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The Economist, DVD Jon On Apple's DRM Stand

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the yea-and-nay dept.

Music 425

We have two followups this morning to Tuesday's story on Steve Jobs's call to do away with DRM for music. The first is an editorial in The Economist sent in by reader redelm, who notes that as "arguably the world's leading business newspaper/magazine" that publication is in a position to influence legal and political decision-makers who may never have heard of DRM. The Economist says: "Mr Jobs's argument, in short, is transparently self-serving. It also happens to be right." Next, Whiney Mac Fanboy sends pointers to two blog entries by "DVD Jon" Johansen. In the first Johansen questions Jobs's misuse of statistics in attempting to prove that consumers aren't tied to iPods through ITMS: "Many iPod owners have never bought anything from the iTunes Store. Some have bought hundreds of songs. Some have bought thousands. At the 2004 Macworld Expo, Steve revealed that one customer had bought $29,500 worth of music." Johansen's second post questions Jobs's "DRM-free in a heartbeat" claim: "There are... many Indie artists who would love to sell DRM-free music on iTunes, but Apple will not allow them... It should not take Apple's iTunes team more than 2-3 days to implement a solution for not wrapping content with FairPlay when the content owner does not mandate DRM. This could be done in a completely transparent way and would not be confusing to the users."
Update: 02/08 16:28 GMT by KD : Added missing links.

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excellent thought (2, Interesting)

scoot80 (1017822) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933168)

get rid of DRM. maybe others will follow...

Re:excellent thought (2, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933214)

I completely agree. There are a few tracks I've considered buying from iTMS, decided not to because of the DRM, and never got around to buying on CD. Occasionally I hear someone playing them and think 'Hmm, I should buy a copy of this,' but then never get around to it. iTMS is overpriced in the UK anyway, but expensive and DRM'd just makes it not an attractive option.

If the indie artists who don't want DRM were able to offer their music without it (and maybe have an 'unencumbered' badge next to the track names), then I would probably buy some just for the convenience.

Re:excellent thought (1)

AaronLawrence (600990) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933458)

I went a little futher and bought some tracks (about 10). I thought the iTunes process was pretty good and almost reminiscent of the good old audio galaxy days - nice fast downloads, good search.

Then I realised that actually I don't like iTunes much as a player (wrote my own :), that I want to use them on my iRiver player, and that I can't be bothered mucking around with transferring licenses to my work PC. It's just a bunch of hassle that defeats the point of having a nice store.

I also realised that iTunes still doesn't have a fair amount of the stuff I would like to be able to get (and have got from P2P). I'm talking about bands that are not so famous in the English-speaking world like Finnish progressive metal etc.

Re:excellent thought (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17933404)

Thoughts on Music: French Consumer Organization Agrees with Steve Jobs! []

Re:excellent thought (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17933796)

Others have already went this direction from the days long ago of to current retailers like eMusic.

Don't act like Jobs is onto something new here. Don't try to rewrite the history of music sales on the internet to make Apple look like the pioneers of DRM-less music.

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Law of Averages (-1, Troll)

whisper_jeff (680366) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933218)

"DVD Jon" Johansen clearly is an idiot. When Jobs says "On average, that's 22 songs purchased from the iTunes store for each iPod ever sold." That means, on average. There will be extremes at both ends of the spectrum, but they are not the average.

Here, Jon, if you're reading this - learn what "average" means in the mathematical sense: []

Re:Law of Averages (3, Informative)

91degrees (207121) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933264)

He knows what average means. His point is that using an average is misleading, because of the extremes.

Re:Law of Averages (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17933300)

But the extremes just don't matter that much. The argument Jobs is trying to refute is this idea that there's a huge mass of iPod owners out there who are locked in due to iTMS DRM. The extreme cases certainly exist, but that doesn't demonstrate that this lock-in actually affects most users.

Re:Law of Averages (1)

whisper_jeff (680366) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933348)

Not to mention that, if you are one of those extremes who's spent $30k on iTunes music, you probably don't care that it locks you into the iPod as your portable player. You're probably ok with that.

Re:Law of Averages (2, Funny)

walt-sjc (145127) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933662)

if you are one of those extremes who's spent $30k on iTunes music, you probably don't care that it locks you into the iPod as your portable player.

Such wealthy people include Apple executives... Hmm.

Re:Law of Averages (1)

whisper_jeff (680366) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933308)

With the number of iPod/iTunes users out there, the extremes aren't important - the average user is. When businesses start catering to the extremes of their user-base, they run themselves out of business.

Re:Law of Averages (2, Informative)

simm1701 (835424) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933366)

Which average do you want? mean mode or median?

The 22 per ipod is the mean - often the most useful and the one that is frequently implies with the more ambiguous word "average" however in this case its the most useless.

The mode usually requires wider boundries than single elements to be useful (eg 0, 1-5, 6-10, etc) but I would tend to say that the mode or perhaps the median would be the more useful average when tailoring a service to your main user base.

Despite these figures not being announced you can bet that apple have them and almost certainly use them internally - they probably just dont sound as good to the average non mathematical person

Re:Law of Averages (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17933466)

That's the problem - we're not talking about an average user. We're talking about an average (mean) number of protected songs per iPod, which isn't the same thing at all.

Which is what Jon was saying - the average number of protected songs per iPod is totally useless. For that figure to mean anything, you need the distribution. It's entirely possible that 80% of all iPod owners have around 22 songs, but equally you could have half of all iPod owners having no protected songs, and the other half having 44 songs.

There is a major difference between those two scenarios. In the first, the cost of changing to another player (the cost of DRM lock-in) is $22, with an 80% probability. In the second, it's either $0, or $44, with a 50% probability of being either one.

