How The Recording Industry's Obsession On DRM Made Apple So Powerful

from the unintended-consequences... dept

Oh how we all love those unintended consequences that come back to bite those who only think one level deep. It's no secret that, lately, the recording industry is pissed off at Apple for not raising prices on iTunes songs (something we still think the recording industry has no say over -- if they want to raise wholesale prices, then they should go ahead). They've even gone so far as to threaten to pull their songs from iTunes, something it's unlikely many of them will do. However, Copyfight points to a piece by Tim Lee which notes that it's the recording industry's own obsession with copy protection technology that made Apple so powerful. Apple has tremendous lock-in with iTunes, in large part because they gave in to recording industry demands to use copy protection technology. That means that customers are unlikely to go elsewhere and the only ones who really suffer if a label pulls out of iTunes is that label. So, instead, Lee suggests the recording industry should negotiate a new deal that demands that Apple removes all copy protection as it would free people up to leave Apple and buy elsewhere -- taking away much of Apple's power position. Of course, the established recording industry will never go for it (nor would Apple) as they've come to believe the mantra that copy protection is necessary that they're blind to any possible business model that doesn't use it, or to the ways in which copy protection does more harm than good to their business. It's amazing that it's becoming clear to just about everyone outside of the entertainment industry how damaging copy protection is from a business model standpoint -- but the industry continues to insist it's the only way to go.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
    identicon
    jeremiah, Oct 10th, 2005 @ 3:12pm

    DRM is not just about your damn mp3's...

    I really wish Techdirt would back off its incredibly myopic view of DRM, because I think you're doing your readers a giant disservice.

    DRM, while momentarily inconvenient for those of us with DRM-laden mp3 files, is not exclusively about mp3's, DVD's, or anything that the "entertainment business" on its own cares about. Additionally, the fact that the discussion over copyability and access control is continually framed in a "OMFG I CAN"T PLAY MAH MP3 ON MY CELL! TEH SUX()RS!!" completely misses the point of DRM.

    Ask yourself this question: Should your medical records have access control?

    The answer, of course, is "Yes."

    *THAT'S* DRM!! The same concept that keeps your online banking (relatively) secure, your credit report (relatively) secure, your medical records, criminal history, etc, is DRM.

    Yes, a huge generational/technological gap in the management echelons of the entertainment conglomerates has resulted in a clumsy interpretation and application of DRM. Yes, it's inconvenient. Yes, it's angering when files/devices you've paid for don't work as advertised.

    Distilled to its essence, DRM is just about ones and zeros. Nothing more, nothing less. To be understood and discussed intelligently, however, the conversation must move out of the myopic realm of personal mp3 collections, and must accomodate the larger realities of DRM in a digital world- that DRM touches and influences processes and data types of ALL kinds.

    -jeremiah

     

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  2.  
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    Mike (profile), Oct 10th, 2005 @ 3:38pm

    Re: DRM is not just about your damn mp3's...

    Um. Sorry... we shouldn't discuss how the recording industry is screwing up at all because you want your medical files locked?

    These are two totally separate issues. Not sure why we deserve scorn for pointing out the issues as it relates to the entertainment industry without discussing every other industry at the same time.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 10th, 2005 @ 3:46pm

    Re: DRM is not just about your damn mp3's...

    Oh my. Where to start? I can't believe you're likening music and movies to medical records. It's not that black-and-white. "It ain't even the same fuckin' ballpark".

    I encourage people listening to music I bought, or watching videos I bought. I don't want somebody knowing that I am fatally allergic to a common food, or any vital information.

    Music is made for all of us to enjoy, as it has been for millenia. All of a sudden there's a notion of "illegal music"? Those words don't even go together. DRM is just a pain in the ass. It's people trying to use a new medium in ancient ways. New medium, new ideologies. That is progress. Together.

    Try to keep in mind that we are not sheep to be herded.

     

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  4.  
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    Dino Morelli, Oct 10th, 2005 @ 3:58pm

    Just mentioning

    Just wanted to mention that I feel any individual becomes part of the DRM problem by using iTunes at all. I will never use an iPod. Period.

    Apple has this power partly because many people are ignorant of the issues with DRM, apathetic about the issues, or both.

    My music player is a Palm Tungsten T5 with PocketTunes and a 1G SD card. Also, I try to only use Ogg as much as possible. I rip my own music from CD into that format.

