Is Apple’s dominance of online and portable digital music good for you?

“There’s no doubt that Apple is flying high,” Alice LaPlante blogs for InformationWeek. “In addition to muscling a sweet deal with the industry’s four largest music distributors (Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, EMI Group, and Sony BMG Music Entertainment) to continue selling songs in its iTunes store for $.99, its brawl with France over whether copyrighted work, like music on iTunes, needed to be interoperable was for all practical purposes made moot.”

“If three times is the charm, Apple must have the champagne chilling in preparation for a victory in its ongoing legal tussle with the Beatles,” LaPlante writes. “For iTunes fanatics, this is a mixed blessing. The good news, of course, is that the cost of individual music downloads remains infinitely affordable. The bad news is that Apple’s much-loathed proprietary digital rights management (DRM) scheme will remain firmly in place. Mixing his metaphors but nonetheless capturing the spirit of what transpired, Ted Schadler at Forrester Research was quoted as saying, ‘Apple has all the cards, and when you have all the cards, you can play hardball.'”

“With 45 million iPods sold and iTunes representing more than 80% of the digital downloads sold in the United States alone, Apple is now the 800-pound gorilla in the digital music world. Tim Lee of Techliberation argues that the music industry created a monster when it demanded a strong DRM system for iTunes music. Because it locks music lovers into Apple’s proprietary platform, Apple may soon be able to bypass the record labels completely and cut deals with artists themselves,” LaPlante writes. “But is Apple shooting itself in the foot by maintaining its proprietary standards? ‘We’ve seen this movie before,’ says Michael Robertson, founder of MP3tunes, which provides individuals with a ‘personal music locker’ with online storage that works within iTunes. Robertson was referring to the fact that a company that has created an industry often gets sidelined to a bit part in that very market. Indeed, Apple doesn’t have to look far for an example. But ‘it’s just not in [Jobs’] DNA’ to open up. It’s therefore inevitable that eventually other device makers will catch up and other services will deliver cheaper, easier-to-use, or flashier functionality.”

Full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Mike H.” for the heads up.]
“Apple’s much-loathed proprietary digital rights management (DRM) scheme?” “Much loathed,” by whom? We’ve yet to meet a normal user who’s come up against Apple’s liberal DRM boundaries. Apple’s iTunes Music Store FairPlay DRM allows users to play their music on up to five computers, allows for unlimited synching with iPods, allows unlimited burning for individual songs, and lets you burn identical playlists up to 7 times each. So, again, who “loathes” Apple’s DRM besides pirates and pie-in-the-sky dreamers who are anti-DRM of any kind? (Yes, a world without DRM would be nice. As would be a world without thieves.) Apple’s DRM is fair to both the consumer and the artist.

If you’d like to stay alive, we would advise not holding your breath waiting for “other device makers” to “catch up” with iPod and/or “other services” (with Microsoft’s Windows-only DRM, no doubt) to offer “cheaper, easier-to-use, or flashier functionality” than iTunes.

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Related article:
Apple’s vs. Microsoft’s music DRM: whose solution supports more users? – August 17, 2005

30 Comments

  1. Yeah no crap. I’ve never once run into a DRM restriction with iTunes. It would be nice to not have it, but I personally don’t even notice.

    As for dominance, it’s funny how no one seems to mind that MS dominates the desktop PC world, and now that Apple has a dominant share in some area that really isn’t as critical as desktop computers, people are blaking at it.

    I personally would rather have a company that gets it right controlling the thing than one who dominates and contiunally produces crap products. At least if we are going to be dominated by a company, it will be enjoyable.

  2. This article is just more of the same ol’ trash that comes from a “journalism” corps that knows nothing about technology, or the consumer they write to.

    Apple’s DRM isn’t hampering sales in the slightest bit. So much for “much-loathed”.

  3. “”Apple’s much-loathed proprietary digital rights management (DRM) scheme?” “Much loathed,” by whom?”

    You mean you haven’t heard about the massive DRM protest march being organized in N.Y.’s Central Park? Drop your earbuds and join the teeming crowds!
    <chant> “Fair Play! Play Fair!”

    “Apple’s liberal DRM boundaries”

    Hey now, let’s leave politics out of this!

    ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”tongue laugh” style=”border:0;” />

  4. DITTO Macro–on the DRM issues. I’ve yet to run into a problem with the DRM and clearly the mass majority also are not having problems with it because you would have heard the masses complaining or not buying iPod’s.

    iPods continue to outsell other players and
    iTunes is a great way to buy music with out going to the dreaded mall, with its parking and strollers and hassles.

    The only people crying about DRM are so called tech journalists and WinBois.

  5. This article is nothing more than a load of OS political platform crap – nakedly.

    Even if you don’t care for Apple and/or Macs, I still don’t understand why anyone would do anything to allow Windows to continue to dominate the planet – now that’s something I can get paranoid about – and already am – and that’s being objective. One company literally controls the planet Earth, being that Windows controls nearly 100% of all systems (critical or not) running on personal computers. NOW THAT’S FREAKIN SCAREY!! And just plan insane if you allow yourself to think about it for five minutes.

  6. My only complaint about the FairPlay DRM is this: I have four kids (each with their own computer), plus my wife, and myself. Add in a couple of laptops and I have 8 computers at home. Unfortunately, the DRM only allows 5 computers to access the music. There should be some way for iTunes to check to see if the requesting computer is on the local network and allow for unlimited connections to local-network computers. Reserve the 5 ‘accounts’ for computers off of the local network.

  7. I’ve run into the FairPlay restriction.

    See, the computer authorization is tied to your main logic board. I’m not sure if it uses some kind of hardware ID or just the MAC address, but the simple fact is, if you replace the main logic board, you lose that computer’s authorization.

    And you can’t deauthorize a computer except in two ways: you can reset all your computers (something you can only do once per year) or you can deauthorize the computer you’re sitting at.

    So. FairPlay, meet the iBook main logic board problem. When your main logic board dies, you can’t deauthorize that computer any more. If it happens more than once, you lose “authorized” computers. If you go through too many of them, you can find yourself not being able to authorize the computer you’re using. Oops.

    Fortunately, Apple customer service is gracious about this, so it wasn’t very painful to run into the restriction. And in ordinary use, when things run as they should, FairPlay is quite reasonable.

  8. I’ll mention two things:

    1) The Apple DRM is “much-loathed” in the same way that Apple, iPods, and Macs are “much-loathed” – success always creates jealousy and that creates fear & loathing. I run into people all the time who have passionate vitriolic loathing for Apple’s DRM in iTunes.

    Of course, these same people say they would “never download any music with any DRM on it”. So they’re not exactly Apple’s customers, are they?

    2) The Apple DRM is so transparent that people forget it’s there. Want proof? I work as a mobile disc jockey. Several times in the last year, I have had customers bring me a CD to play at their wedding, with songs they thought I wouldn’t have.

    Guess what? They burned the CD not in “Audio” format, but in “Data” format. And it never fails that there’s at least one Apple DRM-protected M4P in there, which of course I can’t play without authorizing my computer with their account. (Which of course means that I have to have access to the internet at the job, which is not a given by any means.)

    If I do have access to the internet, I just buy my own copy from iTunes. But it is funny that people don’t even give a second thought to the DRM – they just assume they can burn the CD and give it to me to play, they probably don’t even know there’s a DRM on it.

  9. Greg Thurman –

    George W. Bush got more votes the second time around than the first, but I’d still call him “much-loathed.” The people who don’t loathe are still buying. The people who loathe are still NOT buying.

    MDN –

    You’ve got regular visitors and contributors to this site who have run up against the “liberal” DRM scheme. It renders their iTMS purchases useless when the iPod they saved up for breaks and they can’t afford the pricetag for a new one. Or they just prefer another player. Or they’d like to burn their videos to DVD for use with their home entertainment system. Or.. or.. or..

    Take your head out of the sand and stop pretending poop smells good. FairPlay in its present incarnation is as anti-consumer as it is anti-competitive.

  10. blucaso –

    I am Apple’s customer. I own a Mac and an iPod but I will not purchase from the iTMS because I loathe their DRM. I buy and rip CD’s. When they license FairPlay so that I’m not required to own their portable music player, I will be happy to make some of my purchases from them.

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