EU Commissioner Makes Veiled Threat About Forcing Music Stores To Drop DRM

from the upon-deeper-inspection dept

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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  1. identicon
    Nicolas Jondet, 12 Mar 2007 @ 11:02am

    Re: Re: French system may be an option

    That is the argument put forward by Steve Jobs to explain why Apple has always refused to license Fairplay. He thought that such licensing, by giving access to sensitive information to its competitors, would compromise the technology and the efficiency of the DRMs. (This arguments relies on the assumption that DRMs are efficient).
    Virginmega France, an online platform, tried in 2004 to force Apple to license Fairplay but was unsuccessful.

    If Apple has been so reluctant to "share" its secrets through a licensing scheme with its competitors, it is easy to understand why they would rather go DRM-free than have to deal with a French administrative body whose mission is to enforce and regulates the exchange of "information essential for interoperability" between software publishers, hardware manufacturers and online service providers.

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