Steve Jobs Says Record Labels Should Ditch Their DRM

from the preach-it-brother dept

Steve Jobs has been something of a key player in the ongoing debate about the restrictions and copy-protection placed on digital music files sold through download stores. His opinion on the matter seems to have flip-flopped, and it's hard to argue that the labels' insistence on DRM hasn't helped the iPod in some way. However, in a statement posted on Apple's web site, he's now calling for the big four record labels to drop their insistence on DRM. While he does make some questionable points (denying that any lock-in to the iPod exists, and saying that licensing Apple's FairPlay DRM wouldn't be manageable), his underlying point that DRM simply doesn't work, and does more harm than good certainly is a valid one. He points out that while the labels make such a fuss over restricting digital music, the other 90 percent of songs they sell aren't protected at all (try as they might), so to think that DRM will ever stop piracy is foolish. Jobs also points out that the added cost and complexity DRM brings to the music world holds back the number of companies that can create "innovative new stores and players", and dropping it could lead to an influx of investment and interest in digital music and result in the creation of exciting new devices and services for users -- which, he says, can only be a good thing for the music industry. We've called on people like Jobs and Bill Gates to use their influence to try and make Hollywood and content owners understand how they've got so much more to gain by dropping their insistence on copy protection than they stand to lose from piracy. While this note from Jobs isn't likely to create any instant change, it's a nice first step.


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  •  
    identicon
    Michael Long, Feb 6th, 2007 @ 1:32pm

    How is it a flip-flop?

    How is it a flip-flop? The original quote was, "If you [the user] legally acquire music, you need to have the right to manage it on all other devices that you own."

    So basically he siad that if you buy it you need to be able to use it.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 6th, 2007 @ 2:05pm

    I think there needs to be a mass boycott of the RIAA!

     

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    Jon, Feb 6th, 2007 @ 2:06pm

    Bill Gates on DRM

    I get the distinct impression that Bill Gates and Microsoft have no intention nor the position to tell anyone to not use DRM.

    http://www.cs.auckland.ac.nz/~pgut001/pubs/vista_cost.html

     

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      billy, Feb 7th, 2007 @ 6:20am

      Re: Bill Gates on DRM

      I have read that entire article about a week ago Jon, it is freaking very well written. Granted some of the things he writes about seem far fetched, I can foresee each and every one of them happening at some point.
      He is accurate, may seem crazy now, but we wait and see, and he will be right completely.

       

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    James, Feb 6th, 2007 @ 2:09pm

    I for one am shocked...

    ...if you consider that DRM is partially the reason that the iPod is a success; although, I refuse to buy one due to the whole "iTunes ecosystem".

    And though I rarely agree w/ol' Steve here's one place he's right, DRM has outlived its non-usefullness.

     

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    UniBoy, Feb 6th, 2007 @ 2:15pm

    More sour grapes for Zune fanboys

    'nuff said.

     

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    JohnC, Feb 6th, 2007 @ 2:35pm

    No label will ever agree to this

    Simply put...the concept of record labels is an aging dinosaur. They exist solely to market and promote artists who previously could not get marketing and promotion on their own.

    They get the artist to sign to a blood/soul sucking contract which gives the artist virtually nothing and gives the label everything.

    But the internet is changing this. Artists can now grow their own audience/buyers and promote their own works at a fraction of the cost they would have previously paid.

    What DRM is supposed to do is give the labels time to come up with some other idea to prolong their existence. They are about to go the way of the 8-track and they know it. Their only hope at survival is to paint a sympathy drawing portrait of themselves and their industry and gain that sympathy from lawmakers which so far has worked.

    They present distorted figures on sales and piracy. They continue to make it sound like they have lost billions in lost sales due to piracy.

    I beg to argue that they may have lost 10% of their total sales that would've happened to piracy. The other 90% come from people who need to replace media that was somehow lost, damaged, or stolen.

    If the labels had their way they would get the same cushy protections Microsoft has for its OS. You would have to buy one copy of a cd for your car, one copy for each portable music device, and one copy for your home stereo.

    But it's become increasingly clear to the labels that they can never get this deal as hardware manufacturers will not go along with it and the buying public has never had to do this before and will not buy.

    The labels will be all but dead within 25 years unless Congress or the FCC acts to protect them.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 6th, 2007 @ 2:42pm

    Jobs should put his money where his mouth is and start his own DRM-free music label a la eMusic. Maybe iMusic or iVibes or something.

    I suppose this means he is anti-FairPlay? So if FairPlay were not in existence, I wonder how much of a monopoly Apple would have built up with the iPod in the first place? Is he saying he thinks they could have sold more iPods with no DRM resrictions?

