Apple iTunes Music Store’s DRM bad for business?

“Steve Jobs and Apple managed to lure the music industry into licensing the copyrights for the iTunes Music Store even though the Store’s use-restrictions are comparatively mild. There’s a bit of region-coding — you pay a per-download charge based on the country your credit-card is billed to. There’s a bit of multi-use restriction — only five CPUs can be registered to a given iTunes account at a time. There are some miscellaneous restrictions, including ones that are genuinely bizarre, like limiting the number of times you can burn a given playlist,” Cory Doctorow opines for InformationWeek.

“Removing iTunes’s DRM is pretty straightforward. It’s time-consuming, but it’s not too difficult. You just have to burn a CD with the tracks, re-rip the CD tracks as MP3s, and re-enter the metadata, like title and artist. This doesn’t work as well for the expensive audiobooks Apple sells, which generally come in chunks too large to fit on a CD,” Doctorow writes. “So far, so good. The iPod is the number one music player in the world. iTunes is the number one digital music store in the world. Customers don’t seem to care if there are restrictions on the media Steve Jobs sells them — though you’d be hard pressed to find someone who values those restrictions. No Apple customer woke up this morning wishing for a way to do less with her music.”

“But there’s one restriction that’s so obvious it never gets mentioned. This restriction does a lot of harm to Apple’s suppliers in the music industry,” Doctorow writes. “That obvious restriction: No one but Apple is allowed to make players for iTunes Music Store songs, and no one but Apple can sell you proprietary file-format music that will play on the iPod.”

“In some respects, that’s not too different from other proprietary platforms, of course. No one but Microsoft makes Word. But there’s a huge difference between Word and iTunes: Word is protected only by market forces, while iTunes enjoys the protection of a corrupt law that gives Apple the right to exclude competitors from the market,” Doctorow writes. “iTunes is protected by the anti-circumvention provisions in the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)…”

Much more in the full opinion piece here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “SmartyGuy” for the heads up.]
Just a note: Motorola makes “players for iTunes Music Store songs” and RealNetworks claims to sell “proprietary file-format music that will play on the iPod.”

29 Comments

  1. Yes yes, and yes. Apple needs to find a way to make Fairplay the standard DRM for ALL audio formats. Consumers don’t care about DRM, really. They care about the quality of the software, the quality of the sound, and the quality of the hardware on which the music is played. If everybody used Fairplay, Apple would still win this war because their software-hardware solution is the best. They’d win on their merits, not because they restrict consumer choice.

    All record players could play all 33 records. All CD players can play all CDs (home-burned CDs being a minor exception). All DVD players can play all DVDs (less home burned DVDs and regional restrictions). Not all hard-drive players can play all digital music. The market will require that a single standard is adopted across the entire industry. Apple needs to ensure that Fairplay is that standard. They are basically there now. If they open up Fairplay to MS’s competitors, the Zune dies and Fairplay takes over.

  2. There is no difference as you can’t use Rhapsody,Real,microsoft,or creative’s music services because they all need IE 6 which isn’t even made for a Mac so you can’t even look at there crappy rental stores let alone use them. I think with 80% market share Apple is doing a lot better with there restrictions than anyone else on the planet.

  3. He’s right – no one else can sell DRM’d materials that will work on an iPod. However, you can put music in other formats on your iPod. While the article is a bit misleading in that respect, it’s accurate for the most part.

    BTW, I for one have no problem with the restrictions that Apple and the record companies put on the music I buy. I use it on my iPod, put it on a computer or 2, burn to CD as a backup, and perhaps burn a CD or 2 here or there for listening in the car or for a friend. I use my tunes in iMovie also. I have never had a problem doing these things.

  4. “Customers don’t seem to care if there are restrictions on the media Steve Jobs sells them”

    That’s because most people never run into those restrictions. I wish there were no DRM but let’s face it, the restrictions on the music are pretty lax.

    People would be complaining if the iPod + iTunes solution wasn’t the best one out there. Over four years later it still is the best solution.

  5. AG Pennypacker,

    There are 2 things I like about buying music online. First is convenience. I want a song now, and I go out and search the title. I find all artists that did that title and can listen to 30 seconds of it to determine if I want it.
    Second, I like the fact that I can buy a single track from an artist without having to purchase an album that I don’t want.

    I do agree with you about the quality. It would be nice to be able to choose the quality of the track you buy. I don’t know that I’d want to store full quality songs on my Mac as I’d run out of room quickly, but the option would be nice.

  6. Cory Doctorow is a very liberal individual concerning DRM. He seems to believe that all DRM is eveil. Apple’s Fairplay is an unfortuneate pact with the devel (the music recording companies).