A numerical average is not the same as this mythical "average" person. That concept is more similar to the mathematical concept of the mode - the most frequent.

Re:Law of Averages (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933614)

So would you suggest that the people keeping iTunes in business are the ones that buy 22 songs?

Re:Law of Averages (1)

joshetc (955226) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933762)

He knows what average means. His point is that using an average is misleading, because of the extremes.

Upon reading your post all I could think about is how funny it would have been had you said "He knows what mean means".

Re:Law of Averages (1)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933288)

Like Bruce Schneier, here we have a dude who's opinion apparently is notable. I don't agree in that big deal he was part of the deCSS group. Whoopy. There are many FLOSS contributors out there that have distinct political and civil ideas, yet we don't seem to want to listen to them or give them attention. I guess the media makes the "star", not because of actual merit but because they need a star to sell print [or get ad impressions].

As for DRM, I'm glad that corporations, er, the leaders of corporations are starting to smarten up a smidge. DRM is nothing but a huge gaping waste of effort. It costs the customers money, and takes away their rights to fair use.


Re:Law of Averages (3, Informative)

ZachPruckowski (918562) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933316)

He knows what average means, he's just saying that average is not the right figure. The distribution is very important. A 22-song average would imply at first glance that only 1-2% of people are locked in, but if the distribution was a third the listeners with 66 songs and two thirds with none, then it would follow that a third are rather locked in (they take a $60 hit by going elsewhere for their DAP needs)

Also, DVD Jon was pointing out that Jobs's iPod figure reflected all iPods sold, not all that are functional or in use (a number that no one knows). People have been replacing iPods as they break, and have been upgrading as new ones get released. Additionally, music might be on more than one iPod, as a family might authorize everyone's computers to play everyone else's music, so that Bro and Sis can share songs on their iPods.

Re:Law of Averages (1)

grimJester (890090) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933624)

Additionally, it doesn't matter what fraction of iPod owners or iTunes customers are locked in. What matters is the amount of people locked in, and what moving to another brand would cost them. The sum of lock-in is the gross revenue of the iTunes store. Every DRM:d song is worthless when you want a non-Apple mp3 player.

Re:Law of Averages (1)

EggyToast (858951) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933834)

So who's that? Sure seems like the vast majority is perfectly happy buying iPods, and then buying more iPods.

Re:Law of Averages (3, Insightful)

uradu (10768) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933346)

Wow, it's pretty obvious who the idiot is, especially when Jon makes such an excellent point. Another thing that makes Jobs' "we'd welcome openness" comment appear so facetious is the fact that they have done everything in their power to tie iTunes and the iPod closely together, and never the twain shall part. That has nothing to do with DRM but everything with tying the user to a specific (delivery/music/etc.) platform.

Re:Law of Averages (4, Informative)

Rob the Bold (788862) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933360)

Here, Jon, if you're reading this - learn what "average" means in the mathematical sense: []

He knows what average means, and he knows that Steve was specifically referring to the arithmetic mean, because 20 billion songs/ 90 million ipods is the ~22 songs/ipod in question.

He's just saying that using this figure is misleading. Like talking about average fuel economy by dividing all the car miles ever by total gasoline production for the last 110 years. Sure it's the average, but it doesn't really tell you anything about current mileage. Most of those cars are scrap by now, just like many of the ipods sold in the last few years.

Re:Law of Averages (1)

MicrosoftRepresentit (1002310) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933390)

He's also an idiot because he thinks Apple can suddenly license DRM-free music from a bunch of indie labels and not have the Big Four give them a steel toe-cap beatdown.

Re:Law of Averages (4, Insightful)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933750)

Mod parent up! DVD Jon may be a cult-hero around here (I know I like him), but he certainly isn't privy to the negotiations that Apple has had with the major labels. He's smart, not omnipotent. It would not surprise me in the least to find out that Apple's agreement with at least one of the major labels includes a prohibition on Apple selling any unprotected music.

Jon is not an idiot, though, Mr. Parent. :)

Re:Law of Averages (5, Insightful)

skibaa (995295) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933396)

On everage, every human has one testicle and one breast. You have to learn when the average is meaningless (hint: start with [] )

Re:Law of Averages (1)

Muad'Dave (255648) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933746)

Yes, but the average human has less that 2.0 legs. (Seen on /.)

Re:Law of Averages (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17933402)

These numbers also don't take into account people like me.

People that have purchased songs from iTunes and don't own an iPod.

That makes the average number of songs per iPod even lower.

Re:Law of Averages (1)

backwardMechanic (959818) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933562)

Linking to wikipedia doesn't make you smart. I think we all know what a mean is, it's just that some of us realize how meaningless it can be (pun intended).

All-or-Nothing (5, Insightful)

ZachPruckowski (918562) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933230)

It's very possible that Apple's contract bans them from selling non-DRMed music alongside DRMed music. This explains why groups like Nettwerk haven't been given the option to sell their music DRM-free. Apple's got the best deal of all the music stores, they must have given up something to get it, and "all music must be DRMed" sounds very cartel-ish and would fit getting the good prices.

Re:All-or-Nothing (1)

basshedz2 (771482) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933306)

They offer non-drm'd music podcasts though - such as the Solid Steel series.

Re:All-or-Nothing (1)

ZachPruckowski (918562) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933416)

Note that they are specifically labeled as podcasts - this just proves my point. They can sell podcasts without DRM (and it might be that they have no DRMed podcasts, I haven't checked), but they don't sell music without DRM.

Re:All-or-Nothing (3, Insightful)

conigs (866121) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933742)

The thing about podcasts on the iTMS is that they are not stored on Apple's servers, but instead on the podcast owner's server of choice. The only thing that runs though the store is the XML file, if I understand this correctly.