     

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      criscoking, Feb 7th, 2007 @ 11:06am

      Re:

      Apple computers was barred from being in the music business due to a dispute with Apple music (the Beatles label), until recently. They just settled the lawsuits. Maybe now Jobs can start a music label, and compete against the major labels, without DRM. The timing of his staement seems to coincide with the end of the legal dispute with Apple music.

       

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    Tyshaun, Feb 6th, 2007 @ 2:42pm

    let's not drink too much of Jobs koolaid...

    Methinks perhaps Mr. Jobs has alterior motives as he's about to face penalties in Europe as a direct result of the FairPlay DRM in iPods.

    http://today.reuters.com/news/articlenews.aspx?type=newsOne&storyID=2007-02-06T214012Z_01_WE N3678_RTRUKOC_0_US-APPLE-ITUNES.xml&WTmodLoc=Home-C2-TopNews-newsOne-7

    Basically, unless they are given the green light by the major record companies, Apple faces either fines and other legal action in Europe, or the scenario of not being able to sell stuff from the major record labels (because currently they all require some type of DRM).

    So, let's not become Jobs cheerleader too fast! I say if he really wants to stamp out DRM, take it off of the iPodfirst , put his money where his mouth is.

     

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      DKP, Feb 6th, 2007 @ 4:14pm

      Re: let's not drink too much of Jobs koolaid...

      Apple can'tt start a music label w/o getting sued from apple music which I beleves sells the music for the beatles?.

       

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    Cixelsid, Feb 6th, 2007 @ 2:49pm

    Goddamn

    Fuckit, I'm buying a mac tomorrow.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 6th, 2007 @ 2:53pm

    Jobs is just a hypocrite. The restrictions they place on apple computers are just as bad as drm. Allow me to do what ever I want with my mac, and support numerous video cards, ram, etc.

    How is it any different.

     

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      Matt, Feb 6th, 2007 @ 5:15pm

      Re:

      Jobs MAY be a hypocrite, but you're making an apples-and-oranges comparison between DRM and a closed-system architecture.

      One of the reasons why OSX tends to be more stable than, oh, say, Windows, is because they have a very limited number of video cards, etc. that they directly support. This means that Apple programmers, or at least people with a vested interest in product stability, write the drivers and do their damnedest to make sure that they, you know, WORK. Compare this to Windows, where the code for the peripherals don't necessarily receive the same diligence, and that's where a lot of the complaints (whether rational or not) surrounding Windows has been generated.

      If Apple Inc. wants to build their systems that way, then it's their right to do so. That's not DRM; that's a bottom-line saving measure that all but guarantees that they're not going to blow a wad of $$$ on a support technician because some jerk-off bought the $29.99 video card at Fry's and then wonders why it won't run Aero Glass.

      Don't like it? Want to customize your system to the nth degree? Then I suggest that you eBay your Apple and go buy (or build) yourself a box and then throw Windows or Linux on it.

      Incidentally, you are more than free to do whatever the hell you want to do with your Mac. Just don't count on Jobs & Co. to foot the bill for your ineptitude if you screw something up. Note also that a lot of the warranties for Windows boxes also carry similar caveats on their warranties against "home-user upgrades."

       

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    Jeff, Feb 6th, 2007 @ 2:55pm

    DRM Keeps me from purchasing

    Ever since DRM I don't even bother purchasing music that isn't on a CD. At least with most CDs I can play it in my car, at work and at home if I want to...

    To tell you the truth, the RIAA really screwed the pooch and I haven't purchased more than 2 albums a year in the last 5 years. I find entertainment elsewhere...and no I don't watch TV either.

    It just seems silly that something I own cannot be used somewhere else whenever I want. Silly enough to pretty much avoid it totally.

    Gates has been touting DRM solutions since people were stealing his OS back in the early years. Anti-piracy has been ingrained in everything MS ever since. Vista embraces and manifests that sick solution in one OS. I doubt MS will support a non-DRM move.

     

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    Marc Gartenberg, Feb 6th, 2007 @ 4:01pm

    Give it up - it's time

    DRM is an old stale model that no longer works in the internet era. It accomplishes nothing except protect the profits of the record labels. And the record labels stance is that the aritists are irrelevant - it's all about greed and that went out in the 80's (along with Disco).

    From a functional, technical, business, and security standpoint, the mechanism is flawed and the outcomes are ridiculous. (Note today that a Maine resident was targetted for having downloaded five (yes 5) songs in violation of the DMCA and boy was the RIAA annoyed.

