Apple's Steve Jobs Feeling the Heat Over iTunes DRM
Consumer groups across Europe are pressing for radical changes in how the music industry does business with DRM. Reverberations are being felt all the way over here in North America – you can thank Europe that someone is fighting the good fight! If Steve Job's recent letter is any indication, they seem to be making an impact.
Anyone subscribing to an online music service knows the deal. No matter which you choose it's the same story. Apple iTunes, Sony Connect, Microsoft Zune or one of the online music services using Microsoft's PlaysForSure DRM, you get similar restrictions. Buy legal music encoded with a DRM and you're restricted as to which hardware you use to play the music back. Even if you use the hardware from the same company that sold you the music, you're still in for a world of headaches. Moving from one computer to another or getting a new iPod is notoriously painful for iTunes customers.
I'm certainly not saying music should be free and artists shouldn't be paid for their work. I am saying that DRM is bad business and in its current incarnation it restricts fair use of products purchased by the consumer.
DRM dealing companies would like you to think of buying its player as more than a mere business transaction. So, you're not just buying an iPod and some songs on iTunes – you're buying into a lifestyle. You're accepting a label dreamed up by a market research firm and some clever lifestyle demographic. DRM forces you to ask yourself: Are you a PC or are you a MAC? You get to decide if you're a nerdy guy in an ill fitting suit or a smirking annoyance in contemporary casuals.
...once branded like cattle by your corporate master you're herded behind digital electric fences.
It sounds like innocent fun - once branded like cattle by your corporate master you're herded behind digital electric fences. Apple fan-boys, Sony zealots and others have learned to love it. Helpless like addicts some have taken to preaching their voluntary loss of consumer freedoms. Instead of rebelling against a poor business model they'll marvel that they're luckier, smarter and wiser consumers than those who lost their freedoms to the 'other' brand. But you're all in the same digital pasture, just behind different fences.
Sony lost a case in France against a consumer protection organization. They charged Sony's Connect music service didn't warn customers that music purchased on its service was exclusive to its Walkman branded MP3 players. France, Germany, Denmark and Norway have long been battling Apple over iTunes DRM. Consumer groups in these nations take exception to a business model that restricts choices of the consumers who purchased goods. Consumer groups across Europe are urging Apple to adopt an open DRM that would allow customers to play songs purchased on iTunes through more than just an iPod.
In his open letter to his fan base Jobs points his fingers everywhere else but doesn't seem to take much responsibility for his part. But even he seems to believe the system needs a change. Jobs complains that he's not the only one doing business this way. He points at Microsoft and Sony for playing the same game. Then he insists that the problem isn't Apple but the RIAA. He'd have us believe that if Apple could make music legally purchased on iTunes playback on any device it would.
Jobs says of employing an open DRM system: "This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat."
iTunes music being played back on a Zune? That'll be the day!