So, Steve, Is DRM Good Or Bad?

from the those-are-nice-flip-flops dept

The fallout from the passing of a French law requiring DRM interoperability continues, with the US Commerce Secretary the latest to throw in his two cents. But a bit more interesting is a 2002 comment from Steve Jobs about DRM (via SiliconBeat) that somebody’s dug up: “If you legally acquire music, you need to have the right to manage it on all other devices that you own.” That sort of runs counter to Apple’s reaction to the French law, doesn’t it? Of course, when Apple was just getting into the music business, it behooved the company to make itself out to be this great friend of the consumer, looking to stick to the evil record lables. Now that Apple’s used the labels’ obsession with DRM to become a dominant force, it supports keeping its proprietary DRM to itself, lest it lose its grip on iPod owners and iTunes customers. So, Steve, what are your true feelings about DRM and copy protection?

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Comments on “So, Steve, Is DRM Good Or Bad?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

So you figure nothing has changed since 2002 therefore Jobs should maintain the same opinion?

C’mon. That’s not very realistic. Apple had been enormously successful primarily because they delivered a product and service that both the labels and consumers were willing to accept.

The overwhelming majority of iPod owners have accepted the situation with minimal complaint. Good thing since the tech sector whining is more than enough.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

So you figure nothing has changed since 2002 therefore Jobs should maintain the same opinion?

Rights don’t change with the wind. There’s a word for people whose statements of principle change with their own situation: hypocrite. There’s also a name for the apologists who come along cleaning up after them: turf troll.

A. Lloyd Flanagan (profile) says:

Re: Re: The Intellectual Property Deception

What nearly everyone in the copyright debate forgets is the original idea of copyright.

Ideas and artistic expressions ultimately belong to the public. They’re too important to bottle up forever.

We granted artists and inventors time-limited powers to monopolize their art / invention. This allowed them to make money off their work while ensuring that the public benefitted as well.

Now we have this new concept of “intellectual property”. The subtext is that ideas are property, the public has no rights, and the “owner” should be able to do anything he/she wants with it forever. Is it any wonder a lot of people think something’s gone seriously wrong?

The French just want to make sure that your property rights are protected, as well as those of the authors. Used to be no one saw anything wrong with that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

No, fact is, his original opinion was unrealistically simplistic. As is the “nobody should be able to tell me what I can do with the CD I bought” philosophy. The problem isn’t you putting that CD on multiple devices you own. The problem is you putting it on devices you don’t own, or helping others do it.

Face it, a lot of people maintain the attitude that if some one else bought it they should be allowed to share it with me. Unfortunately a lot of people seem to think they are entitled to get a lot of things, especially music, for free. And if they can’t, well, their rights and freedoms are being violated.

Anonymous Coward says:

Steve jobs has driven apple into the ground once before. I am sure he is going to do it again. The lack of distrust for Apple by most of the community is growing exponetially everyday. Linux and opensource software causes them to lose more money everyday, and makes it hard for them to compete in the OS market. Not to mention the fact the MS is copying most of there UI.

This is why they need to put DRM on there Music, because without Itunes and Ipods, apple would be thrown back in the stoneage again. Thus, Steve will sacrifice his customers abilities to use thing’s that they have bought, freely on other devices. This way he doesn’t look like a dueschbag again.

End of Story!

AJ says:

agree and disagree

Anonymous Coward has a good point, stealing is stealing. But to limit the people that are not stealing from using what they bought legally however they wish, by putting restrictions on the product is punishing the wrong people, and helping justify the people that are stealing in the first place. If I have a choice between paying for something that I will not get full use out of, and downloading something I can use on whatever I wish for free…. well…. I think the bottom line is by punishing the people that legally buy something will make crooks out of them in a hurry….

Posterlogo says:

too many irrelevant and uneducated opinions here

Jesus, how about we focus on the French Law as it is presented instead of playing guessing games? Simply put, any sort of heavy handed approach like this targeted specifically at one company (yes, it is) is ridiculous. I honestly don’t think Apple gives a shit about the record companies, but they have to get their music somewhere to offer a clean, vertically integrated solution. There is no philanthropy in business — why the hell should Apple be blamed for opposing a measure that would cut into their legally managed bottom line. As it is, the law is extremely misguided. A much broader review of fair use is necessary. This law is like saying a NTSC player in france is illegal because it can’t play PAL videos. Ridiculous.

Eight grade says:

Re: too many irrelevant and uneducated opinions he

It’s the usual bizzare logic of those who produce and contribute nothing of thier own and fearloathe anyone who does.

It has no basis in reality or economic fact and is simply the best ravings of those who watch (whine, condem, pout) from the bench.

God forbid they bother to go to an econ class and start using the incredible amounts of free time they have to

deal in relaity instead of the tired old “give me more” moan.

elle says:

Where's the beef?


It seems like you may have misunderstood Job’s comment.

His statement is that people that legally purchase music should be able to legally use it on any device they own. He’s advocating for buyers’s traditional rights, in this instance.

