Apple and DRM-free music

I’ve never quite understood the attitude of people who won’t buy an iPod for the sole reason that the iTunes music store uses DRM – after all, no-one forces iPod owners to buy music from iTunes, rather than ripping it from CDs they own or obtaining unprotected MP3s elsewhere. As DRM schemes go, FairPlay isn’t too bad (allowing you to burn the music to a CD, for example).

Anyway, an essay by Steve Jobs has now explicitly stated what most people assumed – the only reason Apple puts copy protection on its downloads is because otherwise the record companies wouldn’t licence them the music in the first place. This claim is backed up by Apple’s policy for its own software, which as far as I know has never used product activation, dongles or any other copy-protection technology.

Imagine a world where every online store sells DRM-free music encoded in open licensable formats. In such a world, any player can play music purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is playable on all players. This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat. If the big four music companies would license Apple their music without the requirement that it be protected with a DRM, we would switch to selling only DRM-free music on our iTunes store. Every iPod ever made will play this DRM-free music.

The article’s well-worth reading, and makes some good points about the futility of the ‘big four’ record companies’ current approach to music protection. Unfortunately, I can’t see them changing their minds any time soon.

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