Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Steve Jobs: Apple Would Embrace a DRM-Free Marketplace "Wholeheartedly"

Unless Apple.com was hacked, Steve Jobs has posted an open letter to the music industry and music consumers entitled "Thoughts On Music." He provides three possible scenarios for the future of DRM.
The first alternative is to continue on the current course, with each manufacturer competing freely with their own “top to bottom” proprietary systems for selling, playing and protecting music.

The second alternative is for Apple to license its FairPlay DRM technology to current and future competitors with the goal of achieving interoperability between different company’s players and music stores. On the surface, this seems like a good idea since it might offer customers increased choice now and in the future. . . The most serious problem is that licensing a DRM involves disclosing some of its secrets to many people in many companies, and history tells us that inevitably these secrets will leak. . . . Apple has concluded that if it licenses FairPlay to others, it can no longer guarantee to protect the music it licenses from the big four music companies.
But here it is - straight from the big man's mouth:
The third alternative is to abolish DRMs entirely. Imagine a world where every online store sells DRM-free music encoded in open licensable formats. In such a world, any player can play music purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is playable on all players. This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat. If the big four music companies would license Apple their music without the requirement that it be protected with a DRM, we would switch to selling only DRM-free music on our iTunes store. Every iPod ever made will play this DRM-free music.

Why would the big four music companies agree to let Apple and others distribute their music without using DRM systems to protect it? The simplest answer is because DRMs haven’t worked, and may never work, to halt music piracy.

Jobs also addresses the criticism that their customers are being locked into the iTunes ecosystem:
Today’s most popular iPod holds 1000 songs, and research tells us that the average iPod is nearly full. This means that only 22 out of 1000 songs, or under 3% of the music on the average iPod, is purchased from the iTunes store and protected with a DRM. The remaining 97% of the music is unprotected and playable on any player that can play the open formats. Its hard to believe that just 3% of the music on the average iPod is enough to lock users into buying only iPods in the future. And since 97% of the music on the average iPod was not purchased from the iTunes store, iPod users are clearly not locked into the iTunes store to acquire their music.

(Via Apple)


Peter said...

Score 1 for Apple. And right on the coattails of WalMart's release of a digital movie download service (with tasty drm goodness).

Cameron Parkins said...

What incredible marketing - just as people are starting to see Apple as more of a 'corporation' and less of a 'friend', Jobs comes out and reps what every cyber-nerd wants. I love it. True genius.

johng said...

February 6th, 2007

a date to remember boys and girls

JJanner said...

I agree, great marketing! I still think he should unlock the ipod... but hey, one step at a time.

Cameron Parkins said...

I truly believe this is an incredibly historic piece of writing...

esguerra said...

Bruce Schneier was able to articulate the anxiety I was feeling somewhere deep in the inacessible recesses of my brain:

"To be fair, just last week Steve Jobs publicly came out against DRM for music. It's a reasonable business position, now that Apple controls the online music distribution market. But Jobs never mentioned movies, and he is the largest single shareholder in Disney. Talk is cheap. The real question is would he actually allow iTunes Music Store purchases to play on Microsoft or Sony players, or is this just a clever way of deflecting blame to the--already hated--music labels."

(via Schneier on Security)