    PS I would have written that headline: "Obsession With DRM"

    PPS On a related note, we built a MythTV. Works great. TiVo is getting creepier all the time. I refuse to be involved with them.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 10th, 2005 @ 4:08pm

    Re: Just mentioning

    There's nothing wrong with the iPod, except maybe the price. Just don't buy anything from iTunes.

     

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  6.  
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    Branden, Oct 10th, 2005 @ 4:11pm

    Re: DRM is not just about your damn mp3's...

    Digital Rights Management is not the same the Role Based Access to those files like Medical, Criminal, credit and bank files. The idea of digital rights management would mean that just because I can access the data, the data owner or protector can control how I use it. I have got news if they can see it, the data no amount of DRM is going to prevent someone from blabbing your credit score, criminal record or past medical history to the masses. Just because you can't forward and e-mail or copy/paste doesn't mean that it can't be transcribed and retransmitted.

    Besides that, they aren't discussing that aspect of DRM, they are discussing the implication of DRM on audio and visual media. Not all Role based access or rights management is bad, however if you purchased a song or a CD for that matter shouldn't you have the right to use it on the play back that music on the medium of your choice, I mean how is the fact that you want to listen to something on your computer hurting the artisits or for that matter the record companies. I am just suggesting that when we spend money on something, we should get the right to make a back-up copy so we don't have to buy it again, or we should have the right to view or listen to at our leisure?

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 10th, 2005 @ 6:59pm

    Re: DRM is not just about your damn mp3's...

    Um, hello, but I do believe that the only thing protecting medical records is a thing called HIPPA. You know... the form you sign when you go into the doctor's office that tells the govt that the doctor warned you that there is no security, ever. As a matter of fact, he is using your SSN to check your credit score to see if you can pay for the service, because the company you work for thought that the insurance company they hired was worth the $5 they paid and the $700 you pay per check. But every doc in your area is out of network.
    Back to the DRM thing... find it, crack it, dump it and nuke any server that tries to cram it down your throat.
    EOF

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 10th, 2005 @ 7:44pm

    Re: DRM is not just about your damn mp3's...

    Nice straw man, but you completely ignored what I said.

     

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  9.  
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    jeremiah, Oct 10th, 2005 @ 7:46pm

    Re: DRM is not just about your damn mp3's...

    I didn't "liken music to medical records." I said that from the standpoint of DRM, it's just ones and zeros. So, yes, in the land of binary ones and zeros, medical records, credit records, mp3's....it's all the same.

    And yes, literally, it's that black and white.

     

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  10.  
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    jeremiah, Oct 10th, 2005 @ 7:56pm

    Re: DRM is not just about your damn mp3's...

    Branden speaketh: "Digital Rights Management is not the same the Role Based Access to those files like Medical, Criminal, credit and bank files."

    It is, however, the digital analog to Role Based Access. Role Based Access is enforced with DRM.

    "Besides that, they aren't discussing that aspect of DRM, they are discussing the implication of DRM on audio and visual media."

    ..and it is this very focus that I have criticised as being myopic. DRM has larger consequences than our convenient access to music, and the constant framing of the debate in this context is old and busted. The new hotness involves a more wholistic debate. IMHO.

     

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  11.  
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    jeremiah, Oct 10th, 2005 @ 8:05pm

    Re: DRM is not just about your damn mp3's...

    Nice strawman, Mike, but you completely ignored what I said.

    These are not separate issues. DRM is about managing access to one's and zero's. That's all. Medical records, mp3's, DVD's, porn, Biblical verse....it's just one's and zero's to DRM.

    I'm sorry if my cricitism came across as harsh, but I stand by what I said: Your analysis is myopic.

    But I still got love for the T'Dirt.

     

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  12.  
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    Adina Levin, Oct 10th, 2005 @ 8:26pm

    I do use iTunes but consider it money down the dra

    It's entertainment budget, like movies in theaters and magazines. If there was a service that offered drm-free content in a different format I'd walk away from the iTunes library in a heartbeat, no regrets.

     

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  13.  
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    Mike (profile), Oct 10th, 2005 @ 8:52pm

    Re: DRM is not just about your damn mp3's...

    Jeremiah, it's no strawman. I'm really confused about why you're so upset about this post. Were we really not supposed to post this because of some totally unrelated issue? It's pretty obvious that we're talking about copy protection as applied to the entertainment industry.

    If you want us to talk about copy protection as it applies to the medical industry, that's a totally different issue -- and not particularly relevant to this post.

     

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  14.  
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    B, Oct 10th, 2005 @ 10:34pm

    There is

    www.allofmp3.com

    Try it. It works.

