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Steve Jobs: Let's Get Rid of DRM

Mike Musgrove

Apple Inc. chief executive Steve Jobs released a statement today calling for record companies to let online music stores sell digital music files online without anti-piracy controls.

"This is clearly the best alternative for customers and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat," Jobs wrote in a letter titled "Thoughts on Music," which was posted on Apple's Web site this afternoon.

Some critics have complained that the "Digital Rights Management" software built into music tracks sold online and downloaded from the company's iTunes music store "locks users in" to Apple's iPod. Several countries in Europe - notably, Sweden, Norway and Finland - have called Apple's DRM software anti-competitive for that reason.

But, in his letter, Jobs says the company sells the music with "DRM" attached because music companies insisted on it -- even though "DRMs haven't worked, and may never work, to halt music piracy."

The second most-popular online music store, EMusic, sells music in the open and unprotected MP3 format but only sells music from independent record labels, not the "big four" labels -- EMI, Sony BMG, Universal and Warner -- that control the distribution of most of the world's published music. Jobs notes, in his letter, that three of the four labels are owned by companies in Europe.

To read the full letter, click here.

By Mike Musgrove  |  February 6, 2007; 4:03 PM ET  | Category:  Mike Musgrove
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

It's well known, by this time, that DRM does nothing to limit privacy. It's simply a ploy by media companies to sell the same content to consumers over and over.

Simply stated, DRM is evil and it must die...

Posted by: Bernard Meisler | February 6, 2007 5:15 PM

oops I meant "piracy", not privacy.

Posted by: Bernard Meisler | February 6, 2007 5:15 PM

Let's see Steve put his money where his mouth is and release his Disney/Pixar movies without any DRM protection.

Oh gee...I wonder why that hasn't happened yet?

Posted by: Jim | February 6, 2007 5:19 PM

It's too late, DRM or no DRM, there's nothing that will convince me to purchase any music from EMI, Sony BMG, Universal and/or Warner.
Sony can rot in hades beause of their rootkit decision and the others can take their muck and spread it.

Posted by: Gordon | February 6, 2007 5:22 PM

Thank you Steve Jobs! Finally, he is speaking up about this problem. DRM is only (marginally) good for one type of entity in the producer-distributor-consumor chain and that's the producer. This also illustrates another problem: the Europeans in their quest to "fix" a problem are really going after the wrong link. They really should be ashamed of themselves for not better researching the issue. Finally, since many of the offending entities in the chain are European entities, it just goes to show: Europe, while purporting to be anti-corporation/pro-consumer again show themselves to be anti-US-corporation/pro-European-corporation - to the ultimate detriment to the consumer.

Posted by: Lance | February 6, 2007 5:24 PM

What a great idea... for Apple. Completely destroy the ability of artists to negotiate! All the power transfers from the record companies who currently negotiate (badly) on behalf of artists to hardware companies who will be even worse.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

Posted by: The WTF | February 6, 2007 6:10 PM

With the much discussed DRM so integrated into Vista, one might see this statement from Steve Jobs as a clever ploy to pull away more MS market share.

Posted by: Dan | February 6, 2007 6:12 PM

This is why so many people like Steve, I mean Apple. ;-)

Posted by: Thor Ryan | February 6, 2007 6:16 PM

DRM just won't work. I think just about everyone is coming around to that now. No news here really.

Posted by: Steve | February 6, 2007 6:36 PM

Thanks Steve-- a good "no news here" post always enhances the conversation.

Posted by: Captain Burlap | February 6, 2007 6:46 PM

Mr. RealityFeb 6th, 2007 - 23:46:25

With DRM and lawsuits, has the music industry solved piracy problem? No! Music Industry are wasting millions of dollars on anti-piracy efforts and DRM. Music industry has gotten more negative press for initiative on war against piracy.

Music Industry still dream of profits of decade plus ago on CD and cassette. Also, at the same time, the music industry told you in their own controlling way who to listen too, how much to spend, and who is popular. Many up-coming music and potential entertainers never had a chance to play to the marketplace.

Music Industry needs to stop fighting the war, focus on efficency, consolidation, reducing salary and perks of over-price executives, managers, agents, etc. Let the market determine popularity of the music not music industry.

Final word, here is a example of excessive spending in early 1990's. I went to a promotion party for popular music group in the late 1990's. A certain record industry company use corporate funds to purchase high-end call girls, open bar, and drugs. All those expenses were derived from hard working minimum wage young adults buying overpriced CDs. Why do we need to spend music corporate income wastefully? This is the perks the music industry wants to protect. Not the bottom line, the the perks inherent from the industry.

Answer Me This, Music Industry.

