselves if they think they can make DRM "unbreakable." If this report is true, perhaps some in the industry are finally coming to their senses.

Re:Achilles' Heel (1)

simm1701 (835424) | more than 7 years ago | (#17712338)

apparantly the bionic ear replacement that comes complete with DRM is too far off in the future for the music companies to want to wait.

I certainly hope DRM is dead and buried before such technology is feasable - I'd dread to think of the lobbying that would occur then!!

Re:Achilles' Heel (4, Interesting)

ack154 (591432) | more than 7 years ago | (#17712474)

If this report is true, perhaps some in the industry are finally coming to their senses.

I doubt that. It'll probably end up being them claiming it was their great idea all along and it's "best for the artists" and blah blah blah. They would never admit that DRM is a failure.

Indeed (2, Insightful)

sterno (16320) | more than 7 years ago | (#17712526)

Though I think the practicality of doing the kind of recording you're talking about is minimal, the underlying truth is valid: where there's a will there's a way.

What we are talking about here is basically securing something. You are securing data against copying. Ask anybody in the security industry if there's such a thing as a security system that cannot be broken. If they say that such a beast exists, they are trying to sell you said mythological creature and you should run quickly.

All you can do with security is hope to make something secure enough that it's not worth somebody's trouble to break it. The problem is that only one person has to break the security to make the entire security regime worthless. Furthermore, efforts to increase the security generally increase the complexity and risk making it difficult for legitimate customers to make use of the product.

Re:Indeed (1)

IamTheRealMike (537420) | more than 7 years ago | (#17713624)

All you can do with security is hope to make something secure enough that it's not worth somebody's trouble to break it. The problem is that only one person has to break the security to make the entire security regime worthless.

Not really - only one person has to break it for it to be worthless for that song. Filesharing networks only work because everybody rips their music and shares the whole collection. If you had to rely on somebody to go through contortions for every song, typically you'd only be able to find what you're looking for some fraction of the time. Given that P2P networks are unreliable and tend to be riddled with malicious files, it doesn't take much to get people to move to something better (as the success of the iTMS shows).

Even if the recording companies go that way in the end, this issue isn't going to disappear. Too many people are employed making information/data these days. It's been 20 years and we still have copy protection on software, because without it piracy is just rampant. Too many people basically don't care. I've seen people try and get tech support for something they pirated more than once. Even if DRM for music goes away, there is still video, software, books, pictures .... the list is growing all the time.

Personally, I'd be in favour of a DRM system that was reasonably secure (ie, had hardware support) and wasn't tied to any particular vendor or publisher - simply because for all the bitching about DRM rarely does anybody have a credible alternative that generalises (so "make money on concerts" doesn't count). Unfortunately such a DRM system doesn't exist and I doubt it will anytime soon, there is just too much incentive for the designing company to control it.

Re:Achilles' Heel (1)

garcia (6573) | more than 7 years ago | (#17712592)

The music industry cannot hope to stop the myriad of innovative ways of copying music and they are fooling themselves if they think they can make DRM "unbreakable." If this report is true, perhaps some in the industry are finally coming to their senses.

Regardless of what they say to the media and how the media regurgitates this to the public, the recording industry realizes that they can never have a full proof DRM method. What they do want to stop (and have so far succeeded) is getting the general public to purchase their music online rather than go through a pirating repository like torrenting, Napster-alikes, etc.

With the success of iTS, it's obvious that people are flocking to that instead -- DRM or not.

Yes, we can still get copies of our favorite music from TPB, torrentspy, etc but as long as the majority of people aren't doing it that way anymore the RIAA has succeeded in what it originally set out to do.

Re:Achilles' Heel (1)

darjen (879890) | more than 7 years ago | (#17712720)

Come on -- if worse came to worse, people would play the music on the stereos and record it using digital recorders then run it through their favorite piece of audio manipulating software and have just about the same quality recording.
Yeah, I've done this myself even with non DRM music. It doesn't even take that much extra effort as long as you have access to the equipment. I wonder, though, if they would ever be able to create hardware to block this sort of thing and also force that on us. Something like what HDMI has done. Of course if that were the case, we could always just get an older analog player. I guess some people like the analog sound better anyway.

Re:Achilles' Heel (1)

frogstar_robot (926792) | more than 7 years ago | (#17713242)

Unlike video, digital audio is simply too well understood. Many of us here are capable of knocking together A/D and D/A converters if we had too. More realistically, good A/D,D/A designs can be written to FPGAs. It wouldn't take long for a thriving underground in deboogerfied audio equipment to develop. In time, we'll learn to efficiently pour video through the analog hole as well. There will always be legions of hackers dedicated to making DRM as difficult and expensive as possible. They like it inconvenient too; it gets everybody on their side.