Re:All-or-Nothing (2, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933334)

It's also possible that Apple doesn't really WANT to sell DRM-free music because that would mean people could play those songs on MP3 players that didn't have "iPod" on the front of them.


Re:All-or-Nothing (4, Interesting)

ZachPruckowski (918562) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933374)

See, but that would only be a major concern if the iPod wasn't the most popular DAP already. The iPod can now survive without the iTMS because there's just so much built around it, from the "coolness factor" to the fact that about half of all DAP peripherals use the iPod dock. And iPods are still the easiest to use with iTunes, especially since you get niceties like lyrics and album art transferred over as well. DRM certainly helped Apple get where it is, but it doesn't need it to stay there.

Re:All-or-Nothing (5, Insightful)

deboli (199358) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933730)

The iPod was first, the store came later. The iPod was successful because of an elegant hardware-software integration and not because you can buy and legally download music.

On top of this iPods are sold worldwide while the store can only be accessed from a few select countries, further skewing the "average" calculation...

Re:All-or-Nothing (2, Insightful)

daviddennis (10926) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933506)

I don't think they really care about that.

What I do think they care about is consistency of user experience. They believe, and I think they are right to do so, that having different types of music with different usage rights confuses customers. One reason I hear for the failure of WMA is that you don't know what you can do with the file unless you read the specific license agreement for it. That alienates customers, and I think not alienating customers is what really separates iTunes from the other services.

It also might hurt their ability to negotiate with the labels on other matters ("If you can make this change for such and such a label, well, you can make this higher price or worse term or whatever for us").


Re:All-or-Nothing (1)

jonnythan (79727) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933580)

There are no music players that say "iPod" on the front of them :)

Re:All-or-Nothing (1)

plopez (54068) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933646)

Except that they still make money, when they sell you the song in the first place.

Re:All-or-Nothing (1)

ZoneGray (168419) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933722)

Yeah, but they want to sell the songs. Apple could probably make more money by selling you 20-30 DRM-less songs than by selling you an iPod. Maybe it would take 100 songs, I dunno. But using a proprietary store to leverage iPod sales is a losing strategy.

In fact, if they could sell DRM-free songs through iTunes, they'd probably sell more iPods.

Understand, it's only a matter of time before MySpace starts selling unprotected downloads, and that'll be a HUGE threat, both to iTunes and the major labels.

Apple sells iPods because they're well-designed, they have a nice responsive interface, and they have lots of accessories available. I know lots of people who have iPods, some who have bought at iTunes; but I don't know a single person who says they bought an iPod so they could shop for DRM-protected songs at the iTunes store.

Re:All-or-Nothing (2, Insightful)

Saint Fnordius (456567) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933370)

From what others have written, the issue seems to be more that Apple stores the songs without DRM in its database, encrypting them only when the customer downloads. Apple probably instead refuses to invest the programming hours to come up with a solution that flags whether encryption is required or not, since it also means ensuring that there are no mistakes (songs unencrypted where the distributor demands DRM, or DRM added to a song that was supposed to be free, or retroactive release from DRM).

I think Apple resents having to program DRM in the first place, since it eats up programming resources and complicates the software in a way that does not benefit the computer nor the user. It does nothing for Apple, but without it the Big Four would have walked away.

The sad part is how the RIAA tried to spin Steve Jobs' rejection of Solution #2 as an offer to open FairPlay to other stores. This is a cartel that needs to be disbanded for the harm it now does to all sides. They blithely ignore that Steve was declaring that Apple would never do that because they would make themselves liable for devices beyond their control and would need to divert too many programmers from other tasks.

Re:All-or-Nothing (1)

mmeister (862972) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933372)

Also, it is an issue of management. Having to make sure this recording is DRM'd and *that* recording is not sounds like one gigantic management headache to me.

Kudos to Jobs for publicly going after the recording companies especially given the European issues and the fact that most of these companies are European companies. They seem to want their cake and yours and mine while their stuffing their face eating their own. Greedy bastards!

RIAA -- you want interoperability? Remove DRM. I guarantee 100% interoperability. Sadly that translates to "you want .... DRM ... 100% interoperability" in the minds of the idiot Record Execs.

Re:All-or-Nothing (2, Insightful)

doctor proteus (1028902) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933468)

Regardless, Jobs' open letter still reeks of insincerity and self servitude. He knows that the record companies will not agree to reduced DRM restrictions and so simply passes the legal and media ball to them. Apple clearly wants to appropriate blame on the record companies to stop the European Union from going after them. Apple and Jobs are great at playing the media and this is a prime example of it.

There is a vast difference between the record companies and Apple's public relations - the record companies do not require public support to be successful businesses. Look at how much Sony screwed its customers over; only then did a boycott begin, one which probably had very little effect on their bottom line. Apple however probably want to avoid being associated with restrictive and heavy handed licensing as they can see what harm it has had on Microsoft's image. In the end Jobs' letter was a simple smoke and mirrors game to even out the blame across the whole industry, with DVD Jon's comments being proof of this.

The problem is without more details on the agreement Apple has with the record companies, it is impossible to know if Apple are playing fair or not.

Re:All-or-Nothing (0, Troll)

nettdata (88196) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933496)

Maybe it's just that they don't have the technical infrastructure to support non-DRM'd sales?

It's not like it's stopping Nettwerk from selling their stuff on iTunes... a quick search for obscure stuff like Download and popular stuff like Sarah McLachlan shows that they're available.

Re:All-or-Nothing (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933854)

Maybe it's just that they don't have the technical infrastructure to support non-DRM'd sales?

