NY Times writer tars and feathers Apple iPhone, but he’s really railing against DRM

“Steve Jobs, Apple’s showman nonpareil, provided the first public glimpse of the iPhone last week — gorgeous, feature-laden and pricey. While following the master magician’s gestures, it was easy to overlook a most disappointing aspect: like its slimmer iPod siblings, the iPhone’s music-playing function will be limited by factory-installed ‘crippleware,'” Randall Stross writes for The New York Times.

Stross writes, “It is Apple’s own copy-protection software itself that cripples the device… Apple officially calls its own standard ‘FairPlay,’ but fair it is not.”

Full article here.
Stross is really criticizing DRM in his article, which makes the headline “Want an iPhone? Beware the iHandcuffs” curious at best. Only Apple’s iTunes works for both Mac users and Windows sufferers. So, why do Microsoft’s various DRM schemes handcuff users of also-ran content outfits solely to Windows? Apple’s FairPlay DRM is one of, if not the most, inclusive available today.

We wish DRM didn’t exist. Apple doesn’t need it: the iPod, iTunes, and the forthcoming iPhone are each plenty strong enough to appeal to large swaths of consumers on their own merits. Plus, DRM is so easily removed, that it’s pointless. The mass pirates, about whom the music labels are supposedly worried, aren’t going to let a little DRM get in their way, so the only people that DRM is affecting are regular, law-abiding consumers who just want to listen to their music. Thankfully, Apple’s iTunes Store does allow music to be burned without DRM to music CD to be played in CD players and/or transferred to any device they desire.

We are all for selling music without DRM. Hopefully, someday we’ll get there. But, to single out Apple’s iPhone is nothing more than a cheap shot by Stross and The New York Times.

Contact info: letters@nytimes.com

Related articles:
The massive FUD campaign against Apple’s iPhone ramps up – January 10, 2007
Apple’s vs. Microsoft’s music DRM: whose solution supports more users? – August 17, 2005


  1. Remind me to take a pass on Stross’s upcoming book. I can’t imagine spending that much time reading spewings from someone whose reasoning is so clouded.

    If he thinks this piece will flog his book, he’s on the wrong train.

  2. My Honda can’t use 20-inch wheels, my refrigerator is only 18 cubic feet, my bank isn’t open 24-hours a day, and my grocer refuses to stock my favorite brand of tamales. It’s not just Apple, Randall, you have just scratched the surface of the insidious collaboration of capitalistic moguls to destroy human rights by addicting people to commercial products and services then withholding access to self determination and freedom of expression. The whole world economic system is conspiring to limit my God-given autonomy to do everything I want when I want to do it.

  3. It reminds me of the hard plastic wrapping around everything you buy (batteries, headphones, etc.) nowadays, does it really stop anyone from stealing the product?? No it only hurts (literally) the guy who buys the thing and cuts himself trying to open it.

    Should I blame Apple?

  4. He ought to really look at the restrictions on Mirosoft’s Zune and media download software. Teir DRM is applied to data that you own from other sources including movies and music that you make. I have heard nothing from the technical or mainstream press about this. I guess it would require work to find this out. Journalists and Analysts today are people who can’t get real jobs.

    Magic word: written – Little writen today is of any value

  5. I generally agree with MDN’s take except for one point:

    The artists that are available from independent labels (on eMusic) WITHOUT Digital Restrictions (it isn’t Rights, as the guy says) Management in plain vanilla mp3 and also on the iTunes Music Store. At iTMS, however, Apple adds Fairplay DRM when the label isn’t insisting on it.

    Now it may be that the big labels insist that they will only list their stuff if everybody else has DRM (which is probably illegal), and Apple went along.

    Apple could push this, and they haven’t. Now the big labels still need a major attitude adjustment, so maybe now isn’t the time for this, but it is an issue.

  6. The NY Times article was written by Randall Stross. He’s got a footnote at the bottom of BOTH pages of his two-page article pitching his soon-to-be-released book “The Wizard of Menlo Park: How Thomas Alva Edison Invented the Modern World”. There… I just gave him some more free publicity.

    Stross is doing the same thing as John Dvorak does: writing something that is the computer-equivalent of “there is only one True Religion and yours ain’t it.” Then a whole bunch of the Mac Faithful will send him e-mails full of explitives. Then he’ll write ANOTHER article about how Mac users are a bunch of mindless zealots.

    Stross is just another writer looking for his next nickel. IGNORE him.

  7. This is the sentence that appalled me:

    “You are always going to have to buy Apple stuff. Forever and ever. Because your iTunes will not play on anyone else’s hardware.”

    Oh please. Your iTunes software will work on Mac or PCs. “You” don’t ever have to purchase a song or video from the iTunes Music STORE to use iTunes. And “my” iTunes music will play on any hardware if I take just a moment to put it into the appropriate format.

    Most users are importing most of their music from CDs and all of that music remains unrestricted. Personally, I love the Apple Store and I have bought very few physical CDs since its inception. As I review my music budget each month, I thank Apple again that I have the option of buying one or two songs instead of an entire album of fluff.

    My MDN word is “followed” and I can’t help being suspicious that Mr. Stross followed somebody’s payoff in writing this article. That’s preferable, I suppose, to thinking that he’s just stupid.

    I like the NY Times, web and print (I like to try out that analogue-paper technology on Sundays like today) but this level of research and commentary is just embarassing.

  8. This is retarded. DRM only applies to media perchased in iTunes and not any of the other music or video you have. I think most people have far more media that they ripped from their current music library than what they purchased. If you don’t want DRM on the music you purchase buy the CD and rip it! You have a great backup and you can rip it at lossless compression if you want that super high quality. DRM is not really a issue unless you really really want to make it one.

  9. Hmmm, don’t see you attacking the Times when Pogue’s articles appear.

    The Sunday Business section of the Times is more right-leaning than the rest of the paper, with Republican operative Ben Stein attacking Steve Jobs last week. I don’t know why they publish Stross, who’s based out of New Mexico or some such place. He must be a friend of the Sunday Business editor is what I figure.

    And Macster1, I’d like to see you insult a New Yorker to his or her face.

  10. Let’s not forget that Stross has a personal axe to grind here. Steve wouldn’t talk to him when he wrote his hatchet-job book “Steve Jobs and the NeXT Big Thing”, and it was an utterly lousy book, consisting mostly of diatribes from ex-employees.

    As for DRM, if it were up to ANY hardware maker, there would be no such thing. It’s a nuisance to design and implement it, and it drives the costs of the hardware up.


  11. MDN’s take is right on for this one.

    This fabulous article would have to be called lying by omission.

    I still can’t fathom why journalists coninue to blame Apple for the “iHandcuffs” created by the music companies. But they have fill column space with “human interest” stories….

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