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Just when we thought we’d seen it all, Steve Jobs says, in so many words, “Free The Music.” iTunes Store music without restrictions? What would that mean?
Here’s what happened. Apple’s CEO, Steve Jobs, in a totally untypical letter to the world, asked the music industry to remove the copy restrictions placed in online music downloads.
When you download music from the iTunes Store (and most other online music download services), the music contains DRM, digital rights management, which places restrictions on copying.
Apple’s DRM protected music allows iTunes Store songs on up to five personal computers, Mac or Windows, an unlimited number of iPods. For most customers, those restrictions are mostly non-restrictive, and a big reason why the iTunes Store commands a nearly 80-percent market share.
Steve’s letter to the world explains the reasons behind Apple’s DRM, why some would like to see DRM removed from online music sales, and offers a few alternatives.
Surprisingly, one of the alternatives is an appeal to the music industry to remove all such restrictions of online music downloads. Free the music.
His argument points out that only about 3-percent of all music on iPods today comes from the iTunes Store and is burdened with DRM restrictions; hardly sufficient to call an iPod user “locked in” to the iTunes Store.
That argument is a bit disingenuous. On average, yes, 3-percent. For my iPod, it’s 30-percent. For many iPods owners, the percentage will be zero. For many others, the percent of music on their iPods that was downloaded from the iTunes Store may be much higher.
For all intents and purposes, that creates a “locked in” situation. I’m not likely to move to a SanDisk Sansa player, because 30-percent of my music won’t make the move.
Regardless, Steve says licensing Apple’s DRM, called FairPlay, is probably not going to happen. So, what’s the suggestion to end the hand-wringing by music executives over DRM, iTunes Store growth, and the damage to their salaries and bonuses?
Steve Jobs, in so many words, is calling on the music industry to remove DRM requirements from the 10-percent of music not sold on CDs—music sold in online stores, such as iTunes Store and others.
None other than techno media pundit John Dvorak agrees with Steve Jobs and offers reasons why.
Why? Why should Apple promote the removal of DRM? How does Apple benefit? Will the music industry grow again? Will Apple remain the online music leader, or will powerhouse competitors emerge?
Apple has a lock on the online music marketplace. What’s the benefit to removing Apple’s DRM, and replacing it with music that can be downloaded and played on any music player?