Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Steve Jobs: "Thoughts on Music"

Stevie J. put an interesting article up on Apple's website about his take on DRM (Digital Rights Management) and music sold through the iTunes store.

DRM music restricts where you can play your music. For example, you can't play music purchased from iTunes on a Zune and you can't play music purchased from Sony's music store on an iPod. The idea behind DRM is to prevent the piracy of music. The music labels require DRM before they'll let their music be distributed online. Senior Steve wants to get rid of it all together.

His argument is, essentially, that a small fraction of the music on people's MP3 players is actually protected by DRM. What about the other 98%? Where do people get this unprotected, easy-to-be-copied-and-distributed-on-the-internet music? From CDs. Distributed by music labels.

El Jobso is calling for the music labels to remove DRM completely and make the music you download off iTunes compatible with any MP3 player out there.

Removing DRM from iTunes-purchased music isn't going to inspire a new wave of piracy. If people are going to pirate music, they're going to pirate music. What it will do is encourage more people to use the iTunes store for legal purchases because they won't be deterred by DRM as they've previously been.

While I think Stevie J. has a solid point, I am curious to see how, or if, the labels respond. I would be shocked if they said, "Good point. You're right. Don't worry about DRM anymore." For one thing, there's too much ego involved. However, the buck-a-song model has proved effective and much more lucrative for the labels than CD sales (they make more per song downloaded off iTunes than they do per song on a CD). If there is any hope of stemming piracy I think unprotected, legal online distribution is going to be the best way to do it because you're removing one more excuse to pirate music.