Re:Achilles' Heel (1)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 7 years ago | (#17713480)

Vista has the ability to enforce this kind of DRM if the publisher chooses to use it.
It won't play unless a secure path exists from input to output.

ohh, this isn't a good thing... (4, Funny)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 7 years ago | (#17712312)

next thing you know, they'll be using OSS editing tools
then servers...
After that?
It'll be pandemonium, they'll be joyfully frolicking in the free and open streets... Arms flailing, chainsaws revved...

Mod Parent Up (1)

Prysorra (1040518) | more than 7 years ago | (#17712688)

Offtopic perhaps but it *funny*, not flamebait. I haven't had my coffee, so sarcastic humor just fits my mood.....

Re:Mod Parent Up (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17712812)

Funny, I actually thought that was a wonderful description of Heaven. Audacity and chainsaws. Mmmmmm.

Wow! This is going to make some great reading... (3, Funny)

justinbach (1002761) | more than 7 years ago | (#17712326)

...right after I get back from my ski trip to hell :-)

About time (4, Interesting)

koan (80826) | more than 7 years ago | (#17712332)

From where I stand (or sit) DRM wasn't much of an issue, as it was released it was promptly circumvented. I am old enough to recall buying vinyl and when CD technology was introduced the complaint then was the cost of CD's.
The music companies said the cost would come down with acceptance of the tech but it never really did come down.
God bless the Internet.

What's this vinyl you speak of (3, Funny)

Itchyeyes (908311) | more than 7 years ago | (#17712438)

Vinyl? They make siding out of that right?

Re:About time (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 7 years ago | (#17712692)

"The music companies said the cost would come down with acceptance of the tech but it never really did come down."

Is that a very subtle joke?

Re:About time (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 7 years ago | (#17712894)

No, it's a parable.

Re:About time (3, Funny)

somersault (912633) | more than 7 years ago | (#17713034)

*shuffles his feet* :/

about time (1)

mike3 (1054482) | more than 7 years ago | (#17712390)

about time! I hope they finally change there ways.think the problem will be that they will charge more for the non DRM songs and have to levels or something in that case I'll probably keep buying CD's until they figure it out. If they ever figure it out!!

Oh, the irony (3, Funny)

geoff lane (93738) | more than 7 years ago | (#17712432)

Microsoft cripples Vista with DRM and the potential users of DRM don't want it?

Oh, the irony.

Re:Oh, the irony (4, Informative)

delt0r (999393) | more than 7 years ago | (#17712780)

\puts on tinfoil hat

Perhaps M$ want DRM to tie down the PC hardware market to The One OS. The whole: "its the content providers that made me do it", is just the PR department.

So it goes like this. In the future to buy something online your bank needs you to have a certified trusted computing OS. To get certified reqiures 50,000 US dollars, so there is no free certified version of linux that would work. Then the hardware won't even run a non certified OS because of the "dangers" of uncertified drivers and code running on the hardware. It will be call Genuine Lockin.

\takes of tinfoil hat

Re:Oh, the irony (1)

VEGETA_GT (255721) | more than 7 years ago | (#17712938)

And yet we see another version of Vista hit the market

Windows Vista DRM free

It also comes with a certificate of apology which states, "Sorry customers, we don't know what we where thinking"

also hell froze over today, experts state this means global warming is therefor cancled.

Re:Oh, the irony (1)

Gordo_1 (256312) | more than 7 years ago | (#17713248)

If Vista's so crippled with DRM, can you explain to me what I can't do with it that I was able to do under XP? Oh nevermind, there's no sense letting reality get in the way of a good Microsoft bashing...

I might even be able to buy music again... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17712456)

At last a positive move, after all that negativity and breathtaking stupidity - but is it now to late to save their businesses? If the record companies do drop DRM, and start to behave in a more ethical way, I will be buying my first tracks in over 6 years. I just don't see any point in paying for defective DRM tracks that I can't use as I see fit. It is just a shame that there is very little good music to buy now. I would really like to see record companies signing as many artists as they can, and offering a nice online way to sample and buy the best music on its merits, and to allow music to succeed on merit, rather than rely on heavy promotion to sell crap.

Re:I might even be able to buy music again... (3, Interesting)

Kamots (321174) | more than 7 years ago | (#17713478)

You want good music with a way to preview online and no marketing madness?

It sounds like you're not aware of www.cdbaby.com :)

They sell CDs of independent musicians with $6-$12 from each CD sold going to the musician. You can listen to songs via a stream so you can hear before you buy. I dunno how large thier selection is, I just know they carried the two groups I was wanting. :) (brobdingnagian bards and jonathan coulton if you're curious)

I'm like you, except that I just boycotted the RIAA labels. There's no need to needlessly deprive myself, especially when there's starting to be good alternatives out there. :)

Change only comes through (3, Insightful)

El Gruga (1029472) | more than 7 years ago | (#17712506)

PAIN, and now the Music Biz is feeling pain, so they have to adapt. What else can they do? Their monopoly is over, but they should understand that most 'ordinary folks' will prefer to download music from a legal site, and those same folks dont understand DRM, they just want it to work. .....Its amazing that Apple hasnt taken over the world with that notion of 'it just works'.

