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Apple says No to DRM? Maybe, if it only could…

Steve Jobs published on Tuesday this article on Apple’s website. It definitely deserves a comment. Not entirely without connection to inconvenient proceedings in European countries concerning Apple and its’ FairPlay DRM platform (did someone say antitrust violations?), Jobs describes three alternative models for legally offering music online. The first alternative would be to continue business as usual. Various online music shops will sell DRM-protected songs that would play only on authorized devices, typically made by the same entity that offers the content. The second alternative would be to license FairPlay to other device manufacturers and facilitate interoperability. As to the third, I must quote from the article:

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.

So it’s the big four’s fault. According to this statement it seems that DRM on iTune songs could be abolished tomorrow, as far as Apple is concerned. Who still insists? The big four? Here, Jobs again:

DRMs haven’t worked, and may never work, to halt music piracy.

If both Apple & Co. and the music companies gradually come to realize this fact (see this posting about Sony), why do the big four still insist? A part of the answer hides in the article itself. When Fair Play is compromised, Apple has only a very short interval to fix it. If content owners remain unhappy, the deal is off. I am not going to speculate why this bargaining position is good for the music industry. One thing is quite obvious. It is not necessarily (all) about preventing online piracy.

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