Oh, give me a break! Of all the pro-Apple excuses, this has to be the lamest. Yes, I'm sure a programming behemoth like Apple doesn't have the resources to make a simple change in their software, one that even much smaller companies like eMusic have managed to implement. DVD Jon is dead-on right. They could do it in 2 DAYS if they wanted to.


Re:All-or-Nothing (2, Interesting)

rho (6063) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933774)

This is almost certainly the case. Jobs, as I recall, had to do a lot of talking to get major labels online with the iTMS. Just being able to put the same song on more than one computer probably took months of begging, threatening and deal-making. I know it's fun to whale on Jobs, but he really is interested in making his customers happy, and I imagine he's fully aware of how annoying the iTMS DRM is for non-technical people.

Me, I just burn a CD-RW as an audio CD of purchased music and re-import as MP3. Sure there's a quality loss--I bet almost nobody would notice the difference. And using a CD-RW means I'm not even out the $0.10 for a CD-R.

Missing links? (4, Insightful)

ziggamon2.0 (796017) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933234)

Maybe I'm new here, but shouldn't there be links to both the Economist article and DVD Jon's second article?

Long Tail (3, Insightful)

wombatmobile (623057) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933244)

Why doesn't Steve open up the iTunes store to indies?

Chris Anderson's Long Tail [] research makes it clear that more tunes means more iPod usage, even when those tunes are from the most obscure artists.

Anderson's thesis arises because "digital music is no longer subject to the artificial barrier of finite shelf space."

Or at least, that would be the case if stores like iTunes were more accessible.

C'mon Steve, open wide. Let the long tail wag.

legal and other issues possibly? (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933388)

first with the current music Apple probably has a short list of people it has to do transactions with. They are also probably granted some indeminity from problems arising from music they sell provided its from the labels.

with indie music comes a lot of questions.
how much can Apple charge before they are considered to be exploiting?
how much does Apple spend on bandwidth per song, this figures into #1.
who does Apple contract with for payment should the artist want money?
How much will it cost to maintain all those contracts, because thats essentially what they are.
who guarantees to Apple the music they sell is really the property of the artist selling it?

there are many risks and costs associated with indie music. it would probably take a middleman to make it viable to Apple. Someone like an RIAA that isn't evil for the Indie's could make the presence of this music on iTunes much more likely

Re:legal and other issues possibly? (1)

Marillion (33728) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933878)

Organizations like ASCAP and BMI already have the infrastructure to manage artist royalies for composition/publishing side of the royalties equation.

Indie music where the composer is also performer (anecdotally, this would cover 99% of it) ASCAP/BMI would already be involed at some level. Not to diminish BMI, but I am going to refer to ASCAP only hereafter because I am most familiar with how it works. ASCAP is a member-owned organization and is free to any writer who meets membership requirements. The barrier to entry to ASCAP is low.

Apple (or other online system) could create a system where the Indie artist, represented by ASCAP but not by a recording company, qualifies to appear on iTunes and a percentage of the purchase price would go directly to ASCAP. ASCAP would then take their flat administrative fee (currently around 12%) and pass the remaining directly to the artist. ASCAP membership also shifts the issue of sorting out music ownership from Apple to ASCAP. ASCAP members are responsible for keeping ASCAP appraised of the current address.

The procedural change for these groups to represent the additional recording rights of their members might not be that difficult. I would expect a lot of internal conflict within ASCAP as some very important ASCAP members (Alan Jackson, Eddie Van Halen, Phil Collins, John Williams, etc) already have lucrative recording contracts.

Re:Long Tail (1)

Junior J. Junior III (192702) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933408)

Better yet, make ITMS open to everyone who wants to sell, just like eBay is open to everyone who wants to sell.

Jobs' big charade (3, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933430)

Why would Apple want to lose DRM, even if they could? That would potentially break their iTunes-iPod monopoly (since you could play non-DRM'ed songs on other players besides the iPod).

Steve Jobs may SAY he hates DRM, but only because he has nothing to lose by saying that. He knows the studios aren't going to cave on DRM, so he gets to keep DRM (and, hence, his iTunes-iPod monopoly) while simultaneously portraying himself as some sort of anti-DRM crusader.

If you want to see how Jobs *REALLY* feels about DRM, just look at how Apple treats indie artists and studios that specifically DON'T want their music DRM'ed. While companies like eMusic sell these same songs without DRM, Apple FORCES them to take DRM. Apple knows damn well that DRM is in their best interests. Jobs is just posturing.


Re:Jobs' big charade (4, Interesting)

Saint Fnordius (456567) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933674)

Apple hates DRM because it's an arms race that sucks up resources. Programmers that could be working on cool code are stuck ensuring that FairPlay doesn't get cracked, and that they get a patch up within the time framed dictated by their contract. Without DRM, the iPod and iTunes codebases could be trimmed to run faster and possibly even allow for the API to be published.

repeat after me (2, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933890)

Apple isa hardware company, Apple is a hardware company, APlle is a HARD-Fucking-WARE company.

They compete on the HARDWARE not the music.
Otherwise it wouldn't be trivial to get around the DRM by design.

I can put any mp3 I wan't on the iPod no matter where I got it from. If they wanet lockin it would only play AAC files. Guess what? that wouldn't sell many iPods, which is what they want because they are a hardware company.

Re:Long Tail (1)

mveloso (325617) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933436)

The iTunes store -is- open to Indies. It could be that (1) you're not looking in the right place, or (2) the labels in question are too lazy to sign up. It's not that hard to do, apparently.

Re:Long Tail (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933892)

He means indies *WITHOUT DRM* (like eMusic).