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    name, Oct 11th, 2005 @ 1:45am

    Re: DRM is not just about your damn mp3's...

    In this case, what is being referred to is DRM and copyrighted works such as music CDs and movie DVDs. The consumer has the right to make backup copies and do with it as we wish (for personal use), but Big Media wants to squeeze the consumer for all it can.

    Your rebuttal is an entirely different matter -- the protection of personal information is a privacy issue. And you don't need DRM to manage that.

     

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  16.  
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    Pete Austin, Oct 11th, 2005 @ 2:07am

    Re: DRM is not just about your damn mp3's...

    Nice trolling, jerimiah

    You claim to think that DRM is the same thing as access control. It isn't. For example my own Website runs in a locked computer room with security staff who check photo id, logon uses account+password, and backups are in offsite safes. No DRM is involved.
    Access Control 101,
    Digital Rights Management (Wikipedia).

     

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  17.  
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    jeremiah, Oct 11th, 2005 @ 2:26am

    Re: DRM is not just about your damn mp3's...

    "I'm really confused about why you're so upset about this post." Mike, I'm not upset about this post, per se. And I never suggested you shouldn't have posted it.

    "It's pretty obvious that we're talking about copy protection as applied to the entertainment industry."

    ...which is the crux of my criticism. Techdirt has beat the "entertainment industry just doesn't get it" meme into the ground. We get it already. Tell us something we don't know.

    "If you want us to talk about copy protection as it applies to the medical industry, that's a totally different issue -- and not particularly relevant to this post."

    I couldn't disagree more, Mike. You can't have a conversation about DRM without discussing its impact on other aspects of our lives. To confine the discussion (yet again) as it applies to only the entertainment industry is, well, myopic.

     

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  18.  
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    jeremiah, Oct 11th, 2005 @ 2:50am

    The Threadjacker

    BTW, I wasn't responding to this post, per se. It was more a reaction to my perception that TD is following an incredibly narrow narrative with respect to discussing DRM. In my own word, myopic.

    For context, I'm not making any kind of general condemnation of Techdirt. I just feel strongly that you guys are continually missing the larger conversation by focusing so much on how stupid the entertainment business is.

    I also realized, after reading the comments here, that I've inadvertently made a Dorpus-sized threadjack, and for that, I feel like ass.

     

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  19.  
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    Boo, Oct 11th, 2005 @ 7:25am

    Re: DRM is not just about your damn mp3's...

    "find it, crack it, dump it and nuke any server that tries to cram it down your throat."

    Getting very sick of one sided arguements about drm. This place is becoming less of a discsussion forum and more like a bunch of people whining about having to pay for music. I have two points on the subject:

    1. The record industry is afraid to take a leap and explore a new drm-less business model which would probably work out better for everyone, including them. Independant artists will probably force the revolution eventually, and the corporations will evolve or go bust.
    2. That doesnt give you the right to steal the music, so follow your own conscience on whether you want to steal - but don't keep whining that record companies dont have the right ot make you pay for music they published at great expense.

     

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  20.  
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    Seth Noble, Oct 11th, 2005 @ 8:33am

    Apple DRM

    It should be pointed out that Apple's DRM is so weak as to be virtually non-existant. It is trivial to convert iTunes purchased music into an unprotected format using only the iTunes software. So there is no real lock-in, just the bare minium necessary to distract RIAA.

     

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  21.  
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    Elijah Blue, Oct 11th, 2005 @ 9:15am

    Re: DRM is not just about your damn mp3's...

    DRM has nothing to do with my medical records or PERSONAL information (bank info, credit cards, etc.).

    That's mine. I should control it. It's specific to me as an individual. It effects my day to day life.

    Music and movies are public by nature. The goal is to 'get it out there'. That's why these music and movie companies exist, right? Distribution of content.

    I understand the desire to control the money flow (which is really what DRM is about: money), but some of these guys should look at the technical worlds approach to some of these things. Microsoft vs. Linux, for example.

    What you say? Well, Linux is created by it's users for it's users (and those interested in using it).

    What if all the musicians and movie makers decided to just 'go direct'. That's what's happening. Podcasting, (Video and Audio) for instance, will change the equation big time.

    What if a musician sells, directly to his/her fans, a 'subscription' to the bands weekly podcast? Inside stories, interviews, live recordings done that weekend at the local venue they played at and, once every 6 or 12 months.. a set og 10 or 20 songs INSTEAD OF DOING A CD.

    Charge $30 a year per fan, build a fan base, and you're making a damn good living as a musican, and you've never even talked to a record company rep.

