Does buying from iTunes Music Store mean you’re committed for life to Apple’s FairPlay DRM?

“If you’re a customer of Apple’s iTunes digital music store, you will eventually reach that point of no return where you’re basically committed for life to Apple’s DRM scheme known as Fairplay [sic]. What this means is that you’ve contributed to ensuring Apple’s legacy because the only digital music players that will play the music you’ve purchased are the ones that include Apple’s Fairplay — a technology that Apple not only controls, but licenses to third parties on a very selective basis. Today, outside of Apple’s iPods and its Windows and Mac-compatible iTunes software, the recently announced iTunes-compatible Motorola Rokr phone is the only non-Apple product I know of that’s capable of playing iTunes store-bought songs,” David Berlind blogs for ZDNet.

“Whether your a high end audiophile like me, or just want to take your digital entertainment to go, the state of the state is producing an untenable situation for digital content buyers. In my case, DRM-wrapped digital content is entirely defeating the elegance of having the centralized whole-home entertainment system that I’m trying to put in. Instead of having a single digital content server to serve up all my music and movies, regardless of where I buy them from, I need special extenders like docks so that something Fairplay-compliant like an iPod can be connected to the whole system and “browsed” as a separate source of audio. Uh, that wasn’t the idea folks,” Berlind blogs.

Berlind continues blogging here.
Ensuring Apple’s legacy? Where do we sign up? Oops, we already did, .Mac membership give us an Apple account for purchasing iTMS content. Two quick points: Besides iPods and Macs and Windows PCs, iTunes Music Store customers can burn as many custom CDs as they wish, so nobody’s “committed for life to Apple’s DRM scheme known as FairPlay.” Secondly, “high-end audiophiles” generally don’t buy compressed 128kbps music files. They buy vinyl or CDs and use something like Apple Lossless for CD-quality audio in about half the storage space. You can thank the music labels, not Apple, for the existence of DRM, without which they’d never have signed onto the iTunes Music Store. Would it be nice to have DRM-free music sold online that nobody would download without first paying the artists (and the labels)? Sure. It it going to happen? No.

Related articles:
Apple’s vs. Microsoft’s music DRM: whose solution supports more users? – August 17, 2005
Apple’s roadkill whine in unison: ‘incompatibility is slowing growth of digital music’ – August 13, 2005
The New Zealand Herald serves up a steaming pile of iPod FUD – August 11, 2005
Apple’s iPod and iTunes competitors continue whining about FairPlay – February 07, 2005
The de facto standard for legal digital online music files: Apple’s protected MPEG-4 Audio (.m4p) – December 15, 2004


  1. As long as iTMS is 128-bit AAC, that limits my buying to pop tunes and guilty-pleasure songs. For classical and jazz, going CD is a must. That hasn’t prevented me from buying about 70 or so songs from iTMS, but the CD still has a place in the market.

    That being said, DRM wouldn’t be an issue if it weren’t for the greedy music companies. It’s not like Apple has a choice in offering non-DRM’d music. So rather than blame the vendors, why not direct the wrath at the music companies, who would like consumers to think that their hands are clean in this matter?

  2. sigh. MDN, drop the “you can always rip iTMS songs to CD” argument. It’s a crap argument that will never fly long-term. Imagine if you bought a CD, but in order to play it the way you want to play it, you first had to transfer it to tape. Same thing here, only a little easier. In both cases, it blows for the consumer. The only reason you don’t profess to hate it is because you’re blinded by your Mac zealotry.

    The author raises a serious issue, and it is one of the primary reasons why I have stopped buying music from iTMS. Truth is, we don’t know where DRM will be in 5 years. I don’t want to run the risk of having a bunch of songs I can’t play when I can spend a little more on a CD that has no DRM, and is of a much higher audio quality. (Audio quality is, incidentally, the other reason I stopped buying.)

  3. Here’s the real issue…

    “Apple’s Fairplay — a technology that Apple not only controls, but licenses to third parties on a very selective basis.”

    Yes, DRM is not going away. Apple needs to license Fairplay to other companies in addition to Motorola.

    And in the future, many CDs will become harder and harder to find. iTMS won’t have everything, so you may have to eventually buy from a competing music store. Yes, you can always burn to a CD and import, but that shouldn’t be necessary.

    Apple can’t and shouldn’t force the consumer to have to purchase all Apple products just to get things to work

  4. hairbo,

    CD-R 100 pack = $29.99 (I’m sure there are better deals out there, too), so 29-cents and a couple of minutes to burn one is hardly an issue.

    As stated, DRM is here to stay, get used to it. And Apple’s is the best for the consumer by far.

    Eventually, it will all be FairPlay. The iPod numbers will dictate it.

  5. Agreed, high end audiophiles dont buy MPEG compressed audio. Most of them are still using reel-to-reel or some other non-ubiquitous technology. They dont even like CD’s.

    This guy is just a whiner. Probably paid off by MS.

  6. Dream Lover,

    not the point. So not the point. I don’t care that I can do it. Of course i can do it, but I don’t *want* to do it, and more importantly, I don’t want to *have* to do it just to be able to play the music where and how I want to.

  7. I don’t need to say much. ITMS provides us well enough music. ipod is the world number one digital music player. that’s all it says.

    none of internet service privide ipod? its’ the same as ITMS, too. so it’s fair game.

  8. I *HATE* that when I need to drive to Boston from DC, the shortest way is to drive through NYC. Can’t the government come up with a wormhole that transports me right from my driveway to Bean Town? I know I can drive through NYC. I just don’t WANT to. ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”wink” style=”border:0;” />

    MW: last. Let’s hope FairPlay lasts longer than those other majigs.

  9. Hammer is right. When CD’s first came out “audiphiles” complained that the CD format ruined fidelity.

    In effect anyone that complains about loss of fidelity for compressed music is blowing smoke out of their a**, especially if they are comparing it to CD’s which are compressed, by definition.

  10. What the hell is wrong with these bedwetters? I mean, come on….
    We bought vinyl, 8 track, cassettes, CDs, all without the cries of doom about format longevity. Every format will eventually be replaced by something newer and shinier. The record companies will be able to sell their re-packaged products all over again.

    These idiots have nothing to do but complain?? Their point/argument sure is stupid.

    Just shut up and enjoy the music!

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