Re:Change only comes through (2, Informative)

dsraistlin (901406) | more than 7 years ago | (#17712666)

That is because with Apple it does not always just work. If you are the only user and owner of a mac it works almost all of the time. However if you are setting up macs in a network where multiple users use the machine it can be more of a pain in the ass than the current XP limited accounts to get software to work.

Re:Change only comes through (1)

dsraistlin (901406) | more than 7 years ago | (#17712784)

I forgot to add this to the original post, the reason for this pain is the reliance on the Unix file attributes that OSX uses. 1 User/Owner, 1 Group, 1 World where Windows with XP and NTFS can have multiple Users/Groups it is a 1:1 in ?nix systems and a 1:many in the NTFS. I hate Microsoft I just hate Mac/Apple more until Vista is the only choice, then I will switch to OSX or LINUX. Most likely OSX since I play Warcrack.

Re:Change only comes through (2, Informative)

frogstar_robot (926792) | more than 7 years ago | (#17713176)

ACLs are an option in the Linux/BSD world. There aren't that many that take advantage because ACLs can create as many problems as they solve. I wouldn't be surprised if the BSD backend of OS X supported them as well. Still, the lack of Finder support for them is suggestive.

Re:Change only comes through (1)

Dog-Cow (21281) | more than 7 years ago | (#17713270)

Mac OS X supports ACLs.

Mac vs. MS OS - Networking (1)

Cheech Wizard (698728) | more than 7 years ago | (#17713334)

I have a mix in my house and everything works, but getting the Macs to 'see' and access the windoz machines was easier than the other way around.

Re:Change only comes through (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17712722)

Because 'it just works' sometimes costs more money (the R&D to make things that just work is big) and more limited (it works with a limited set of systems, it's impossible to make things just work with everything). In the end, 'good enough' trumps 'it just works'. You can see people buying cheap PCs and fiddling with them so much because Macs 'are more expensive' and it doesn't work with all those crappy cheap peripherals.

Obligatory Fark Reference (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17712508)

"It's a trap!"

-Admiral Akbar

(What? That quote didn't originate on Fark? Oh, frak.)

Huh? (1)

Geak (790376) | more than 7 years ago | (#17712518)

From TFA:
In addition, Bainwol said, the ability of consumers to use legally purchased tunes on different devices is not crippled by DRM systems per se. "We're for interoperability," he said, "and there's nothing intrinsic to DRM that prevents interoperability."
I was under the impression that DRM doesn't allow you to copy music from one device to another. Have I got this wrong or is this Mr. Bainwol braindead and hasn't been paying attention?

Re:Huh? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 7 years ago | (#17712962)

Nothing you can do can prevent digital information from being copied. DRM, however, limits what you can do with the copies. Apple's DRM, for example, prevents you from playing back DRM'd music on anything other than an iPod or an authorised copy of iTunes. You can copy a DRM'd AAC from iTMS to as many computers as you want, but then you can only play it back on the five you authorise.

What he means (1)

spiritraveller (641174) | more than 7 years ago | (#17712982)

is that everything would interoperate just fine if everyone used the same DRM scheme. But they don't.

Apple has the most popular store and the most popular devices. And it isn't about to let other stores or device-makers benefit from that. Basically, Mr. Bainwol is just crying about that big old meany Steve Jobs.

All this is very fortunate, because if they had been able to reach an industry-wide standard for DRM, it would have taken them even longer to realize what a stupid idea DRM is in the first place.

Re:What he means (1)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 7 years ago | (#17713342)

And of course if anyone could build a device that could read a particular DRM scheme than anyone could build a device that could copy the file instead of playing it. Obviously that guy is full of crap, DRM does intrinsically limit interoperability.

Re:Huh? (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 7 years ago | (#17713250)

Maybe it's like that HDMA or whatever crap, where you get exactly the same results, as long as you pay for expensive hardware, and then some expensive cables to go between your devices? Hmm.

Good, but I don't forget that easily (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17712546)

It is very good that they are considering to ditching DRM.
But its not by their own will they are considering that, its because they have to.

Now, DRM-less music is fair. I will never ever buy DRM-crippled music.
I wonder what prices they will take, low, reasonable or overpriced?

Either way, just because its fair with the non-DRM music, does not mean I will just forget what they did and happily and gladly buy their music now even if its not DRM-crippled.

All their lobbying, scare tactics, intimidation, and evilness. I won't forget that. I don't forget that easily.

Re:Good, but I don't forget that easily (1)

gknoy (899301) | more than 7 years ago | (#17713092)

If you didn't buy their music because it was DRM-infested, and they then give you an alternative, which you STILL don't take ... what will convince them that it's any more viable than the failed DRM?

If they see both as losers, they will either not sell music online, or go back to DRM.