How is that misusing statistics? (0)

RandoX (828285) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933252)

"Many iPod owners have never bought anything from the iTunes Store. Some have bought hundreds of songs. Some have bought thousands" Sounds like common sense to me. As an iPod owner, I've never bought anything from iTunes. I personally believe that others have probably bought hundreds or thousands of songs. So what's the problem? And no, I can't be bothered to RTFA. DVD Jon should do what he does best, crack DRM.

Re:How is that misusing statistics? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17933482)

Why needs DRM to be cracked?

As long as you can play a song at least once on a PC, you will be able to make a perfectly digital copy, no matter how deeply they may have buried DRM in the OS. Even if they would start to demand certain DRM-drivers from soundcard-manufacturers and there is no way to use a 3rd party driver, there would still be endless possibilities for a hook. Don't tell me now that noone has done a (DRMed) .aac or .wma 2 non-DRM vorbis/mp3 converter until now, because it's really not rocket-science to do it.

Then again, I don't really care as I seriously don't listen to music at all.

Re:How is that misusing statistics? (3, Insightful)

cowscows (103644) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933702)

I think that a few anecdotal cases are no more useful, and possibly less useful than statistics in this case. Sure, some guy may have bought 30k worth of music, but it hardly seems reasonable for any company to base any sort of business decision on the actions of one guy like that, when the averages are closer to $2-3 per person.

Are there people with investments in iTMS who probably feel locked in? Undoubtedly yes. I'd guess that if you asked Steve Jobs that question flat-out, he'd likely say yes as well. But does that mean that that's Apple's motivation for including DRM? According to Jobs, it's not. Would both the iPod and iTMS store continue to do well with DRM removed? Jobs seems to think so.

I'm not naive enough to automatically believe word for word anything that someone I don't even know says, but Steve Jobs has felt comfortable putting himself into a position where Apple may have the opportunity to drop the DRM, and the PR that would form around that opportunity would almost force Apple to do it.

Here's a guy who's one of the big names in the industry, and he's publicly announcing the position of Apple Inc., and it just so happens that this position includes a whole lot of what the anti-DRM people have been saying all along. What is the problem with that? If you're expecting Apple to suddenly just drop all the DRM and tell the record labels to go screw themselves, then your mind is wandering outside the realm of reality, which doesn't help your cause.

Re:How is that misusing statistics? (4, Insightful)

Chode2235 (866375) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933808)

Maybe DVD Jon is just worried he will be out of a job. Didn't he work for months and even years to break Fairplay just so he could sell it to rival music stores? Regradless he also has his own interests that must be recognized, he is not simply a champion of free information.

iTunes Podcasts can be DRM-free (2, Interesting)

macmastery (600662) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933270)

I have worked on my church's podcasts and know that podcasts on iTunes can be DRM-free. Maybe the rules for music are different on the iT(M)S. Then again, individuals can submit pocasts but my indie band friend had to submit her albums through an intermediary.

Confusion free? (5, Interesting)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933290)

"It should not take Apple's iTunes team more than 2-3 days to implement a solution for not wrapping content with FairPlay when the content owner does not mandate DRM. This could be done in a completely transparent way and would not be confusing to the users."

Yeah, right. Tell that to the vast majority of non-tech savvy iTunes users, who don't understand why they can't make an MP3 CD of their purchased music. I have a friend who likes to make "Mix" CD's for other friends, and they keep getting frustrated when iTunes tells them some of their tracks can't be converted to MP3. I've tried explaining DRM to them, but for the typical layperson, it goes right over their heads.

Re:Confusion free? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17933332)

True. But thisis already the problem. Adding non-DRM songs shouldn't confuse the users more than they already are.

Re:Confusion free? (0)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933410)

This is how you explain DRM to the lay person.

Imagine a publisher of a text book, was allowed to control which passages of the text you could cite for your research paper. Imagine if they could control the order of how you read it, what sections you read, when you read it, who you can allow to read your copy, etc.

Once you s/mp3/book/ it somehow seems a little simpler.


Re:Confusion free? (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933510)

That explains the problem. Explain what DRM is.

Taking the position of someone without a clue, my response is "Yeah, but they can't control those passages. I just copy them out. So why does it matter what they want? And how does that explain why my computer isn't working properly when I try to convert my iTunes music to mp3?"

Re:Confusion free? (1)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933540)

DRM is the thingy that enables those ridiculous restrictions.

Also I think you missed the part where I said "imagine they could..." As in, what if all books were ebooks and implemented DRM like that?

Hint: There will come a time when portable ebook readers replace inprint books for things like school. You want those DRM enabled?

If your friend asks why they can't convert their tunes to mp3, tell them Steve Jobs told them they couldn't. That's effectively the truth of it.


Re:Confusion free? (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933740)

Don't get me wrong. Your point is a good one, and in principle, there's nothing wrong with the analogy. I just find that non-technical people - especially those from a non-science background - can get very confused and muddled with the hypotheticals, and generally haven't put any thought into what these files are, apart from a button you press to get music.

Re:Confusion free? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933694)

Try giving them this article [] . If they have a bit longer, give them Jasper Fforde's The Well of Lost Plots.

Re:Confusion free? (0)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933438)

who don't understand why they can't make an MP3 CD of their purchased music.

Um, so right-clicking and selecting "Convert Selection to MP3" doesn't work for them? Or am I missing something?

Re:Confusion free? (2, Informative)

Halo1 (136547) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933586)

That indeed doesn't work for purchased songs.

Re:Confusion free? (2, Informative)

geekoid (135745) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933734)

For songs purchased through iTunes, you need to burn to disk(or virtual disk) and then rip from the disk.
Right clicking and choosing 'Convert to mp3' gives you a pop up telling you you can't convert purchased songs.