    So it's time for a change and the fact that Jobs, Gates, and even Google's Schmidt are onboard, maybe gives this a bit of traction.

    When will the artists all follow suit and dump the labels - the technology is there to bring the music directly to the people - unless it is still truly about money.

     

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    Danny, Feb 6th, 2007 @ 4:04pm

    >I doubt MS will support a non-DRM move.

    Actually gates gave this same pitch months ago. Hell Jobs is behind the heads of some record labels on this but it is enough to give the mindless a reason to believe. Also, the DRM in vista isn't worse that of only allowing OS X to be installed on a computer apple already sold you. That's far more powerful.

     

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    Monsuco, Feb 6th, 2007 @ 4:07pm

    Apple can still lock you out

    They could just have everything sold in AAC format, which still cannot be played on much beyond the iPod.

     

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    |333173|3|_||3, Feb 6th, 2007 @ 4:57pm

    Re: Apple can still lock you out

    Better still, they could provide un-DRM'ed music, but only in Apple Lossless or better yet WAV. Even people with ADSL2+ would think twice before downloading an album then. AAC could be reverse-engineered under EU law, which allows you to make it hard for someone to reverse engineer your filetypes but they have the right to try.

     

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    nonuser, Feb 6th, 2007 @ 5:31pm

    did anyone catch the irony

    of Steve Jobs talking about anonymous people "with lots of time on their hands" who like to hack these things and steal what they can. Jobs and Wozniak dabbled in phone phreaking before turning their attention to personal computers. IIRC Bill Gates was also a child hacker who enjoyed the "challenge" of bringing down corporate systems from dialup connections.

     

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    mark, Feb 6th, 2007 @ 10:49pm

    Still disagreeing with you

    His letter is completely consistent with his original position about ripping CDs. The rootkit affair (effect on Windows only) showed there was no going back, so why DRM downloaded music when anyone can get the CD and rip it. So there is no flip-flop; he gave in to the labels and went out and bought the Fairplay DRM implementation from Veridisc in order to get a decent store launched.

    Having studied the Fairplay implementation, I argued with you in March 2006 about the unmanageability of licensing Fairplay to other vendors. Once the process is divulged, the whole thing collapses. You seem to still doubt that.

    And his letter could bring a change soon, since Apple is about to enter negotiations with the music labels. Jobs is positioning the consumers to be on his side for this battle just like he did last year with his the labels "are just being greedy" quote regarding a common 99 song price for new hits and back catalog. And he pulled it off. So who is to say he can't do it again if he can get enough public support.

    I'm not sure I like this though as it sounds like what bullies do. But then again, I hate the music labels, which might mean it's okay to bully them.

     

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    mark, Feb 6th, 2007 @ 11:08pm

    Hey DKP,

    Didn't you just read that Apple Corp and Apple Inc have settled, and that Apple Inc owns all of the Apple trademarks, and will license some back to Apple Corp?

     

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    ScytheNoire, Feb 7th, 2007 @ 12:14am

    go Europe

    it will take places like Europe to force change in the industry. it will takes intelligent, non-corrupt (meaning non-American) judges to rule that the current monopoly schemes run by many companies not only hurt the industry, but are illegal.

     

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    Buru, Feb 7th, 2007 @ 2:37am

    DRM is a joke...any kid can turn a song with DRM into an mp3. Labels need to lower prices of albums/songs and sell direct to consumers. The middle man is slowly dying; this is good because frankly, when I went to Tower Records, the heavy metal selection there was just pathetic. Brick and Mortar is dead, and so should be the middleman's cut of the pie. Also, The RIAA's efforts against file sharing are soon going to be a thing of the past with all of these new softwares that offer encrypted exchanges. Look at GigaTribe for instance ( http://www.gigatribe.com ), their free software lets users exchange entire folders of albums in a few easy clicks, and not even the ISPs will be able to spot what's being exchanged. The music model is changing rapidly, and consumers and small/medium artists are going to be the winners.

     

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    rahrens (profile), Feb 7th, 2007 @ 4:42am

    Huge

    This letter is actually HUGE. TechDirt is downplaying its significance, but I think it will have a very substantial affect.

    First, he states, clearly and unequivocally, that Apple will sell DRM free music when they are allowed to. He didn't hedge that statement.

    Second, he directed the EU to go after the labels. His point is well made. I think the main reason he won against Apple Corps is because the LABELS control the licenses for the music; Apple is just a distributor. That means, contractually, the labels have the control, not Apple, and he invites the EU to go after the true owners of the licenses - the ones who really have control of the issue.

    He makes Apple's position very clear, they feel that DRM is a waste of resources and doesn't work.

