The EU's ongoing joust with iTunes

In what some articles have characterized as an EU that has backed down over iTunes, Meglena Kuneva, EU Commissioner for Consumer Protection, re-characterized her previous words that chastised Apple over its closed DRM model as merely a means by which to start the debate over ways "to develop this market and to have more consumers enjoying the really very important, very modern way of downloading and enjoying the music.

In what some articles have characterized as an EU that has backed down over iTunes, Meglena Kuneva, EU Commissioner for Consumer Protection, re-characterized her previous words that chastised Apple over its closed DRM model as merely a means by which to start the debate over ways "to develop this market and to have more consumers enjoying the really very important, very modern way of downloading and enjoying the music." She also dismissed comparisons of Apple to Microsoft, noting that Apple's share of the market is not very large. I presume she means Apple's computer market share is not very large. I wish Microsoft could point to their portable music player share (an area where Apple's share IS very large) as reason for the EC to call off their antitrust attack dogs.

Slight diversion aside, the cause of all this ruckus was Ms. Kuneva making a sharp point of the fact that we wouldn't accept CDs that didn't play on every device. That point was always a bit odd, however, as its like pointing out that doors in the middle ages rarely had locks as reason to oppose the proliferation of locks on doors. CDs weren't ever designed with the Internet in mind, where ripped music files can be sent around the world as easily as email.

Yes, CDs lack DRM protections, but that does not mean it is the way god intended music to be distributed. Call it an accident of history, though its worth noting that if one DRM scheme became the norm (just as one digital CD format became the norm), the compatibility issue wouldn't exist. CD technology is proprietary technology licensed for a fee, and DVD technology is equally proprietary AND uses DRM (albeit a very bad one which has long since been cracked).

Of course, those formats are licensed to many companies, and FairPlay, the leading DRM technology in use today, can only be used by one company - Apple. On the other hand, Apple has every right to do that, just as printer manufacturers have every right to create printers that only accept cartridges made by them, or from a consumer standpoint, you have every right to tell Apple to take a hike and continue to buy CDs.

That's what I do. I don't buy DRM-protected music, and won't until I have some of the universality guarantees that I have with CDs. The difference between me and a person like David Berlind, however (who has coined an alternative name for DRM, C.R.A.P.), is that I'm not philosophically opposed to the principle of DRM. I'm just opposed to the idea that I can't play my music wherever I want.

If no one can solve the problem of DRM universality, then I will continue to avoid media that uses it. If, however, a solution is found, perhaps through the adoption of a universal DRM standard, I will embrace DRM-protected music in a heartbeat.

There are benefits to a universal DRM scheme. Musicians working out of their home who lack access to lawyers or expensive physical media distribution networks can make money from their creations, which otherwise could only be distributed for free. I'm not, however, willing to be trapped in the middle as the format war continues unabated. Sorry, garage bands of the future, you will just have to wait.

Newsletters

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
See All
See All