Macworld Highlight: iTunes DRM Free by Q2
This week it's MacWorld, which is the place to be for Apple fans. For the first time after Steve Jobs' return to Mac, the MacWorld had to do without its charismatic inspirator. Instead, the Macadelic fans had to work their way through the keynotes by Phil Schiller.
Image: iJustine @ Tasty Blog Snack
Image: iJustine @ Macworld Flickrstream
With Jobs not on the spot, and only a cardboard representation present to adore, the absense of Steve Jobs led to speculations about his health, some of which included the return of cancer, untill finally Apple released a statement.
By finally deciding to talk about Steve Jobs' health, Apple may have opened a Pandora's Box.
After insisting for months that Jobs' health was a private matter, Apple changed its tack in the face of widespread speculation regarding its CEO's weight loss. On Monday, the company issued a statement that Jobs was suffering from a hormone imbalance that was "robbing" proteins from his body. That news cheered Apple investors, who dreaded far worse news regarding Jobs' health after a report last week that his health was "declining rapidly."
The disclosure was clearly painful for Jobs, who wrote in an open letter, "So now I've said more than I wanted to say, and all that I am going to say, about this." That might not be so simple.
Taking Jobs out of the Apple Equasion would be a sure thing to upset investors and stock market as he brought Apple back to life upon his return to the company in 1997 after an absense of 12 years. Smash hits over the past years have been the iPod and iPhone which has put Apple back in business.
Apple's DRM Policy
With the iPod Apple launched the iTunes store where users can buy music. The catch has been that Apple included a DRM feature so the songs could only be played with Apple software. Although Apple itself has called its DRM policy 'Fair Play', it met strong opposition. Following actions in France and Germany the Norwegian Ombudsman ruled the Apple DRM to be illegal, according to the Register.
Apple's digital rights management lock on its iPod device and iTunes software is illegal, the Consumer Ombudsman in Norway has ruled. The blow follows the news that Germany and France are joining Norway's action against Apple.
The Norwegian Consumer Council, Forbrukerradet, lodged a complaint with the Ombudsman on behalf of Norwegian consumers claiming that the Fairplay DRM system acted against the interests of consumers. It said the fact the technology stopped songs bought from iTunes being played on any player other than an iPod broke the law in Norway.
The Ombudsman has now agreed, according to Torgeir Waterhouse, senior advisor at the Consumer Council.
In Februari 2007, Steve Jobs himself posted a lengthy article with his thoughts on the DRM which might be good to read to get some background info, but too lengthy to quote here. There's one paragraph thought which I'd like to quote:
The third alternative is to abolish DRMs entirely. 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.
We're two years on and Apple finally has made a deal with the record companies and announced the iTune products will be distributed free of DRM.
This act by Apple is a step forward, but it's a long way off in solving the DRM issue, because Apple isn't the problem here, it's the Music Industry itself. A good guide to catching up with the situation would be to read "The Starfish and the Spider" by Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom.
Digital rights management (DRM) is a term that refers to access control technologies used by hardware manufacturers, publishers and copyright holders to limit usage of digital media or devices. Whereas copy protection only attempts to prohibit unauthorized copies of media or files, digital rights management allows the issuer of the media or file to control in detail what can and cannot be done with a single instance. For example, an issuer can limit the number of viewings, number of copies, which devices the media can be transferred to etc. Digital rights management often depends on cryptography and on-line activation. Blu-Ray and some recent game titles by Electronic Arts are an example of each. Digital rights management is used by content providers such as Sony, Microsoft and the BBC. [Wikipedia]
Back in the early 20th century we did not have recordings of music and when we would like to hear a piece we would go to the theatres and opera halls, or the streetcorners to hear the music being performed. If we paid to listen, we paid directly to the musicians.
When recording devices and carriers such as vynil records arrived it opened up a whole new world. You could bring the music home. Record companies arose liked webdevelopment shops in the late 90's. A few years later it boiled down to the big 5. Five major companies gained control over 80% of the entire music industry.
Suddenly there was Napster, a rogue internet company offering music for free. The big 5 were terrified and sued Napster and broke it down. Pandora's box had been opened though and peer to peer (p2P) networks like Kazaa and eDonkey took over. Stealing music had become common practise.
The question is, is downloading music and films for free actually stealing? Yes in my opinion it is. But then again, it is no different than selling music at the current prices. It is the record companies themselves which are the biggest thieves here. They steal from both the Musicians and the consumer. As consumers we have to pay massive amounts to acquire a legal copy of an Album, whereas the performer gets just a fraction of what the Record Companies receive.
As long as this practise continues, there will be p2p distribution of music. The sole reason I think p2p has made such a big bang is because of the absurd amounts of money the big five made off the backs of the consumers and the artists. In this way, whatever DRM measure you implement, it will be prime target to hack. If we further decentralise and more and more artists start to distribute their own music through social networks at a fair price (in the Netherlands a CD is now about 24 Euro), let's say they'd sell them directly for 5 Euro, with DRM. This means a significant pricedrop, yet a substaintial gain in income for the artists. Would the download community accept that?