That’s different than what the French want, which is that companies should have to work together to make it easy for consumers to move their music around. In this instance, Apple is saying that they shouldn’t be forced to share technology or make copying easier than it already is.

Apple’s DRM implementation is a compromise between the interests of the record industry and the interests of buyers. It doesn’t create significant barriers to people doing legal copying, but it puts in enough protection against bootleggers to satisfy the music industry.

If you buy a track off of iTunes, you can fairly easily put it on any device you like. Apple may not make it easy for you, but they’re selling music, not conversion utilities.

So where’s the beef?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Where's the beef?

If you buy a track off of iTunes, you can fairly easily put it on any device you like. Apple may not make it easy for you, but they’re selling music, not conversion utilities.

Legally? Not in the U.S. under the DMCA.

So where’s the beef?

In a place where you probably wouldn’t want it if you’re in prison for violating the DMCA.

Carlo (user link) says:

Re: Where's the beef?

Elle, I didn’t misunderstand his statement at all. The comment he made is about being able to play music on any device, which is what the French law would enable.

If users can already take their downloads and “fairly easily put it on any device” (which is a dubious claim at best), then why bother with the DRM at all? Doesn’t that defeat the point?

While Jobs may talk a good game, Apple’s actions really don’t back it up — check its reaction to RealNetworks figuring out a way to get its files onto iPods. It’s pretty straightforward — in the iPod’s early days, it was in Apple’s and Jobs’ interest to fight for openness in terms of overcoming industry resistance to let people rip their CDs to their iPods. Now that the iPod and Apple are established in the music business, and they’ve got tens of millions of users locked in to the iPod because the songs won’t play on any other digital audio player, openness is evil.

This has nothing to do with balancing the interests of record labels and consumers, and everything to do with Apple using DRM to lock consumers into the iPod.

mark says:

Re: Re: Where's the beef?

There are other interpretations. And I’d say yours is wrong because tens of millions of users are not locked in to the iPod. My previous comment gave you the numbers. But anecdotally, I know about 20 people who own iPods (including myself), and none of them has bought more than 30 songs from iTMS; none of them are locked-in. Almost all of them would rather buy CDs for higher quality, automobile use, and archival purposes, but love the ability to buy from iTMS when they absolutely need a song right now.

So let’s walk through your scenario from a different perspective; one that I believe is far better supported by the evidence. First, it’s in Apple’s interest to ensure that the iPod consumer experience just works. The easier it is to put songs on it, the better it is. This is especially true in consumer electronics. None of us tolerate freezeups or reboots of TVs, stereos, cars, kitchen appliances. Agree?

When the iPod was introduced, people had to rip CDs or use p2p networks. Not too hard. Agree?

But it could be easier/more convenient to buy a song online than buy a CD. However, people won’t do that if the price is too high or if the experience is too complicated. That’s what Jobs has been saying – “greedy”. Agree?

Altho Apple would rather there be no DRM, it has to put DRM on the music because the music owners won’t allow it to be otherwise, even though DRM complicates matters. No DRM, no contracts, no iTMS for music. But Apple has made Fairplay work as non-intrusively for the user in both iTunes and the iPod as the labels will allow. Agree? (Don’t take my word, go read the reviews and see whether WMA DRM is less intrusive). And for example, wouldn’t it be in Apple’s interest to let you copy your songs back from the iPod to a computer? But will Apple let you do that in iTunes? No. Why? Because the labels don’t want people to do that and Apple has agreed to it. But has Apple done anything to stop other people from writing apps to do that? No. Because Apple didn’t promise the labels that they would stop others. They only have legal liability on DRM removal – thus, the back and forth over JHymn.

But if Apple now has to support Fairplay songs (with other rules) from other stores on its iPods (French law and Real hack both lead to this), it gets more complicated, and maybe it won’t just work anymore. Opening Apple up to legal liability per its contract with the record labels. But worse, causing the iPod to become just like it is over there in the WMA/playsformaybesure/janus world where different stores have different rules for copying, where different players have different interfaces to the jukebox/WMP, and where things just don’t work easily at all. Don’t just believe me, go read through reviews and analysis of stores and players about why they don’t match up to the iPod/iTunes/iTMS combo.

So this has everything to do with the conditions of record labels, and the experience of users, and nothing to do with Apple using DRM to lock consumers into the iPod. Because they don’t need to. They’ll get you to buy their system with innovation and ease-of-use.

The French law intends to make it possible to play music on any device, but in implementation it will make it just as messed up as the WMA world is. And instead, people will just get MP3s and forget about legal downloading altogether.

Rod Shuffler (user link) says:

iTunes --> unencumbered AudioCD. The big deal is .

So let me get this right. The fact you can legally burn your DRM’d file to unencumbered AudioCD format is restrictive in what way? An AudioCD will play on, well, any frickin CD player. So the big deal is? Oh! The lazy ass-hats who don’t want to re-rip that to MP3 for their other devices and Limewire buddies?!

You don’t require an iPod to buy from the iTunes store (only a FREE copy of iTunes).