  7. DRM is bad for consumers as it restricts choice, but on the other hand rampant piracy is bad for the producers of content which should be rewarded for their efforts.

    I think Apple does a marvolous job balanacing the needs of both consumers and the creators.

    Apple doesn’t totally lock a person into their DRM scheme, I got several thousand iTMS purchased songs and it only took a few hours and a stack of cds to burn them all to audio format. Of course with iTunes 5 I was able to use JHymn to simply convert all that I had at the time in a matter of minutes.

    Ripping of course would take another few hours and the “Get CD track names” feature of iTunes will fill in most of the metadata.

    The piracy will of now of course reach new levels, with people being able to swap ENTIRE GENRES with the simple exchange of a iPod.

    So overall I say piracy has reached a new level because of the iPod and iTMS, but so has bringing more people into buying and appreciating paid music, instead of that tired canned RIAA agenda stuff the radio stations are playing.

    I save so much time simply using iTMS than searching AllofMP3.com and the PirateBay, I’m doing right by the artists (their contracts with the bloodsucking labels is their fault, not mine) and I get a clean copy of the music. It’s mine, I played the system, I sleep well at night knowing my machine is clean.

    I even got rid of all the porn. God I hope I don’t have to go to church now too. 🙁

  8. DRM is bad for consumers as it restricts choice, but on the other hand rampant piracy is bad for the producers of content which should be rewarded for their efforts.

    I think Apple does a marvolous job balanacing the needs of both consumers and the creators.

    Apple doesn’t totally lock a person into their DRM scheme, I got several thousand iTMS purchased songs and it only took a few hours and a stack of cds to burn them all to audio format. Of course with iTunes 5 I was able to use JHymn to simply convert all that I had at the time in a matter of minutes.

    Ripping of course would take another few hours and the “Get CD track names” feature of iTunes will fill in most of the metadata.

    The piracy will of now of course reach new levels, with people being able to swap ENTIRE GENRES with the simple exchange of a iPod.

    So overall I say piracy has reached a new level because of the iPod and iTMS, but so has bringing more people into buying and appreciating paid music, instead of that tired canned RIAA agenda stuff the radio stations are playing.

    I save so much time simply using iTMS than searching AllofMP3.com and the PirateBay, I’m doing right by the artists (their contracts with the bloodsucking labels is their fault, not mine) and I get a clean copy of the music. It’s mine, I played the system, I sleep well at night knowing my machine is clean.

    I even got rid of all the porn. God I hope I don’t have to go to church now too. 🙁

  9. The DRM technology Apple uses is no more restrictive than that used by any other media service involved in the same business and was required by the media conglomerates as a prerequisite of licensing. The DMCA that imposes draconian penalties for breaking DRM schemes is the product of lobbying by the same media conglomerates and a business-friendly and consumer-hostile Republican Congress. How is any of that Apple’s fault?

    DRM is the son of two parents, greedy media companies and thieving consumers. I call the media conglomerates greedy because they are in all of their business practices, from the way they treat artists through the distribution chain to the end user. I call some consumers thieving because they stole billions of dollars worth of music and video content that they did not own or pay for through file sharing enablers like the original Napster and others.

    I would prefer a world without DRM but I doubt that cheap, greedy and inconsiderate people will ever let that happen. The principle of fair use as established by the BetaMax case back in the 1980’s would be the best possible path, but the rubicon has been crossed.

    How is that Apple’s fault?

  10. The DRM technology Apple uses is no more restrictive than that used by any other media service involved in the same business and was required by the media conglomerates as a prerequisite of licensing. The DMCA that imposes draconian penalties for breaking DRM schemes is the product of lobbying by the same media conglomerates and a business-friendly and consumer-hostile Republican Congress. How is any of that Apple’s fault?

    DRM is the son of two parents, greedy media companies and thieving consumers. I call the media conglomerates greedy because they are in all of their business practices, from the way they treat artists through the distribution chain to the end user. I call some consumers thieving because they stole billions of dollars worth of music and video content that they did not own or pay for through file sharing enablers like the original Napster and others.

    I would prefer a world without DRM but I doubt that cheap, greedy and inconsiderate people will ever let that happen. The principle of fair use as established by the BetaMax case back in the 1980’s would be the best possible path, but the rubicon has been crossed.

    How is that Apple’s fault?

  11. The music labels and publishers demanded a way to control the music Apple offered to sell online. The music labels and publishers demanded a DRM scheme in order for the selling to happen.

    Why do people accuse or blame Apple for DRM?

    It is TOTALLY AND ABOSLUTELY the other way around.

    Apple supplied what thier customer DEMANDED. Not the other way around.

    Writers, columists and reporters are just incompetent at their profession. Whether tech or any other news.

    Good God. I’m sick of it.

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