No, they understand. (1)

twitter (104583) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933564)

... they keep getting frustrated when iTunes tells them some of their tracks can't be converted to MP3. I've tried explaining DRM to them, but for the typical layperson, it goes right over their heads.

They are not confused, DRM simply sucks. Explaining the details is as pointless and asinine as a hide tanning lecture while someone is whipped. DRM is the ultimate non free expression, secrets created to dominate and abuse. The greed of the artist, the publisher and the listener are all played to create a dishonest deal in which none have real choices. Free and honest sales work better for everyone.

Re:Confusion free? (1)

walt-sjc (145127) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933836)

I guess I don't understand your friend. If you tell him that DRM is the software lock on music file that is prohibiting him from converting it to an MP3, what else is there to understand? Is he asking for the gory technical details that he has no hope of understanding anyway? It's pretty damn straight forward.

DRM is like carbon monoxide. You can't "see" it, but when it's there it can cause you serious problems.

Stats (1)

gavink42 (1000674) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933318)

If we take Jobs' stats to be accurate, then it does make sense to stop using DRM. Personally, I just don't have the confidence that the record labels will admit to it. I hope I'm proven wrong!

Indie artists' access to iTunes (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17933336)

Getting distribution on iTunes is not as hard as was suggested.

If you produce a CD and follow the instructions to have your disc sold on, they will submit your music to iTunes. In the case of music I've submitted, there was a delay of about six weeks; then we got word that we were live on iTunes.

This is not the full ticket to Hollywood. It's not a huge hurdle either. It's one of many small cumulative things that you do to get your music out there.

Notably there was no contractual lock-in with CDBaby or with iTunes. They own nothing, we retain our copyrights and our ability to distribute in any other channel we like. The whole thing has been artist-friendly.

Our R&B artist on iTunes: viewAlbum?playListId=202470955 []

Our other music (ambient & progressive rock) []

Re:Indie artists' access to iTunes (1)

Ksempac (934247) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933548)

The problem is not "getting my song on iTunes". The problem is "getting my song on iTunes WITHOUT DRM".

iTunes is the world biggest online music store, so of course you want your song on it. You expect that, in doing so, more people will buy it.
However, right now, if you dont like DRM and dont want your customer to be locked to his iPod, there is no way to be on iTunes. Some artists dont want their listeners to be restricted in their use of their music. Putting their song on another website wont solve the problem because iTunes probably wont make a link to another website and the customer wont buy the same song twice.

Apple Surrender (1)

OurNewOverloard (984041) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933338)

When the largest distributor of DRM says that DRM is a failure, then we know we are winning. Now lets make Jobs live up to his word. He must allow independent artists who distribute their music through iTunes to do so without DRM. He also says he supports free formats, so lets make that OGG then.

Re:Apple Surrender (1)

mr_matticus (928346) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933448)

First he has to make sure it's okay with the Big Four that some iTunes sales are DRM-free. If the mainstream labels take their ball and go home, iTunes collapses. It can't even break even on indie labels.

Some Of Jobs Other 'Stands' (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17933358)

Jobs also came out strongly in favor of:

* Ponies for everyone - who doesn't love ponies?

* Rainbows everyday - wouldn't the world be just that much better?

* Love - it doesn't have to be just for dirty hippies

You gotta hand it to Jobs and his bold stance of anti-DRM and pro ponies, love, and rainbows. Let's all go out and buy incremental upgrades to our iPods!

Re:Some Of Jobs Other 'Stands' (1)

ben there... (946946) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933660)

You said it better than I could. I don't really believe a word Jobs said. Apple's lock-in is the best thing they have going for them right now. My opinion is that Apple realized they only need part of the catalog to have DRM to maintain their lock-in, and by doing away with DRM on some purchases, they gain customers that don't want DRM. But they still have the initial DRM-forgiving customers, who are still locked in. That or he knew that none of the record companies would give up DRM, yet said it anyway for positive PR. Like this story, for instance.

Re:Some Of Jobs Other 'Stands' (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933826)

He has fought against DRM since implimenting iTunes. He know it ultimatly can't work, which means it is a bad business descision.

If it was about lock in, then you wouldn't be able to get around it so easily by design.

Apple is a hardware company. They want to sell iPods and they want to be a full service solution.

The easier it is to sell music, and the easier it is for Apples clients to do what they want with the music it purchased, the more iPods he sells.

Yes his statement was self serving, but it wasn't like he was hiding that fact. It would be like me saying "I want you to get me a Coca Cola." and then someone calling that statement self serving. Well duh.

Re:Some Of Jobs Other 'Stands' (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17933894)

"He has fought against DRM since implimenting iTunes"


I know quite a few record label execs here in Los Angeles and one major patent holder/exec in the CD/DVD/BluRay biz - each and everyone of them hates DRM, doesn't want to deal with it, doesn't want to have it in their products, doesn't want consumers to have to deal with, wish there was some perfect world where content magically didn't have problems with copyright infringement, but

each and every one of them ships/creates products with DRM.

Just like Jobs.

Re:Some Of Jobs Other 'Stands' (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933824)

You missed Free Beer. Best not to lose that entire demographic. ;-)

In fact, I've already suggested that if Obama really wants to win, he needs to add that in the platform. Oddly enough, I haven't gotten any response back yet.

Agreed, but... (1)

imikem (767509) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933364)

World + dog will inevitably weigh in on this subject so near and dear to /.er hearts on several levels.

Firstly, add me to the list of those calling for the end of DRMed/crippled music.