Compare that with Microsoft PlayForSure whereby you cannot re-encode to MP3 or any other format and, strangely, it won’t play on an iPod or a CD player.

Of the two evils, I know which I prefer.

Scott says:

Re: iTunes --> unencumbered AudioCD. The big deal

The Difference is that PlaysForSure is subscription based, you don’t own it, you RENT it! If they let you freely copy it, they would be in violation of the DCMA.

The fact is if you legally purchased it you should be able to move it to other devices. I agree that it is not Apples job to make it easy, but they do make it POSSIBLE.

deSade says:

Not Getting It

The French law doesn’t target Apple. It says that companies (not just Apple) have to make their DRM formats compatible with other companies players. MS licenses WMA technology to whomever wants to pay. Apple refuses to sell licenses because of their business model: sell songs on iTunes cheap and make the money back selling overpriced iPods.

deSade says:


Any lawyers care to comment on whether this falls under legal precident?


1915 Edison Trust Court Decision: “The original petition in the government’s case against the Motion Picture Patents Company was filed on 15 August 1912, under the enactment of 2 July 1890, commonly known as the Sherman Act…The decision…was handed down by the lower court on 1 October 1915…the court (stated)…that a patent holder may protect itself by reasonable means against infringement and even to seek the aid of the law to enforce the exclusion of others. However…patent holders may not with impunity impose unreasonable restraints on commerce and through such restraints monopolize an industry under the guise of defending themselves against encroachment. The court decided that ‘the agreements and acts of the defendants in the present case went far beyond what was necessary to protect the use of the patents or the [government-granted] monopoly which went with them…” In other words, the Edison Trust violations grew out of the company’s frustration in attempting to enforce its lawful rights against the outlaw producers.

For example, can it be argued that because online music sales for individual songs are predominately through iTunes, that only allowing them to be played on iPods violates the above decision?

Cranky old Man says:

I-tunes is just a marketing tool

People seem to forget that Apple created/uses Itunes for one perpose, that is to sell Ipods. They lose money on every song they sell. it would be insane and unrealistic to ask Apple to change their marketing tool so that it will support other hardwhare vendors, thus loosing more money without increasing the sales of Ipods. An Ipod will play a non-DRMed music file (MP3), and now with this ruling I am sure even more music will be available for owners of Ipods in France. Just not from Itunes.

mark says:

Re: I-tunes is just a marketing tool

Apple doesn’t lose money on each song they sell. In the beginning they did lose money, but not on a per song basis but because they had to ramp up the overhead and infrastructure – servers, aac software, billing software, etc. But as they sell more songs, the IT portion scales well, i.e. you only have to make and store one master copy – each extra sale doesn’t cost you anything more.

So Apple has always made money on each song they sell. But Apple can keep saying they don’t make any money, because they are still investing those profits in expanding the music store – new IT centers in Europe, Australia, Japan, etc., hiring more staff to shape the iTMS “pages” for each store, etc.

This is no different than starting any business. If I start a bakery, I will make money on each pastry I sell, but the overhead of buying equipment and store furnishings, advertising, training staff, etc., will cause me to operate at a loss until I ramp up and sell enough volume.

mark says:

What evidence do you have?

So Carlo, what evidence do you have for you to attribute Apple’s motive as lock-in?

What if Apple’s motive is to avoid legal liability (to the labels) when interoperability doesn’t work, or to avoid degraded consumer experiences when interoperability messes things up? Interoperability (not the multiple DRM kind) but that between MS WMA/playsformaybesure/janus DRM and multiple hardware vendors, already causes a degraded user experience, doesn’t it? Didn’t Omar Shahine (MS employee) give up on finding a WMA player that is better than the iPod because of user experience? Isn’t that part of the reason many people buy iPods instead – because it just works with iTunes and iTMS?

Who today buys an iPod because they want AAC/Fairplay? How many people today are locked-in to an iPod because they’ve bought so many iTMS songs? Do the math. 42 million iPods/1 billion songs/average 25 songs per iPod. Would 25 songs lock you in?

If you think the motive is profit, then if Apple shut down selling music on iTMS worldwide, who would still sell the most mp3 players over the next 5 years? Apple profits pennies on a song, but mucho dollars on a player.

Apple doesn’t need to lock-in anybody via DRM. It doesn’t need DRM to become a dominant force, as it’s already become a dominant force selling 42 million iPods. It must and will do the job by continually innovating because most songs on iPods are ripped from CDs or are there via piracy, not via iTMS. (The evidence for that is the death of the mini at the hands of the nano.)

Steve hasn’t flip-flopped at all. He would rather there not be DRM, but if labels insist on it in order to sell downloads online, then there needs to be a way to manage it so that the user experience is what it should be. Apple didn’t work on DRM for years; they “acquired” Fairplay just before they opened the iTMS, because they HAD TO. No DRM, no digital downloads.

And by the way, in Steve’s eyes, someday all the devices that you own are made by Apple. 🙂 (The evidence is iPod Hi-Fi and more stuff coming.)

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