As they say, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. There’s also more than one way to pay taxes.
I’m beginning to feel I’m being skinned and paying more in taxes. Apple taxes. Is the Apple EMI DRM deal the latest example? It could be.
Here’s the skinny. EMI, one of the big five record companies worldwide, will offer DRM-free music to online stores, including Apple’s iTunes Store.
DRM is “digital rights management” which is another term for copy protection. When you buy music from the iTunes Store there are some restrictions on where the music can be played.
Apple’s DRM is called FairPlay and is included in most songs, singles or albums purchased from iTunes Store. EMI’s deal gives buyers more choices.
Without gumming up the day in details, the quality of the music you purchase from iTunes Store is nominal though acceptable to most buyers, and the copy protection restrictions modest, yet pervasive.
EMI plans to remove such restrictions, allow for an increase in the quality of the music purchased and downloaded, and charge about 30-percent more for the privilege.
In short, the iTunes Store, for music from EMI, would have a two-tiered structure. Buy music as you have been with FairPlay DRM, including the modest copy protection restrictions, get average playback quality, and pay 99-cents per song.
Or, move your music purchases to the higher tier, you get music without DRM, higher quality encoding rate, and pay $1.29 per song. Not bad, huh?
Why is this change taking place? Remember, for the most part, we live in a capitalistic society, so the driving current is money.
The recording companies want more. Apple wants more. You need to be prepared to have less.
Apple, EMI, many independent music labels, and various and sundry media pundits predict that music sales with go up if music can be sold without copy protections schemes and restrictions.
The rest of the music industry wants more DRM, digital rights management, and higher prices for music purchased online. What we have with this announcement is a compromise with a common denominator. Higher prices.
Apparently, Apple will make this two-tiered approach available to major and independent music labels. If EMI’s sales go up in any dramatic fashion, expect the rest of the music industry to follow the two-tiered money trail and remove DRM, too.
In other words, you’ll be able to go to the iTunes Store to shop for music—higher audio quality music will cost you more money and come with no copy restrictions. Otherwise, it’s purchase as you have been with the same quality and restrictions.
The DRM paradox continues. Music on CDs will continue to be available with no copy restrictions, but that movies on DVDs will continue to have copy restrictions (you can’t easily copy a DVD to your Mac or PC for playback via iTunes or AppleTV).
In summary, higher quality and more freedom to move my music to the player of my choice (hint: not iTunes, not an iPod) will cost me more money.
I suspect that some buyers will convert all their iTunes purchases to the new, higher quality format, but that most won’t bother because the iTunes and iPod duo is just fine for both quality and cost. Either way, Apple wins, EMI wins, and many music lovers and buyers will pay a new tax.
What of movies on DVDs? Most are copy protected and can’t easily be copied to iTunes for inclusion in AppleTV. Apple needs to address the movie copy protection issue with DVDs and the DVR/digital video recorder function that doesn’t exist in AppleTV.
There are more taxes yet for me to pay.