Posted by: Mr. Reality | February 6, 2007 6:53 PM

This story is not really an accurate representation of Job's actual feelings on the matter.

First as you mentioned Apple is currently facing litigation and that is the only reason this letter exists.

Secondly iTunes already puts DRM restrictions on tracks when the artist and label ask them not to. Independent labels have asked iTunes to remove DRM but iTunes has refused. If they wanted to do more than pay lipservice to customer needs then they would already have removed the DRM as requested.

Posted by: SB | February 6, 2007 8:01 PM

SB: I've heard this comment about independent music labels, but when asked, no one can tell me which ones they are? Recently someone said Avril Lavigne's entire catalog was on eMusic, but when I checked, it was two songs. So, I don't know who these labels are?

Recently, I've tried giving eMusic.Com a chance, but whenever I search for something I want, they don't have it.

If you think Apple, by itself, controls the DRM restrictions, I think you'll find you're mistaken. If you read his letter, he makes a good point about the litigation Apple faces by the European market, and that is several of the big music companies are European-based. Why aren't they targeting the source?

I hate DRM, but blaming it on Apple is rather simple-minded. If you really want to get upset, starting learning about TPM (Trusted Platform Module), currently incorporated in Vista.

Posted by: Alan | February 7, 2007 12:41 AM

I know more than a few IP lawyers that nearly fell out of their chairs laughing at that proposal. Though realistic, Jobs is failing to be capitalistic, only in this proposal of course!

Posted by: thw2001 | February 7, 2007 1:58 AM

This is great for consumers, hopefully the "big four" will will have enough sense to see that the DRM only hurts the business.

I could pirate almost every single song I buy on iTunes if I wanted to, but I do buy it.
Now, if there was no DRM, I would be even more likely to buy MORE music because I have had problems getting some of my music to play after changing accounts.

Posted by: DC | February 7, 2007 8:54 AM

Alan I am well aware that others i.e. microsoft are equally bad in regards to DRM, but Jobs gets all these kudos for basically lying thru his teeth about DRM and iTunes.

Yes he would have a very valid point IF he actually removed the DRM from songs that the independent labels had requested.

As to which labels you can search in google and find many different articles on the subject.

Bare Naked Ladies has been requesting that iTunes remove the DRM from its songs for years. Accordingly they offer it themselves now with no DRM

Yes you are right emusic has a poor selection of popular artists, but they do have quite a bit of music still some is great some is poor as with everything based on taste your mileage may vary. I found music on there that no other site even had such as Big Rig so it is still a very nice site if you are looking for something specific.

Apple refuses to sell digital media without DRM, once they change their own policy and then I will take notice and give them kudos, but when they are embroiled in a lawsuit about DRM and come out and say they love the consumer and everything would be perfect if only it were not for those evil recording companies then I scoff. Saying someone else is just as bad, which he says in the letter (MS) is hardly a ringing endorsement...

Posted by: SB | February 7, 2007 11:15 AM

Steve Jobs is one single board member at Disney. Charismatic though he is, he still needs a majority of the other board members to vote with him if he wants to force Disney to release Pixar movies without DRM. And since your average entertainment tycoon is busy trying to protect his outdated business model, that's not likely.

And independent labels get the same deal as the big boys simply because it would be wildly inefficient to renegotiate the deal and re-engineer the software for each little hole-in-the-wall indie label who wanted to be treated differently. Like it or not, the big labels' stuff is the majority of the purchases at iTunes. The Fairplay system is integrated into the purchasing system, and while it might be a worthwhile to re-write the system if the majority sales of your music are DRM-free, it's just not an efficient use of resources to do it for the what, 5% of music that would be sold DRM-free? It's not so technologically simple as just removing the DRM from those songs, as one poster so flippantly suggested. After all, if those indie labels really felt so strongly about it, they could certainly remove their stuff from iTunes and sell it themselves. But they don't, because they need iTunes more than iTunes needs them. What iTunes actually DOES need is the cooperation of the Big Four.

Posted by: pay attention | February 7, 2007 1:01 PM


I would guess that the largest reason for Apple not wanting to remove DRM for some songs is that it is an administrative headache. If they put DRM on some songs but not others, they have to keep track of which ones should have DRM and which ones shouldn't. You can bet that there are clauses in their contracts with the major labels that involve massive penalties for distributing songs without DRM, whether intentional or not. It's much safer and simpler from Apple's perspective to treat all songs the same and put the DRM in place. I trust Steve Jobs on this point precisely because I have not seen any copy protection in any Apple software in the 10 years that I have been using Macs. They are willing to risk illegal copying of their software if it means saving their users from annoyance and pain.

Posted by: mathias | February 7, 2007 2:18 PM

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