Steve Jobs on DRM

Steve Jobs posted his “Thoughts on Music” on Apple’s website, calling for the music industry to end its insistence on DRM. As many have noted, the statement is aptly timed to address growing pressure on Apple to open the iTunes music store to other digital music players. I’ve never quite understood what the music industry is so scared of, anyway. Though I love my iPod, I’ve only bought 2 songs from iTunes because I couldn’t find them on CDs elsewhere. I still fail to understand why so many people are willing to pay for such inferior copies of songs. Seriously, play an AAC file from iTunes and a real CD; you’ll hear the difference.

Anyhow, Jobs writes:

In 2006, under 2 billion DRM-protected songs were sold worldwide by online stores, while over 20 billion songs were sold completely DRM-free  and unprotected on CDs by the music companies themselves. The music companies sell the vast majority of their music DRM-free, and show no signs of changing this behavior, since the overwhelming majority of their revenues depend on selling CDs which must play in CD players that support no DRM system.

So if the music companies are selling over 90 percent of their music DRM-free, what benefits do they get from selling the remaining small percentage of their music encumbered with a DRM system? There appear to be none. If anything, the technical expertise and overhead required to create, operate and update a DRM system has limited the number of participants selling DRM protected music. If such requirements were removed, the music industry might experience an influx of new companies willing to invest in innovative new stores and players. This can only be seen as a positive by the music companies.

Much of the concern over DRM systems has arisen in European countries.  Perhaps those unhappy with the current situation should redirect their energies towards persuading the music companies to sell their music DRM-free.

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