    That's gotta scare the hell out of the old school guys. Don't get me wrong.. they aren't going away (just like TV didn't kill radio, as many back then feared it would). But you'll get more choice.

    And the people that matter: the CREATORS (musicians, commentators, reviews, movie makers) control the distribution channel for their work. That's what Web 2.0 and things like creative commons (www.creativecommons.org) is all about.

    It effectively kills DRM.

    EB

     

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  22.  
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    Dino Morelli, Oct 11th, 2005 @ 9:29am

    Re: Just mentioning

    AFAIK there's no way to play Ogg on iPods. That's a big something wrong. MP3 is not open.

    There will be nothing wrong with them when they can be modded like the Neuros or a true handheld computer like a Palm.

     

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  23.  
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    mattb, Oct 11th, 2005 @ 9:30am

    Re: DRM is not just about your damn mp3's...

    Explaining DRM by saying it is just ones and zeros is like explaining the Internet as saying it is all ones and zeros. Technically you are right, but it doesn't explain the concept. If someone asks you want the heck RSS is, do you say its all ones and zeros, and leave it at that?

    DRM means different things to different industries. For the medical industry it means keeping your personal medical files private and not tamperable. To the entertainment industry (music and movies, that is) it is about locking down content so you can't move it. If you have a story about the entertainment industry and DRM, why in the world would you mention what DRM means the the medical industry or another industry. Who cares, the article is strictly in the context of the entertainment industry.

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 11th, 2005 @ 4:31pm

    Re: DRM is not just about your damn mp3's...

    There is an issue with locking down content too much. Eventually RIAA will lock down the content so much that not even they will be able to move it. It will all be in a warehouse/server farm somewhere collecting dust because the consumers will have moved on to other formats. Its kinda like having 100 billion dollars, but living in a trailer park because you don't know any better. RIAA: We will protect, at any cost (to the consumer), the only business model we've ever known... because we don't know any better.

     

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  25.  
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    jeff, Oct 12th, 2005 @ 7:59am

    big deal

    I don't get the big deal about DRM, go buy a the damn CD and rip it yourself. You'll get better quality compression anways, and own the source, and share freely with friends. All the rest of this whining is just about how to best get free music, let's be truthful.

    iTunes is just a nice slick convience, you buy from their store you play by their rules. I can live with that. And yes iPod is simply the best/easiest player out there, nothing beats the Nano...well except for my 60gb iPod w/ my 9,000 songs on it and 200 pictures of friends and family.

     

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  26.  
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    Jon, Aug 16th, 2006 @ 8:33pm

    Re: DRM is not just about your damn mp3's...

    Its about mp3s when the complaint is about mp3s... comparing medical and bank records to a song i listen to on the radio is ludacris... if i buy a cd in the store i can share it with anyone I want... i paid for it, and im not making a profit off of it. So why, when I buy my cd off of Itunes, can I not do the same thing. Instead it is locked up and cannot be played on any other player than itunes (even on my own computer) due to the stupid copyright protection. While artists should have their music protected to some point, i think it has gone just a bit overboard on itunes...

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    Jon, Aug 16th, 2006 @ 8:33pm

    Re: DRM is not just about your damn mp3's...

    Its about mp3s when the complaint is about mp3s... comparing medical and bank records to a song i listen to on the radio is ludacris... if i buy a cd in the store i can share it with anyone I want... i paid for it, and im not making a profit off of it. So why, when I buy my cd off of Itunes, can I not do the same thing. Instead it is locked up and cannot be played on any other player than itunes (even on my own computer) due to the stupid copyright protection. While artists should have their music protected to some point, i think it has gone just a bit overboard on itunes...

     

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  28.  
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    J, Dec 20th, 2006 @ 11:05am

    DRM makes "laws" where there are none. In certain cases, like in entertainment, it can supersede copyright law. For example, once the 75 year term expires and a book goes into public domain, there is no DRM that automatically "turns off". This is a big problem for our future, as more that is valuable becomes digital. It's not just creative works, but designs, file formats, news reports, history, anything that must be stored.

    DRM is an exploitation of the business relationship between the seller and customer. THAT is the problem, and Techdirt brings it up every day because other media outlets say it once and forget it. So, the public might be interested at first, but eventually the attention dies out. Music is a great cause to fight for, because sooner or later EVERY corporation will deal with content in some form, and it is vital for the public to know that the DRM and the law are not interchangable. Everyone can relate to iTunes and what is going on.

    I think that's what the original poster was getting at.

     

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