It seems to me that a better idea would be to BUY music which isn't DRM-ed. (What a pity that I want it in a lossless encoding, though.)

Goodbye itunes (1, Troll)

tedgyz (515156) | more than 7 years ago | (#17712550)

I surely regret commiting to Apple'S DRM and look forward to DRM-free, legal music purchases.

I really liked the itunes music management, ease of ripping my 300+ CDs, and ease of purchasing new music. But, now I realize I've built my own cage. :-(

Re:Goodbye itunes (1)

Dr. Zowie (109983) | more than 7 years ago | (#17712728)

You can do that now - just use emusic.com.

Re:Goodbye itunes (1)

tedgyz (515156) | more than 7 years ago | (#17712852)

But that doesn't solve the problem of playing my itunes purchases in a different player.

Re:Goodbye itunes (1)

falcon5768 (629591) | more than 7 years ago | (#17713486)

remove the DRM? I mean your posting on slashdot, that right there tells me your at least somewhat smart enough to know how to remove iTunes DRM. Jesus in terms of DRM, iTunes tracks are about as easy to turn off as the little holes you used to tape up on tapes to let you record on them. Besides I would just wait. If they are really thinking about this and are willing to go that step, Apple will just shut the DRM off themselves. Fairplay was always designed to be reversable.

Re:Goodbye itunes (2, Funny)

alanQuatermain (840239) | more than 7 years ago | (#17712816)

Please tell me that's sarcasm. I can already hear the footsteps of all the 'iTunes is teh evil DRM' trolls thundering over to agree ... *shudders*

I mean, sure they're funny to watch, kinda like that little kitten that's so determined that it's going to catch you and drag you off by your ankle. At some point, though, you start to feel like you really ought to just put them out of their misery-- after all, they can't really be happy like that, can they?

-Q (whose iTunes library, incidentally, contains only four or five albums from the iTMS)

Re:Goodbye itunes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17712888)

DRM sucks. I'm not going to go with the Apple Fanboy groupthink and say that "Because Apple is doing it, it is not evil".

Re:Goodbye itunes (1)

tedgyz (515156) | more than 7 years ago | (#17712902)

Well, I have 212 purchased songs in itunes.

Here is my problem: I want to play my itunes music and videos on my TV using a remote control. As far as I know, I can't do that - e.g. Windows Media Center. Now AppleTV would do it, but I don't need that - my freaking PC is hooked to my TV. I just need the software and remote.

Re:Goodbye itunes (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17712836)

If you ripped your own CD's, then they are not copy-protected and you are not in any way committed to Apple or Apple's DRM. Use the tracks on any player or computer that supports AAC (if that's what you ripped them to), or use iTunes or another app to convert them to any format you want.

Re:Goodbye itunes (1)

zesty42 (1041348) | more than 7 years ago | (#17712932)

Built your own cage? That's part of the DRM scheme: the appearance of lock-in. I'm not sure that is what you meant, to it's true for some people. Actually, you've built your own pain in the arse chore for a couple hours if you want to switch to something else. There are programs and methods a plenty to get all your music to DRM freedom. Then you can manage your music with Winamp, Songbird, or something.

Why goodbye? (1)

StreetStealth (980200) | more than 7 years ago | (#17713118)

You must be thinking of Media Player--all those discs you ripped are in the non-DRMed version of AAC. Furthermore, why would switching to an MP3-based store preclude use of iTunes? You can just import (even through automation) your MP3 purchases into iTunes.

It's not like it can't play non-DRMed files or something. Which I hear will be a feature of WMP12.

Just kidding. I think. ;)

Re:Goodbye itunes (1)

ocbwilg (259828) | more than 7 years ago | (#17713574)

iTunes is good software, it's just the DRM piece of the music bought from the store that's bad. If you ripped them yourself then they're not DRM infected. I ripped all of my CDs to MP3 files, and I can play them anywhere. But I do really like the design and functionality of the iTunes software and Music Store. It's very easy to use, even for non-technical people like my in-laws.

Vendor lock-in is bad for the record companies (3, Insightful)

grimJester (890090) | more than 7 years ago | (#17712566)

Current DRM is mostly useful for locking the consumers into one single vendor for their mp3 players. It might give the record companies some benefit in the long run, as customers would have to buy their music a second time if they buy a new mp3 player, but it certainly eats into their profits right now.

If they do it, great! (3, Interesting)

GauteL (29207) | more than 7 years ago | (#17712602)

But it also has to be reasonably priced. The iTunes price of $10, £8 or 10 per album isn't actually much cheaper than what you can get on the high street and you can buy a full CD for similar prices on Amazon.

That is not reasonably priced. People expect lower prices when they receive less and when it costs less to distribute.

I might very rarely buy an album at £8, but at £4 I would probably buy every album I like.

Re:If they do it, great! (1)

grahammm (9083) | more than 7 years ago | (#17712776)

What about Magnatune's policy of allowing the purchaser to choose how much to pay for the album download? I do not (of course) know the figures but I would be very surprised if the majority of downloaders only paid the minimum amount.

