Major record labels insist that they can't sell music downloads without their pointless copy protection, that they need it to "keep honest people honest", and that they can't compete with free. Neither of these are true, in particular the contention that people won't pay for music if it's available for free somewhere else -- just look at anybody that's ever bought a paid download. In any case, while some music retailers try to get the major labels to relent on their copy-protection insistence as a way to expand their potential customer base to include users of iPods and other incompatible devices, the labels stick to their insistence that they just can't make any money without DRM -- ignoring the quiet success of eMusic. It's now got the second-biggest market share for download stores (behind iTunes), taking 11% of the market -- equal to the shares of Rhapsody, Napster and MSN Music combined. The figure's made a little more compelling when you consider they're doing it by marketing to a niche audience, with no major-label content. An exec from one indie record label that sells music on the site says it's this audience that makes the DRM-free approach work, and that if iTunes quit using copy protection, nobody would buy, and all the music would "end up on the file-sharing services." This is typical record-label thinking: the music is already on the file-sharing networks, yet people continue to pay for it, choosing convenience and/or legitimacy over cost. Removing the copy protection from music -- since it doesn't work anyway -- has plenty of benefits to offer: it cracks open the iPod to a wider range of retailers, breaking Steve Jobs' stranglehold on the labels, it gives retailers the freedom to tinker with their business models to find new ways to increase sales, and it removes the hassle of incompatibility for users that keeps them locked into one particular store or brand of devices. But the major labels ignore this, because the music might end up on file-sharing networks. For their benefit, it bears repeating: the music is already there. The sooner the labels accept that, and get down to business rather than figuring out more fruitless ways to stop piracy, the better off they'll be.
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