Since the dawn of the new millennium, the people on this planet fortunate enough to own and operate their own personal, internet-enabled computers have been forcibly changing the delivery of digital media. Napster, Gnutella, Kazaa, and Bittorent featured new and innovative technologies that delivered content, but were also rejected by companies, corporations, and associations that made it clear business would not support them. Apple Inc. was and is one of those companies.
Recently, Apple head honcho Steve Jobs surprised everyone when he stated "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." Jobs' offer to rid iTunes of Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology is great news for the consumers of digital content, as it would free us to trade songs with friends and make as many backup copies of our legally purchased music as we wanted. It is, however, terrible news for the association currently providing Mr. Jobs with his beloved content. This association is regularly mocked on Tiny Mix Tapes and the Internet Tubes in general, and they responded to Steve's DRM comments with, "Apple [should] license its DRM to other technology companies. We think that's a great solution." The Recording Industry Association of America has made foolish comments in the past, but this one takes the ultra-ignorant award of stupidity for failing to note this method would be impossible to implement with the current restrictions placed on Apple by the recording companies.
According to Jobs in his letter, if the iTunes software is cracked, Apple has a limited amount of time to fix the issue before each recording company can remove its catalog from iTunes with absolutely no legal repercussions. So, licensing Fairplay, the DRM that Apple uses, would likely be even more cumbersome than using the software itself. It would be in Apple's interest to at least attempt it, as it would be able to charge whatever it wanted for Fairplay, because the iPod has a hidden feature: it's able to print money in any currency. Including Monopoly money.
Jobs made his statements early last week, and we've been patiently waiting for the recording companies to come forward with statements. Edgar Bronfman, the chief executive of Warner Music, stated Jobs' ideas were "completely without logic or merit," and he desperately wishes that was true. Sony, the heartless, cum-stained bastard it is, has declined to make a comment, most likely in fear of embarrassing itself any further. How are those PS3 sales coming? Universal, in its tireless efforts to never comment on anything, has not commented on anything. EMI is playing a different hand, and it's one that supports the utopia Mr. Jobs dreamed of in his manifesto1. The courageous label has decided to try selling more of its music without the DRM restrictions, after it ran a successful pilot program last December. EMI's announcement may be purely coincidental, but I'd like to think they're related.
While a world without DRM would be great, that reality is not yet upon us. And until Apple removes DRM from their iTunes store, Steve Jobs will be a hypocritical prick that is using the music industry as a scapegoat for his growing business concerns in Europe (iTunes recently became illegal in Norway). And if he shoots his wad too early and drops DRM before the association wants to, he risks them packing it in and supporting the Zune or whatever shitty service Sony is currently hawking instead. The industry still has the power to treat iTunes just like Napster or Kazaa, so it took balls to do what Jobs did. And for that, this hardened open-source advocate will give him a shred of respect. He'd better not screw up.
1 Manifesto was used by Edgar "Sand In My Vagina" Bronfman.