Apple would just sell DRM-free music (5, Interesting)

RalphBNumbers (655475) | more than 7 years ago | (#17712626)

Those who think that this would somehow immediately undermine Apple's dominance with the iPod are misguided as to why the iPod is successful imho.

The tinfoil headgear sporting subset of /.ers might like to see Apple's DRM solely as a lock-in scheme, and while no doubt Apple finds any lock-in a reassuring safety net in case they do someday drop the ball on iPod design, for the moment (and for the foreseeable future with the iPhone) Apple doesn't *need* lock-in. The iPod isn't selling because people have huge collections of .m4ps they need to keep compatibility with, it's selling because it's slickly good at what it does and it's a brand a lot of people are pleasantly familiar with.

The simple reality is that if the Music companies start allowing DRM-less downloads, then Apple will probably make even *more* money selling iPods than they are now, as more people start to buy unencrypted music via their computers to put on said iPods. In the long term their share of music sales may be hurt, but as the world's 4th largest seller of music, they already have plenty of momentum and market power; combined with their slick store and integration in iTunes, I would think they can do just fine in a less partitioned market, and retain a good deal of influence with the music industry selling unencrypted music.

Re:Apple would just sell DRM-free music (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17712846)

We got an iPod shuffle because of DRM. I originally got an MP3 player for my wife. However, we have a Mac, and every non-apple music site has a custom DRM application you have to download, which only works on Windows. The few sites that have mp3 songs do not have the songs that she wants.


I know we could have used iTunes and stripped off the DRM with JHymn, but it was important to my wife to be able to buy and listen to music by herself (she's not particularly technically minded), and it would have been an unacceptable pain.


So I returned the mp3 player and got an iPod Shuffle.


So, yes, if there was an mp3 version available, we'd ditch iTunes in a second.


On the upside, in the course of searching for mp3 music sites, I discovered eMusic.com, which has less popular music, and I've been catching up on some classics - Johnny Cash, Bob Marley, and the like - for $.33 a song, in mp3 format.

Re:Apple would just sell DRM-free music (1)

ady1 (873490) | more than 7 years ago | (#17713190)

Thats what you think. Plenty of people will give new player from samsung and sony walkman a go (even their non apple cell phones) once the music they bought from iTuned can play on just about any device and not just iPod.

Re:Apple would just sell DRM-free music (1)

jj00 (599158) | more than 7 years ago | (#17713312)

For the music industry, this has more to do with the pricing of music than the device it's working on. I think the industry realized pretty quickly that they can't have one vendor tell them how they can price their product; Apple's in the iPod business, and the music industry is in the music business. The best way around this is to offer their product in a format that can free them from Apple while still providing a way to provide music to those people who own an iPod.

There are alternatives (3, Insightful)

zesty42 (1041348) | more than 7 years ago | (#17712630)

Perhaps, they are realizing that DRM is causing them to lose not only revenue (in terms of people buying less) but market share (people buying elsewhere). I used to buy music that I heard on the radio like everyone else. Since the Sony rootkit mess I get my music from eMusic [emusic.com] . I've found a lot of great bands/labels. Now, no matter what the major labels do, I'll never go back to them 100%. Another less techie friend of mine just recently got fed up with iTunes DRM and ask me to help find something else... guess where I'm pointing.

Stupid comment of the day (3, Insightful)

gradster79 (878963) | more than 7 years ago | (#17712644)

Stupid comment of the day, courtesy of the article: In addition, Bainwol said, the ability of consumers to use legally purchased tunes on different devices is not crippled by DRM systems per se. "We're for interoperability," he said, "and there's nothing intrinsic to DRM that prevents interoperability."

It was inevitable really, (1)

Daishiman (698845) | more than 7 years ago | (#17712654)

At some point they'd figure it out. My expectations for this are still very low, since it's been demonstrated that these record execs are a bunch of conniving bastards, and they'll probably find a way to make this crap.

Still, money talks, and a decrease in sales is just what the doctor ordered, with a healthy injection of brains, in that business.

This has been coming for some time (5, Interesting)

mce (509) | more than 7 years ago | (#17712672)

Last week I had a chat with the former managing director of one of the big four labels in my country (and in a few others as well). His personal opinion is that DRM has to go. When asked directly, he stated that in the music industry boardrooms, about 50% of the people are by now convinced that it has to go, whereas 50% have not yet reached that point. One of the things that's holding them back, is that the movie and especially the games industries are putting pressure on the music one not to drop DRM because they fear the domino effect.

Why would games drop DRM (1)

grahamsz (150076) | more than 7 years ago | (#17713170)

Games are a very different animal. DRM isn't what stops me playing PS3 games on my laptop, or loading Wii games onto my iPod so it's a much more mute point. There's really no business case for dropping it.