Second, however, without knowing the details of the record labels' agreement with Apple to sell their music on the iTMS, there's no way to know if Apple CAN treat the indie labels music differently. If not prohibited, then the clever folks at Apple ought to be able to create a workable non-DRMed channel for such sales. If this is prohibited to them, they should say so to remove the doubt.

The calls to license FairPlay are rather disingenuous and unfair I think, unless ALL companies (yes, pointing at you, Microsoft) are required to do the same. I don't think such a thing would prove workable anyway unless the DRM standard(s) itself was placed under the control of an international standards body rather than a single company. Even then there are multiple problems with it.

Steve Jobs was right on. The simplest solution here is the best. DRM must die. Try trusting people to do the right thing for once. Enough of them will probably do it to keep you pigopolists from having to actually work for a living after all.

iPod Lock-In (-1, Offtopic)

sottitron (923868) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933376)

one customer had bought $29,500 worth of music

I don't think this guy is really sweating a $79 iPod shuffle or even a $600 iPhone for that matter.

Re:iPod Lock-In (1)

Ksempac (934247) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933490)

You completly missed the point : The point is not that buying a new iPod will be hard for this guy but that he will never use a non-Apple MP3 player because he would be stuck with 29500$ worth of music he cant listen anymore. Hence he is locked in : he will always buy a new iPod when his own fails.

Re:iPod Lock-In (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933738)

I doubt it. Anyone who would by $30K of music from an online store probably has enough money that they could easily afford to buy it again.

Speaking of misuse of statistics (2, Interesting)

VirusEqualsVeryYes (981719) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933384)


There may be 90 million iPods sold, but not all of them are currently in use.

Okay, but on the other hand, not all owned songs are used in iPods (or used) at all, either. Personally, I've got a couple gigs of music that I don't really listen to, and aren't on my iPod. For example, I have the soundtracks of some video games, which are great when I'm in the mood (read: free time), but generally I listen to my iPod when I'm walking to class. For another example, I've bought one or two CD's for a really good song or two, but I think the rest is terrible. (I'm lookin' at you, Demon Days...)

I guess my wife and I are a rare breed... (4, Insightful)

DoctorPepper (92269) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933464)

We each own an iPod (30 GB Video), and we both have quite a lot of music on them. We each ripped the CD's out of our collection that we wanted to our respective computer, using iTunes (we both have Macs, although I use my Linux computer more), and we independently sync our iPods with that music. Neither of us has even one song that we didn't either purchase on CD or through iTMS, and neither one of us would even think of "borrowing" a CD from someone else, with the intent to rip the tracks for our own use.

I really don't get the piracy thing. If you are going to listen to the music, then you should pay for it, whether that be from purchasing the CDs, or through a legitimate on-line music service. I also don't care to hear arguments against this, because those that argue the loudest are usually the ones with the most non-purchased music in their library. They are being just as self-serving as Mr. Jobs.

Personally, I wish we could do away with DRM, because it is quite difficult to play the songs I legally purchased off of iTMS on my Linux computer. I think that is a load of crap, and that it severely cuts into my fair-use rights, which nobody seems to care about.

Re:I guess my wife and I are a rare breed... (4, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933590)

"...those that argue the loudest are usually the ones with the most non-purchased music in their library."

yeah, because you get to check their computers.

Nice assumption.

I suppose you also believe that people who believe Pot should be legal also smoke it?

Hey, Johansen (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933536)

it's not a technical matter, it's a business matter.

A Major Injustice (5, Interesting)

roughtrader (1061478) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933576)

When devising our digital store (, we didn't for one moment consider having DRM catalogue included. Contrary to it being a marketing issue of differentiation against would-be digital competitors, us opting to sell only DRM-free MP3's has been moral stance informed by three decades of selling music. We consider it morally wrong to impose one set of ownership rights (on the same album) to those customers preferring to buy one format and not another - instead, we treat all our customers the same, whatever format they decide to purchase. To do otherwise would be disrespectful to our customers accrued over thirty years. As it currently stands, major labels have ignored our long-standing retail support and that of our customers (arguably the roots of their prosperity) in favour of imposing DRM and thereby propagating an uncompetitive digital retail market, whereby retailers such as ourselves are unfairly discriminated against to the continued advantage of an effective monopoly. For Rough Trade, music is not a content driver, music is a passion shared with like-minded people over a counter or website. The more music retailers that uphold this value, the more prosperous our industry would surely become. The sooner DRM is scrapped by major labels, the sooner we can present our long-established customer base a consistent offer, whether they visit our London stores, buy online at our mail-order website, or download MP3 from our digital store website. The end result being we can compete on a level playing field, allowing music lovers to choose their digital retailer based on 'music lover' factors such as the retailers ability to recommend exciting new music, and not uncompetitive, discriminating terms of format availability.

transparent? (1)

Floritard (1058660) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933578)

"This could be done in a completely transparent way and would not be confusing to the users." Who even wants it to be transparent? I would want complete segregation of DRM and non-DRM. As it is I've never used ITMS because DRM just sounded like a bad deal to me from the very start, even before this blu-ray/Vista nonsense really heated up. The whole thing reminded me of Circuit City's Divx rental format from back in the day. But I might actually use ITMS, if I could buy straight up uncrippled mp3s, and they'd do well to advertise that fact prominently. Then again 99 cents a song was always a rip-off.

apple (3, Funny)

jjeffries (17675) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933606)

>It should not take Apple's iTunes team more than 2-3 days to implement a solution for not wrapping content with FairPlay...

Yes, but that doesn't include the six months needed to design the new icons...