    What could be more clear?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 7th, 2007 @ 6:12am

    As outlets like eMusic continue to prove you can increasing sell non-DRMed music, and musicians continue to find ways to bypass the "big fours" forced policies, the RIAA's efforts to extort their customers will continue to drive more and more people to these alternative.

    I did find one bit interesting that I am surprised I didn't see anyone jump all over:

    No DRM system was ever developed for the CD,

    Yeah? Sony rootkit anyone?

     

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    Zeeky Zack, Feb 7th, 2007 @ 9:25am

    dRm

    DRM sucks. It's pointless and has been useless since it came out. Even limited time on movie downloads, etc. is stupid when it is for only 24 hours. That's nowhere near enough time to watch a movie that you downloaded. Especially because in a perfect world, you'd have 8 hours to sleep, 8 to work, and 8 to play or enjoy. my current lifestyle is 5 to sleep (if that) 12 spent on, at, or going to work, 2.5 cooking and cleaning, 2 at the gym, 1 on a shower and tidying up, giving me maybe 1.5 hours to do anything else I so choose. Now keep this in mind... a usual day and its activities NEVER guarantee that this 1.5 hours a day that I have to spare comes UNINTERRUPTED!!! There are always interruptions to that time that I could TRY to spend watching a downloaded movie. So I could rewind and pause, etc. - still though, for my schedule, 24 hours is NOT enough time to watch a pay-per-down load movie with a "time bomb" set to erase it from my hardrive after that period of time.

    ZoomVid.com was tinkering with DRM but I think they finaly just X'ed it out all together. It makes sense to give your customers what they want, when they want it, and how they want to use it.

    I like Kodak's recent announcement to make ink cheaper, their printers cheaper, and their cartridges bigger and better.

    I hate how companys are acting like DRM with their printers and ink. Clearly not TECHDIRT readers!

    Go ZoomVid.com
    Go Kodak
    Go TechDirt !!

     

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    |333173|3|_||3, Feb 7th, 2007 @ 8:05pm

    Re: Re: Re: Apple can still lock you out

    Oh. Sorry. I assumed it was since not much but iPods, iTunes, and Pod Player can play them. If it is open, then it seems stange that MP3 players which can also ply OGGs are not produced to use AAcs as well.

     

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    bill, Feb 10th, 2007 @ 1:06pm

    Protecturism

    Our lawmakers have bought into the music industries argument that DRM is necessary to protect the artist's right to compensation, and ignored its effect on blocking technological progress and innovation plus the protection it provides to an industry that is quickly becoming obsolete and a product (preloaded CDs) that is already as obsolete as a floppy disc or recorded tape.

    Serious research and discussion should examine a better way to compensate all creative artists of music or video to enable successful lobbying for legislative expansion and protection of Fair Use. Maybe someone like Job's already has the solution, But how can he state it when Apple has a contract with the music industry that he has to renegotiate?

    Does the music industry really think it has lost $10,000 in revenue when a 18 year old college student downloads 10,000 songs without paying? He may buy an IPOD to listen to a small fraction of the songs. He may develop a taste for music he never had before. He might even purchase music if it was convenient for him to listen to it on the hardware of his choice.

    Millions of people now having cable, satellite, or computers now listen to an awful lot of free legal high quality digital music. These sources also allow them to discover new artists and music independent of any promotional efforts of the music industry. Does the music industry assign any of its revenue declines to the loss or decline in this patronage?

     

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    identicon
    bill, Feb 10th, 2007 @ 1:07pm

    Protecturism

    Our lawmakers have bought into the music industries argument that DRM is necessary to protect the artist's right to compensation, and ignored its effect on blocking technological progress and innovation plus the protection it provides to an industry that is quickly becoming obsolete and a product (preloaded CDs) that is already as obsolete as a floppy disc or recorded tape.

    Serious research and discussion should examine a better way to compensate all creative artists of music or video to enable successful lobbying for legislative expansion and protection of Fair Use. Maybe someone like Job's already has the solution, But how can he state it when Apple has a contract with the music industry that he has to renegotiate?

    Does the music industry really think it has lost $10,000 in revenue when a 18 year old college student downloads 10,000 songs without paying? He may buy an IPOD to listen to a small fraction of the songs. He may develop a taste for music he never had before. He might even purchase music if it was convenient for him to listen to it on the hardware of his choice.

    Millions of people now having cable, satellite, or computers now listen to an awful lot of free legal high quality digital music. These sources also allow them to discover new artists and music independent of any promotional efforts of the music industry. Does the music industry assign any of its revenue declines to the loss or decline in this patronage?

     

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