For the most part, there's nothing for movies to interoperate with and CSS is so lame that it can hardly be considered DRM. Even with years of easily copied digital product, the Movie industry is doing just fine. It wouldn't make one iota of difference if they dropped CSS now.

Re:Why would games drop DRM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17713300)

Game DRM is just as onerous for the user as Music DRM is. I'm tired of having to keep a CD in my computer just to play a game that was allegedly installed to the harddrive. You can't duplicate the CD because the DRM can tell if you make a copy (the original copy was crippled in such a way to make it determinable) - you're fucked if the original CD gets scratched.

Cracks are so common. Not just because people want to bootleg, but because people are tired of the restrictions.

Regular software is the same way. Users are tired of dongles and other forms of restriction.

Re:Why would games drop DRM (1)

soft_guy (534437) | more than 7 years ago | (#17713458)

Games are a very different animal. DRM isn't what stops me playing PS3 games on my laptop, or loading Wii games onto my iPod so it's a much more mute point. There's really no business case for dropping it.
DRM could stop people from developing and using emulators for game systems.

Re:Why would games drop DRM (1)

mockchoi (678525) | more than 7 years ago | (#17713578)

it's a much more MOOT point

Looks like I was wrong. (4, Insightful)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 7 years ago | (#17712690)

In a previous post on a different article, I commented that the music industry was stupid not to look at the success of allofmp3.com and learn from it. While allofmp3 was bad for the RIAA in that the revenue stream broke down between the user and the RIAA (it ended at allofmp3), its success proved that users ARE willing to pay for their content if provided conveniently at a reasonable price in a usable format.

In short, they need to make themselves cost competitive with P2P. How do you make yourself cost competitive with something that is free?

The same way people compete with (and/or make money from) freely available open-source software. Don't market the product itself, market convenience associated with that product. For open-source software, that convenience is packaging and tech support/customization contracts. For music, that convenience is selection and a guarantee of quality. allofmp3 succeeded for three reasons:
Very low prices (Probably too low for the RIAA's tastes, but even twice the price of allofmp3 would have appealed to many. RIAA could make up for the low per-track revenue via significantly higher volume. e.g. back in the days of pyMusique, I bought quite a few single $1 tracks, but no complete albums. With allofmp3, I frequently would purchase an entire album for $3-$4 even though I was only looking for one track from that album initially.)
Convenience - allofmp3 had a great selection that made it far easier to find music than on any P2P network. Only the RIAA has the capability to actually beat that selection. Also, people would be more willing to give credit card info to a "trusted" source rather than a clearly shady Russian company with apparent mob ties.
Last, but clearly not least - no DRM. DRM goes way beyond nullifying the above "convenience aspect", and in fact makes P2P the more convenient option, free or not.

Re:Looks like I was wrong. (4, Insightful)

Znork (31774) | more than 7 years ago | (#17713070)

"In short, they need to make themselves cost competitive with P2P. How do you make yourself cost competitive with something that is free?"

That's the rub; the entire industry is built upon monopoly control, it is _not_ cost competetive. Allofmp3, eMusic, last.fm, etc have proven there are a multitude of models around convenience that work fine for music distribution (even for uncopyrighted classical music), but _only_ if you have a cost structure that supports the model.

That means no more media blitzes. No huge launches. No payola. No hundreds of thousands of free cd's sent to dj's and radio stations. No half a million dollar videos for MTV. No coke parties.

But without those things, they cant control the market anymore, they wont be able to shove their particular artists down the listeners throats and push the independents to the side. They need the huge per-artist revenue and expenditures to minimize the variability and risk in the market, and that entails a high level of control and a high unit price to recoup the expenses.

Wrong problem, wrong solution (4, Insightful)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 7 years ago | (#17712704)

The music companies seem to think that by making online music without DRM, they will help their sagging sales. I don't think that what plagues the industry. Like all industries, the music industry wants growth every year. But they compare sales today to what it was in the boom days. Back then, sales were booming because the CD was replacing tape and vinyl as the preferred medium. The industry didn't seem to see that some sales were people replacing their collection as opposed to buying new music. There are other reasons too (some which were self-inflicted), and it was covered in a Frontline episode called The Way the Music Died [pbs.org] that chronicles the music industry today.

Re:Wrong problem, wrong solution (1)

bjk002 (757977) | more than 7 years ago | (#17713538)

Wish I had mod points. Funny how so many seem to over look this point.

Mulled Whine (4, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 7 years ago | (#17712710)

Can you imagine what "mulling" is like at the executive level of these big music publishers?

A roomful of people unfit to work in any industry not underwritten by a century-old monopoly. Whose added value lies in conning artists into working for a tiny fraction of the value they create, or their weight in drugs, whichever is less. Or in conning consumers to pay over and again for either some good products produced as "pop" generations ago, or some awful products produced more recently that they sell to children as soundtracks to free music videos and the lives of talentless celebrity models.

