Over the past year or so, some European countries have been taking a closer look at digital music and different stores' copy-protection schemes, with a view towards forcing compatibility, which would basically render DRM useless. Norway's consumer ombudsman saying that the iTunes Music Store's DRM is illegal, while French politicians flirted with mandating interoperability (before relenting and making things worse for consumers). Now, the EU's consumer protection commissioner is jumping on the bandwagon, criticizing Apple because songs purchased from iTMS only play on iPods and saying "something has to change." While she doesn't propose anything specific, this sounds a lot like the veiled threats so many EU regulators are fond of -- in essence, it's a "fix this, or we will" sort of statement. That's fine, but there's a pretty strong argument against government interference here, even if it would (theoretically) achieve the much-desired result of interoperability or the downfall of music with DRM. The switch away from DRM needs to be made as a business decision, not a regulatory one. By taking the regulatory or political route, content providers that are so insistent on DRM will simply become more resolute that they must use it, and will make the switch begrudgingly (and after a long legal fight, to be sure), rather than embracing DRM-free music on its own merits. A government mandate makes dropping DRM a political or legal issue, and it will be fought as such. This means that record labels will devote their resources to fighting the law, not figuring out the new business models that dropping DRM would enable.
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