BBC columnist doesn’t believe Steve Jobs’ Apple would stop using DRM if music labels would allow it

After making perfectly clear that he is upset that Apple gets much press coverage and that David Mitchell and Robert Webb are appearing in the UK versions of Apple’s “Get a Mac” ad campaign, BBC News’ columnist Bill Thompson writes, “Jobs also said that Apple would stop using DRM in an instant if they could. I don’t believe him.”

Thompson writes, “Whether it’s music, films, text or software, a DRM’d file will limit your ability to play, copy, transfer or take extracts from the material. Fairplay [sic] is applied to any song downloaded from the iTunes Music Store and built into every iPod ever shipped.”

MacDailyNews Take: FairPlay is applied to any song downloaded from the iTunes Music Store and built into every iPod ever shipped as dictated by the music labels.

Thompson continues, “Apple has refused to license it to any other service or hardware manufacturer and as a result songs bought from Apple can only be played on PCs and Macs running iTunes, and iPods. (Let’s forget about the Apple/Motorola phone, shall we?).”

MacDailyNews Take: Let’s forget about the Motorola iTunes phones because they totally obliterate Thompson’s rant. Three months ago, Cingular announced that they had sold more than one million iTunes-capable phones. Over one million FairPlay-licensed devices sold, but let’s just forget about that fact, okay?

Thompson continues, “It’s a closed market, one that has attracted the attention of regulators around the world who fear that it could also be an example of unfair market manipulation.”

MacDailyNews Take: Regulators who don’t seem to understand how both the iPod and iTunes Store work. Apple’s iPod does not require iTunes Store use and Apple’s iTunes Store does not require iPod use. It’s not a “closed market.”

Thompson continues, “In his post Jobs said that Apple only implemented DRM because the record companies made them do it, and that they were unwilling to license Fairplay because it would make it easier for skilled crackers to break the protection.”

“This ignores the fact that some of the music on the iTunes store is also available without FairPlay or indeed DRM of any sort from other, less restrictive, services like eMusic,” Thompson writes. “It also ignores the reality that Microsoft’s widely licensed system has been cracked the same number of times as Fairplay, so the evidence would seem to indicate that Jobs fears are not justified.”

MacDailyNews Take: Does Thompson report that Apple’s contracts with the music labels allow for DRM-free music sales? No. Does Thompson understand that Apple’s FairPlay DRM works differently than Microsoft’s DRM and therefore cannot be compared in terms of potential DRM compromises if widely licensed to other companies? No.

Thompson continues, “If Apple switched off Fairplay then they would probably sell a lot more songs, on which they make very little money, and a lot fewer iPods, on which they make a lot.”

MacDailyNews Take: If Apple switched off FairPlay, it would also be switched off on iPods. Since each iPod sold on average contains only 20 or so iTunes Store-purchased tracks, obviously the iTunes Store is not driving iPod’s success. iPod dominates the market, so why would a tiny minority of the market that owns a handful of also-ran digital music players cause Apple to sell a lot more songs via their iTunes Store? Thompson’s statement is illogical. If Apple switched off FairPlay then they might actually sell a few less songs, on which they make very little money, as iPod owners begin to sample other services – if other services also switch off their Microsoft DRM. iPod sales would be unaffected because people buy iPods for many other reasons than iTunes Store compatibility (user interface, ability to play tracks ripped from CDs, vehicle integration, robust accessory market, etc.)

Thompson continues, “But Jobs can see which way the wind is blowing, and he can see that the record companies are finally tiring of their painful, expensive and ultimately unsatisfactory relationship with DRM… Jobs has to position Apple for this brave new world, and he knows that his charisma is such that if he rushes to the head of queue and claims to be leading the charge then some, at least, will believe him. Sadly he’s likely to be crushed under foot by those who really understand the music business and didn’t sell their souls to the record companies back in the days when they believed in DRM.”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: How is Jobs likely to be crushed under foot when he doesn’t want DRM, has never wanted DRM, wants to sell DRM-free music and players, and who has proven that he’s the one who really understands the music business better than anybody? Thompson makes no sense.

Related articles:
BBC integrity questioned, accused of promoting Microsoft and Windows Vista – February 09, 2007
EMI may sell entire music catalog DRM-free – February 09, 2007
Norway responds to Apple CEO Jobs’ call for DRM-free music – February 09, 2007
Recording Industry Association of America wants their DRM, calls for Apple to license FairPlay – February 08, 2007
Warner’s Middlebronfman: Jobs’ DRM-free music call ‘without logic and merit, we’ll not abandon DRM’ – February 08, 2007
Dvorak: Apple CEO Steve Jobs is dead right about DRM – February 07, 2007
Apple’s Jobs jolts music industry; Zune exec calls Jobs’ call for DRM-free music ‘irresponsible’ – February 07, 2007
Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ posts rare open letter: ‘Thoughts on Music’ – calls for DRM-free music – February 06, 2007
Cingular Exec says over one million Apple iTunes-capable phones sold, comments on iPhone, more – November 02, 2006

51 Comments

  1. Face it, this jerkoff writes for the BBC.

    Enough said.

    I speak as someone who pays the licence fee (aka tax) for this broadcaster. ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”cool mad” style=”border:0;” />

  2. The Beeb is the British equivalent of CBS News. Their “news stories” are for sale to the highest bidder regardless of whether or not there is actually any truth to them or not…

  3. “Jobs also said that Apple would stop using DRM in an instant if they could. I don’t believe him.”

    Typical BBC, if the facts don’t measure up to your opinion, simply make things up.

    Repeat the Mantra – BBC Technology is owned by Siemens, a Windows-biased company and as such, any tech related news coming from be BBC cannot be trusted free of that bias.

  4. MDN said: “Does Thompson understand that Apple’s FairPlay DRM works differently than Microsoft’s DRM and therefore cannot be compared in terms of potential DRM compromises if widely licensed to other companies? No.”

    So does this mean that FairPlay is more vulnerable, perhaps in a sense worse, than Microsoft’s DRM? It “works differently,” differently in terms of being easier to crack seems the only way to cash that out.

  5. Wow, talk about the lack of memory. Back in the wild and wooly days before the iTMS, what did we have? A wilderness with crappy online music stores run by the majors, and various P2P sites. It was Steve’s reasonable compromise that brought legitimate downloads into widespread use. What a d*uchebag.

  6. I’m so glad that I haven’t handed over my TV licensing fee to the BBC preferring instead to watch TV in a bunker craftily concealed underneath my house which is well stocked with tins of beans but has no carpets.

    Hah! They can go and whistle if they want my money!

  7. Wow, it’s an issue which isn’t 100% black and white. Who would have thought that different parties would have different opinions on the matter, or would have different fears as to what they could lose or gain if DRM changed or was done away with?

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