These people don't "mull". All they can do is whine and fail when their crooked old tricks don't work so good any more. Years of lying about DRM and piracy hasn't reversed the drop in their profits, as the least-dumb people have all fled their business. Their decisions are made mainly by listening to tech vendors tricking them into broken tech protection of a broken business model, instead of changing the model. If they do drop DRM before they go permanently broke, it'll be because they can't afford it themselves, or just because they screw up their stupid strategy by making irrecoverable mistakes implementing it.

Information might not want to be free, but nature abhors a vacuum. The empty space at the top of the music content pyramid is sucking control of all that content inevitably out to unimpeded access by any consumer who wants it.

Goodbye DRM (1)

bubblewrapmaster (1054500) | more than 7 years ago | (#17712830)

It is about time, maybe DRM will die off. Then maybe I won't feel so guilty for stripping it from my downloads from itunes and napster ;-)

Internet hurting their bottomline... (1)

disasm (973689) | more than 7 years ago | (#17712866)

I don't know about the average person, but before I got a computer, I would borrow a friends cd, press play, pipe it into the casette deck and press record, and probably collected 100's of cassette tapes for my walkman like this. They can't claim the Internet is what started all this, it just made it more public to them (they can crawl the file sharing sites, but they weren't spying on the friend at my house bringing his cd collection over).

Sam

The "Lossy" Hole. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17712976)

"Record companies are considering ditching DRM for their mp3 albums."

Once again slashdot misses the glaringly obvious. MP3 is a lossy file format. Call me when DRM is ditched from high-quality source material.

Re:The "Lossy" Hole. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17713256)

Its called an Audio CD. They've been around since the 80's.

In other news .... (1)

scharkalvin (72228) | more than 7 years ago | (#17713002)

Pigs warmed up and ready to fly, Temperature in Hell drops to 75F, and "W" announces we are pulling out of Iraq.

Sounds like the RIAA's IQ has risen by a few notches. Now I wish they'd also offer the choice of ogg in addition to MP3. You know, they could still 'finger print' the music files with tags to identify who the original customer was that paid for the download. That way, they could still sue anybody who shared their purchased music. The finger printing would NOT prevent inter-operation of the files.

Flagging Sales? (3, Funny)

sconeu (64226) | more than 7 years ago | (#17713082)

For the first time, flagging sales of online music tracks are beginning to make the big recording companies consider the wisdom of selling music without 'rights management' technologies attached.

But I thought we needed harder DRM because the flagging sales were caused by those Evil Content Pirates(tm)!!!!!

I'm so confused, I don't know what to believe anymore!!!

Shrinking CD sales (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17713172)

FTA:
"As digital copying became easier, the number of songs shared freely on the Internet grew and sales of CDs shrank. Until last year, the industry was counting on online purchases of music, led by Apple's market-leading iTunes music store, to make up the difference."

Well, I do believe that CD sales have shrunk; however, I think it is partially related to a $15.00 - 20.00 USD price tag; especially if you want only one or two songs (not on singles). Yes, I know it depends on where you shop as well as the artist; however, IMHO CD's prices have gotten a little out of hand. For the record; I don't P2P music; my shopping habbits have been curtailed over the last several years; based on price (nothing else), YMMV.

I'd still rather... (1)

cursorx (954743) | more than 7 years ago | (#17713204)

I'd still rather head over to my favorite private torrent tracker - reproduction and distribution rights be damned, never cared, never will -, download to my heart's content, then buy the albums I really enjoy in physical, tangible media. I have absolutely no interest in paid music downloads, DRM or not (props to eMusic, though). I still want the actual CD with a nice booklet and the possibility of making backups whenever I feel like it, whether for archival or space-shifting purposes. That's what I've been doing ever since Napster, and that's what I'm going to keep doing until file sharing disappears.

Powerrr to the people... (0, Redundant)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 7 years ago | (#17713314)

Power to the people, right on...

I've never bought DRM tunes (2, Insightful)

nightsweat (604367) | more than 7 years ago | (#17713324)

And I used to buy a lot of CD's. I buy fewer now, because I'm older and pickier, and I've looked at iTunes and other stores, but I just didn't want to have to go through the buy, burn, rip cycle to remove the DRM. If the label actually allow drm'less mp3's, and make it as easy to buy as an iTune purchase, I'll buy a lot more music a song at a time on impulse.

How controversial can it really be? (4, Interesting)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 7 years ago | (#17713344)

The record companies have made most of their revenue selling unprotected CDs (and unprotected tapes and unprotected vinyl discs). Selling non-DRM music is a known good, safe, conservative, proven business model to which the record companies owe just about every penny they have. Without this business model, they simply wouldn't exist today.

DRM was a radical, speculative tell-the-customers-fuck-you-we-don't-want-your-mon ey-go-away model that has a track record of failing. Look at the software industry of the 1980s when copy protection was widely used. It didn't make a dent in piracy (because no one ever invented copy protection that actually works), but the interoperability problems sure as hell pissed people off (e.g. "whaddya mean this won't run on my new AT?!?", "whaddya mean my defrag utility trashed the 'secret' sector that wasn't allocated to a file?!?") and increased support costs.