Steve Jobs is absolutely right (0, Offtopic)

NXprime (573188) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933728)

Steve Jobs is absolutely right when he says that most music is ripped from CD. I have 1318 songs on my ipod and only 69 of those are from iTunes. So I paid $69 for DRM music? Ehh no. About 40 of em were from those Pepsi 1 free song giveaways the last few years. Also to note, I have paid for 26 TV show episodes & 5 ipod games. My real beef with iTunes isn't the DRM since it doesn't bother me at all. What does bother me is the low bitrate music songs that it offers. I literally pay upwards of $30-$40 per CD for some decent Japanese music that I am absolutely addicted to. Anything less than Apple Lossless would be a crime for the price that I paid for that music. I feel it's excellent quality music so therefore 128 kbs protected ACC encoding seems completely inferior than what I'm used to listening to. That and the fact the Japanese version of iTunes ain't got jack shit on it. :/ Oh and LOL, I am paying $30 per CD like the RIAA wants me to. Stupid Japanese music prices. :(

Self-serving or not (1)

Enrique1218 (603187) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933764)

A major player is calling for the abolishment of DRM! Rejoice! DRM should be abolish. His opinion holds more weight in public circles (entertainment, politics, technology) than the thousands that post here daily. Who cares what his reason is? Let's see if Bill gates or Steve Balmer make a similar self-serving statement.

2-3 days to implement the -code-... (1)

jofny (540291) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933800)

...but...if Apple's remotely like most other big companies...that means they also than need a few weeks or months to assure (with See Jane Run style powerpoints) the middle management that they're not losing any of their rice bowls, whiffle ball bat the DRM-opt-out concept into the heads of the sales and marketing teams, and then crowbar the code into the release cycle thats already been planned out months ahead.

i've noticed the tension (5, Insightful)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933812)

between hardware manufacturers and content creators

just this morning, i read this (Hollywood Takes Its Concerns About Piracy and Taxes to Washington [] ):

In a rare moment of newsmaking, Barry M. Meyer, the chairman of Warner Brothers, issued a sharp rebuke to the president of the Consumer Electronics Association, Gary Shapiro, who warned in January that antipiracy efforts could "smother" technological progress and said that "private conduct may be unauthorized, but that does not mean it is piracy."

Mr. Meyer took issue with calling the theft of intellectual property merely unauthorized rather than illegal, and said that Hollywood's promotion of so-called digital rights management technology had made it possible for consumers to rent or buy movies and TV programs at a variety of prices.

"It's easy to demonize it, but without some level of control and order, things don't work," he said. "The only choice we're not offering is free."

He added: "Unlike the technology industry, which can outrun pirates by upgrading their product, there is no 'Gone With the Wind 2.0.' "

i have a feeling that the prime mover and shaker in the wars for/ against drm will be fought mainly along this battlefront. so either hardware manufacturers, by ignoring content creators, will drag content creators kicking and screaming into reality, or content creators will probably, as a mode of attack, simply buy hardware manufacturers, and silence them via business channels

some, like sony, are both hardware and content creators. internal battles on the issue within sony might be revelatory for what our future holds

i'm actually pretty upbeat about the future in this regard though. people like jobs show that hardware manufacturers are just as willing to dream about bullying around content creators as visa versa. it was the content creators dithering and denial on the subject of downloadability that allowed jobs to create iTunes and lead us into the future, so to say. from an obvious business perspective in terms of natural fit, content creators should have been the ones offering a download storefront on the internet, but they didn't out of their fear and panic about what the internet meant to their existence. along came a hardware manufacturer, with nothing to lose on the content front, and therefore no fear, and filled the natural void of consumer want/ need that wasn't being filled as it should have naturally been filled by the content creators. and for dithering as they did, now content creators are in a deeper hole because they have to deal with a formidable opponent, jobs, with nothing to lose and no reason not to defy content creators. he is now in charge of the largest growing revenue stream for the content creators, not one of their own stooges. good for the consumer

and besides, even if all of american hardware and content creators were consolidated business-wise against the interests of us, the consumers, there is always hardware manufacturers in china, or russia, or india, or europe, who would be all too happy to steal the lions share of the marketplace from consumers sick of the ridiculous 1984-style limitations on their hardware that would obviously result from collusion between hardware and content creators

in other words, i don't think content creators have enough business muscle AND international clout to completely limit the range of drm-free options we as consumers will be able to access hardware-wise. and therefore, content creators and their dreams of completely controlling how we access our own culture is doomed ;-)

an odious intrusion, simply because they want to preserve their antiquated pre-internet business model. no, i have a better option: why don't you just fade away and die, movie/ music conglomerates? you need us. we don't need you. welcome to the future: the internet has rendered old style media distribution models, where you could easily put up your tolls, archaic. in the future, artists will reach consumers directly

in short, you're history

Steve's a salesman (0, Flamebait)

suv4x4 (956391) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933844)

You know the salesmen that ring on your doorbell to sell you the latest in water-filtered dust hoovers, or the TN infomercials selling you those ultrasharp, lifetime guarantee knife set?

Steve's no different, except he's a very rich, and smarter salesman. He believes that if you mix: "cool" + "easy" + "hype", he has the sale secured. He won't mind bending some facts to tell you his story, and of all facts, by far the easiest to bend are the statistics, of course. A baby can do it, as he'd say.

I would comment when the original articles was posted, the problem is, this is far too transparent for most people his essay is directed to.

Not that I really believe Steve Jobs will care to read this post or even less take advice from a random commenter, but: Steve, keep the salesman tactics for your next product pitch to the consumers. When you talk to serious people, you better have serious arguments.

Here Here! Cheers DVD Jon (3, Informative)

Biff98 (633281) | more than 7 years ago | (#17933858)

I applaud Jon for his words. also ran a story about the Norwegian official complaining RE: Steve Job's "passing the buck" style attitude. It can be found here. []
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