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DRM to face its end?

Surprising: Apple’s Steve Jobs has written a lengthy essay titled “Thoughts On Music”, pondering the options and caveats provided by severely criticized DRM technologies in the Apple iTunes shop and elsewhere where people sell and buy music online. Bottom line: Jobs blames the music industry for forcing shops like iTunes into selling DRM-polluted protected music, and he comes to a bunch of different conclusions to get out of the mess of proprietary DRM technologies that don’t work well together, that don’t work with every player and/or for every customer. Most interesting conclusion is to abolish DRM altogether:

Why would the big four music companies agree to let Apple and others distribute their music without using DRM systems to protect it? The simplest answer is because DRMs haven’t worked, and may never work, to halt music piracy. Though the big four music companies require that all their music sold online be protected with DRMs, these same music companies continue to sell billions of CDs a year which contain completely unprotected music. That’s right! No DRM system was ever developed for the CD, so all the music distributed on CDs can be easily uploaded to the Internet, then (illegally) downloaded and played on any computer or player.

Even though I don’t agree with all he wrote, I guess there indeed is some truth about that. And, then again, I whole-heartedly second his opinion of asking people to work against DRM:

Much of the concern over DRM systems has arisen in European countries. Perhaps those unhappy with the current situation should redirect their energies towards persuading the music companies to sell their music DRM-free.

Yes. So get started. Defective By Design might be a good starting place. How do they usually say? “For whatever it’s worth…”. I am not yet sure how much to grow out of all this, but one thing is for sure: Looking at todays online press at least in Germany, it seems that the article written by Mr Jobs as gained way more echo than any DRM/copyright-related statement so far, and there seems to be a pretty good reason for that: Thanks to the “stylish” iPod, the iPhone and friends, people seem to love Apple. Especially the iPod is amazingly widespread even amongst a “non-geek” audience, amongst those who usually don’t like to deal that much with technical things rather than just using them. Thus, perhaps this is the real value of this paper: Mr Jobs might have brought an essential yet (in mainstream press) drastically underestimated issue to the eyes, thoughts and minds of the same audience he managed to sell his iPod to. Will that do as a “critical mass”?

7. Februar 2007

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