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Music Technology

Steve Jobs: “dump the DRM”

Here’s a turn-up for the books: Steve Jobs has published an open letter to, well, everybody. He’s talking about music and in particular, the calls for Apple to licence FairPlay so iTunes music works on anything. As you’d expect he’s not a fan of that idea, on the grounds that the more people licence FairPlay, the more likely it’ll be cracked.

He also takes on the “DRM lock-in” argument, although I’m not convinced: he says – rightly – that only 3% of music on iPods comes via iTunes, and argues that that can’t possibly mean iTunes purchases lock you into the iPod. I’d disagree with that, because the 3% is an average: for every iPod owner like me who shuns DRMed music altogether, there will be someone who spends hundreds of quid on copy-protected tunes – so while I’m not locked into the iPod, they are.

The best bit, though, is this:

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. The music companies sell the vast majority of their music DRM-free, and show no signs of changing this behavior, since the overwhelming majority of their revenues depend on selling CDs which must play in CD players that support no DRM system.

So if the music companies are selling over 90 percent of their music DRM-free, what benefits do they get from selling the remaining small percentage of their music encumbered with a DRM system? There appear to be none.

…Convincing them to license their music to Apple and others DRM-free will create a truly interoperable music marketplace. Apple will embrace this wholeheartedly.