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What is the RIAA's take on DRM?

Shortly after Steve Jobs put out the call for record labels to eliminate the need for Digital Rights Management software, the Recording Industry Association of America sent us a statement, reacting to the essay.

First, a quick recap: In Jobs essay, he also noted an alternative idea where Apple would license (for a fee) its Fairplay DRM technology so that other devices could play iTunes music. But he quickly pointed to all the reasons why this was a bad idea. "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." So, in other words, licensing that technology would be a bad idea, Jobs said.

OK, back to the RIAA statement: "Apple's offer to license Fairplay to other technology companies is a welcome breakthrough and would be a real victory for fans, artists and labels. There have been many services seeking a license to the Apple DRM. This would enable the interoperability that we have been urging for a very long time."

Hey, what about Jobs' idea to eliminate DRM software? The RIAA didn't address that suggestion, which was really the headline of Jobs' essay. Instead, it honed in on the one idea that it liked but gave us no feedback on the rest of the essay. We hope to get them to talk to us on-the-record today.

In the meantime, what do you think of all of this? Has DRM been a good thing or a bad thing? Has it changed the way you enjoy digital music or caused you to choose one device - or one download service - over another?

By Sam Diaz  |  February 7, 2007; 11:27 AM ET  | Category:  Sam Diaz
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I'm a 40 yr. old guy that's never done any file-sharing. Regarding DRM, I do a lot of my computer work on a linux laptop, and occasionally I'll throw one of my kids DVDs on it so they can watch a DVD. However, to do this, I have to break the law, since to my knowledge, no-one will share the DVD decryption algorithm with linux programmers.

I also have most of my CDs converted into mp3s on a hard drive, and listen to them regularly. There's no way I'd buy a mp3 file that had DRM on it. I want to be able to use the stuff I own, and it seems DRM just inhibits rights we all used to have.

Posted by: bob | February 7, 2007 3:26 PM

In "Memo From the Future: Why DRM is Doomed"
( )
I take a longitudinal look at this issue. It pretty much speaks for itself.

Lauren Weinstein
Co-Founder, People For Internet Responsibility ( )

Posted by: Lauren Weinstein | February 7, 2007 3:39 PM

DRM is just a way for the recording industry and motion picture industry to restrict the Fair Use clause of the Copyright Act in the Digital Age. The people that suffer are those of us who abide by the law only to have the items purchased restriced to a device of the media cartels choosing, the times we can play them, or if we choose to share the items with a friend or a family memeber.

Posted by: DRM vs. Fair Use | February 7, 2007 3:48 PM

I burn a CD of Itunes purchases. Then I copy that CD into Realplayer as open mp3s, which I can put on any player. Most of my students do this as well. We also don't allow the DRM software to load on our PC by disabling autoplay and holding down crt+shift when we play or copy.

DRM keeps people from buying music,a nd contributes the the financial bleeding of the industry. The RIAA has forgotten that Fair Use is legal.

It's getting harder to defend DRM. No one believes the RIAA anymore.

Posted by: Domini | February 7, 2007 4:03 PM

As an old musician, I can tell you the RIAA has been ripping off musicians for at least 30 years, so the bankers and lawyers can have Ferraris and yachts. What comes around, goes around. I hope the Israeli Mafia are forced to get real jobs.

Posted by: Dave | February 7, 2007 4:14 PM

DRM is the destruction of genuine property rights--my right to control my computer--in the name of fake property rights--the special privilege given to copyright holders to encourage them to be creative. It ought to be prohibited.

Posted by: Alexander | February 7, 2007 4:15 PM

Domini -
The compromise you make when taking DRM-encumbered iTunes songs and burning them to CD, then re-ripping them as MP3s is a huge loss of quality over the original version.

The AAC files that iTunes sells are 128Kbps, which is an already significantly degraded version of the original. Burning it to CD then re-ripping *again* results in you getting a degraded copy of a degraded version - you have compressed it twice (once when you bought it and once when you re-encoded it as MP3). It might pass for "OK" on crappy ear-buds but the loss of overall quality is noticable on just about anything else.

Try playing a store-bought CD version of a song and comparing it to any of the 3 versions that you created (iTunes bought, CD-burned, or final MP3) and you will hear a significant difference.

I am not an audiofile with expensive tastes in equipment either, but it really ticks me off that the industry is passing off inferior quality product and selling it as if there was no difference.

Posted by: DRM sucks. | February 7, 2007 4:56 PM

I used to file-share but wanted to move to legitimate purchase. I bought a few albums from various sources a couple yrs ago and got burned. They wouldn't play in my media library software and they wouldn't play on my mobile device. And in the case of MS Music I discovered in their fine print that if you find out have any incompatibility issues they will not issue a refund. I was so frustrated that I have not purchased music online since. And actually I haven't bought music at all since. I subscribe to Napster to Go instead.

