Home > Computers and Internet > Jobs: “DRM Is Broken” & Will RIAA Ever Get It Right?

Jobs: “DRM Is Broken” & Will RIAA Ever Get It Right?

09-Feb-07 02:23 pm EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

Earlier this week, Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, posted to the company’s website an open letter concerning the current state of affairs when it comes to "Digitial Rights Management" or DRM technology.  In it he outlines 3 courses of action he sees the music industry can take and expressly states his view on what the preferred course would be.  Naturally, RIAA – still with its collective head in the sand –ignored the advice and completely misread the letterr to mean what it wanted it to mean: that Apple was willing to license its "FairPlay" DRM technology.  This, despite Jobs expressing his thoughts that this would be an untenable position for Apple, given its current contract arrangements with the recording industry.

The right interpretation of Jobs’ letter is simply that DRM is broken, of course.  And something needs to be done about it; and it has nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not Apple licenses FairPlay to others (which it most certainly won’t).  DRM needs to be retired completely and the recording industry which is already years behind the technological trends governing its success must deal with the fact the licensing models and DRM technolgoy intoruced now is, quite simply, too little, too late.  That’s going to take a great deal of humility and, I’m gonna disagree with all the pundits here, the music industry just hasn’t been sufficiently humbled yet.

Jobs’ letter says why:

"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."

                    — Steve Jobs, Apple, February 6, 2007

In short, the music industry still sees CD sales as its bread-and-butter.  To their bottom line, digital music is still something of a fad and I’m not sure the whole lot of ’em see their industry in trouble just yet, even with sagging sales.  There’s still not enough pain in the chain to cause these companies to need to revamp themselves, as they’ve shown little interest in doing just yet.  They’re willing to continue wasting millions and millions of dollars on lawsuits and sending the RIAA onto the Internet after college students who didn’t buy that .mp3 from one of their stores, rather than do the right thing from a business and even ethcical standpoint: alter the business model to be DRM-free.

To date, the strategy appears to be ‘take as many college kids pirating music down with us as we can’ rather than gearing up for a more successful model in the future.  Maybe the music industry has just given up, notwithstanding what their lawyers are saying.

But Jobs is right to point out the way things are going don’t make much sense for consumers.  And if something isn’t done, piracy will ultimatley win out, albeit with plenty of casualties.

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