Steve’s Thoughts on Music

I will begin by quoting Steve Jobs (CEO of Apple Inc.) on his post on Apple.Com today.

“With the stunning global success of Apple’s iPod music player and iTunes online music store, some have called for Apple to “open” the digital rights management (DRM) system that Apple uses to protect its music against theft, so that music purchased from iTunes can be played on digital devices purchased from other companies, and protected music purchased from other online music stores can play on iPods.

…Music on CDs can be easily imported into the freely-downloadable iTunes jukebox software which runs on both Macs and Windows PCs, and is automatically encoded into the open AAC or MP3 formats without any DRM.

…Since Apple does not own or control any music itself, it must license the rights to distribute music from others, primarily the “big four” music companies: Universal, Sony BMG, Warner and EMI…. The solution was to create a DRM system, which envelopes each song purchased from the iTunes store in special and secret software so that it cannot be played on unauthorized devices.

…However, a key provision of our agreements with the music companies is that if our DRM system is compromised and their music becomes playable on unauthorized devices, we have only a small number of weeks to fix the problem or they can withdraw their entire music catalog from our iTunes store.

…Music purchased from Microsoft’s Zune store will only play on Zune players; music purchased from Sony’s Connect store will only play on Sony’s players; and music purchased from Apple’s iTunes store will only play on iPods.

…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.

…Perhaps this same conclusion contributed to Microsoft’s recent decision to switch their emphasis from an “open” model of licensing their DRM to others to a “closed” model of offering a proprietary music store, proprietary jukebox software and proprietary players.

…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.

…In 2006, under 2 billion DRM-protected songs were sold worldwide by online stores, while over 20 billion songs were sold completely DRM-free and unprotected on CDs by the music companies themselves.”

As a consumer of music and someone who had purchased many content (music, movies and TV shows) from iTunes Store, my main and only concern is to ensure that all my media content are inter operable on any device. That’s because, I always believe in the statement:

Today’s winner may become tomorrow’s looser

Remember when majority of media content, used to be stored on vinyl records, audio tapes, video tapes (Beta and/or VHS), and more recently CDs and DVDs.

Therefore, even though I believe in Apple’s products and prefer their tools over others, based on usability and reliability. I do take certain steps to ensure that these purchased media content are inter operable. This latter step is to ensure my rights to use these content are intact, similar to what Americans have in the United States in the form of Fair use rights. So history tells us, we as consumers cannot rely on any one technology to protect our rights.

I echo Steve Jobs’ call to the Media “giants” to relinquish the need for DRM on content. Imposing DRM on all media content distributed on the Internet is assuming that all consumers are thieves. I understand the contrary is an idealistic way of looking at the situation. What have our society come to when we have to assume everyone to be bad? To protect artist rights; the actual content owners, there have to be other ways.

BTW: CDs and DVDs (to a certain extent) do not have DRM at the moment. We all heard what happened to Sony Music when they tried to put DRM onto their music CDs.

Putting the blame on either Apple Inc. or the Media “giants” may also be unfair. May be the solution is to have the “actual” content owners speak up. The artist should decide on an individual basis if they prefer to have DRM applied to their work. If so, then the media content distributors, may it be one of the Media “giants” or Apple will have to decide whether to distribute their content via the Internet.

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