Nobody knows if the record companies will actually decide to continue to remain in the having-customers business, but one thing is for sure: it's the obvious no-brainer thing to do, if protecting/increasing shareholder value is anywhere on their list of priorities. There's nothing controversial about wanting to maximize profits. Telling customers, "sorry, our new product isn't compatible with your equipment, costs more, and doesn't work as well as what you're used to, because we really just don't like you, so please buy someone else's music instead" on the other hand, is pretty out-there.

Re:How controversial can it really be? (1)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 7 years ago | (#17713540)

You miss the point. Today, there is no reason - utterly none at all - to pay for music. Within a few years the folks without broadband access will be further marginalized and fewer in number. Their parents that dutifully paid for entertainment media will be gone from the marketplace, having been replaced by folks that know better. It is freely available on the Internet. All of it, software, music, movies, whatever.

The point of DRM is to discourage "casual copying". It doesn't make it impossible, just difficult. Piracy? No hope of cutting that off. The idea is to tell people that they have purchased something they do not have the right to redistribute to their "friends" all over the world.

It isn't working. Everyone knows that. Everyone under 40 understands that P2P is the way to get music, movies, etc. The folks over 40 are supporting the media companies with their purchases. As these folks get fewer and fewer in number the media companies will die out with them.

It's the Economics, Stupid (3, Insightful)

hobo sapiens (893427) | more than 7 years ago | (#17713378)

The Economics of a matter drive behaviour. DRM is not economically viable. The RIAA is greedy, but they aren't stupid. Follow me:

*It costs money to produce new DRM schemes.
*DRM is easily and routinely cracked or bypassed by pirates.
*The people who want to pirate will pirate, the people who willingly buy music will continue to do so.

Abandoning, or at least containing DRM is just a matter of time and is really just an acceptance of reality. It's pointless and costly. Even if they don't totally abandon DRM, I can see them giving up on building the perfect scheme and just sticking with the easily bypassed and/or cracked schemes they have now. If someone claims that it somehow cost-effective to try and stay a step ahead of the pirates' ability to crack DRM, I'd say that person is deluding himself. And once it becomes too costly to keep up the arms race, they will stop. I'd say we're close to that point.

Undercuts Apple and Microsoft (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 7 years ago | (#17713550)

This could work out for the music industry, partly because it cuts out the take that Apple and Microsoft get now. If music files are plain MP3 files, anyone can make an player, and players will cost $29.95. No more iTunes store. No more lock-in. No more 50% profit margin for Apple.

This is the RIAA's revenge against Apple. In a year, the iPod could be irrelevant.

Removing DRM: Necessary? Sufficient? (4, Insightful)

MattW (97290) | more than 7 years ago | (#17713610)

It will be interesting to see. Personally, DRM IS the #1 reason I don't buy more music. I can't be bothered fooling around with p2p networks. Busy, bad quality, lawsuits, spyware, etc. Unacceptable. On the other hand, I don't want to buy from places like iTunes - though I occasionally do - because I'm already irked about CDs I can't locate or that suffered damage when moving that I can't rip. I'm not interested in a bunch of music I won't be able to play when Apple goes bankrupt or only produces mp3 players I hate. (long live the iPod)

But am I normal? I don't think so. Some of my other technical co-workers have argued that iTunes and the iPod have won massive acceptance via ease of use, and that's all most people think about. I'm not completely in concurrence: I think people know that "mp3" means fully cross-platform compatible. No matter what you're using for software or hardware, the mp3s will play. People confused about what will work - iTunes, iPod, Zune, playsforsure, Rhapsody, ogg, m4p, m4a, aac - could easily get dizzy from the myriad technologies in play, and simply not want to buy. They get iPods, rip their CDs, and that's that.

I don't think that DRM-free music will kill filesharing. But I am quite certain it will not ENABLE more filesharing. It's already trivial, and frankly, p2p networks are now overrated. People have built such monstrous mp3 collections and storage is now cheap that the duplication is happening en masse. People who connect in real life can easily swap gigs of data. Broadband is more widely deployed, and a simple memory stick with 2GB worth of music is a fast way to distribute massive amounts of music. Or burn a data DVD.

But even if DRM inhibits online music sales to would-be legitimate customers like myself, is that sufficient? Would music priced at $.99/song and $9.99/album be sufficient to attract? Certainly I'd buy a fair bit. I'm not at all against flexible pricing, because I buy music for the long haul, and my interest in collecting the latest hits is nil. I'd prefer access to a backcatalog for less, over $.99 fresh hits. (Although they could price the backcatalog cheaper AND still cap at $.99)

Either way, DRM is bad for consumers, bad for music, and AT BEST non-impactful for record companies. Removing it may not save them, but it won't hurt them. There's only upside here.
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