Posted by: jade | February 7, 2007 5:11 PM

I have about 2200 songs in my music library. About 1500 were ripped off CDs (I rarely buy CDs now), 700 were downloaded from eMusic (no DRM) and 4 were purchased from iTunes (with Apple's DRM). I am not enough of a music fan to notice any difference between these formats. I think iTunes' prices are reasonable and the service is easy to use; I would buy more music from there but I don't want to have a huge library of songs that only play on my iPod and I'm don't have the time to burn all my purchases to CD and re-rip them.

So I spend my music dollars on the DRM-free option.

The major labels have put enough restrictions on their product that I have walked away from it. This doesn't seem like a good business model to me.

Posted by: jp | February 7, 2007 6:24 PM

Give me the details of any song on Itunes and, using any of a variety of programs i can have the song in high quality mp3 on my computer, free of charge in a matter of minutes. I fail to see how abolishing DRM is going to inflame this situation one iota. If anything users braving the p2p world and breaking the law to avoid DRM will begin paying for their music.

Posted by: mp | February 8, 2007 12:25 AM

Even on CDs, like those from EMI (and from other companies too ) there is a disclaimer - may not play on all CD Players (due to DRM or copy protection "features")..It amazes me to see companies so arrogant trying to exert this level of control considering that just as I do, a lot of people will probably never buy those CDs, and DRM protected art. DRM is just an un-fair use of technology to hold us their hostages as it will not end or even reduce piracy. It just promotes it.

I suggest a worldwide protest for the sake of the elimination of DRM -- one day with no purchase of any kind of midia, music, video, cd, online etc. DRM fre

Posted by: LD | February 8, 2007 6:08 AM

DRM has caused me NEVER to buy music online.

I don't steal music. I never have. But I'll be damned if I'll lock myself into someone's -- anyone's -- proprietary scheme and find myself unable to listen to music I paid for later, because I want to use a different device to listen to it on.

Personally, since CDs are now too expensive for the value offered, I have started to buy most of my music as used CDs in yard sales and on eBay. I own the disc, I own the music, I listen to it on my MP3 players when I want to, and that's that. I'm discovering all kinds of exciting music this way, and since it's all a few years old, none of it has Sony rootkits or any similar DRM malware on it.

I recognize the problem that artists are not paid commission on CDs I buy used, and I would be perfectly happy to pay a surtax on blank media, or MP3 players, or PCs, or whatever reasonable measure would get them some money. It's not clear to me what value the Big 4 record companies or the RIAA offer in that process.

(Ultimately I think the record companies will have no choice but to surrender on DRM. It's just a question of when, and I think Jobs' speech may be part of the tipping point.)

Posted by: Bill Camarda | February 8, 2007 4:59 PM

I fail to see how DRM is even relevant in the *real* world. Writer "mp" above is about the only one who makes any real sense by citing P2P and the reality of reality.

And this is something that I have been writing and speaking on in film but that is perfectly analogous; The music industry's biggest enemy is not we the people, but itself. Through conglomeration, a whole host of issues came to the fore and are now way past the tipping point. Forget P2P for now, let's just talk about how to break a new artist without having to first cover a multi-million dollar marketing campaign.

DRM is an outmoded way of thinking about a dinosaur of an industry. Technology is NOT the enemy, much less the users who use it.

Bad business models are what doomed the music industry.

You'd think they'd learn. But nooooooooo. Just last year, Sony and BMG - in yet ANOTHER mass media mega-corp merger - melded their sweaty little bodies together to create the world's largest "music entity," as IF that were something we should all be going, "oooohhh, ahhhhh" about.

And if you think this is the end, you're sorely mistaken - it's only the beginning. For one, EVERY film conglomerate should be looking very closely at the paradigm shift in the music industry and taking copious notes.

Here comes tomorrow - here's to today.

Posted by: jp kaneshida | February 8, 2007 7:36 PM

I tried buying CDs from Sony Connect but since I don't run Windows there is no way for me to even move the songs onto my PSP and listen to them. I had to borrow a friend's laptop and register my iTunes library with that system to get my music from them downloaded to my iPod. I don't know about you, but when I buy something I want it to just work, so I will never buy another CD online unless I am certian I will be able to use what I've purchaced. If it's not going to play on AmaroK, my PSP and my iPod there's not much point in me having it.

Posted by: Morghan | February 19, 2007 6:46 AM

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