In what will certainly be remembered as a watershed moment in the world of technology, Steve Jobs Tuesday posted his thoughts on DRM and claimed that abolishing DRM forever "the best alternative for consumers" and that Apple would "embrace it in a heartbeat." Big thinking from the CEO of the largest distributor of digital music in the world.
In "Thoughts on Music" an unusally candid and open Jobs discusses three different alternatives for the future of DRM:
- Continue on the current course,
- License its FairPlay DRM technology, or
- Abolish DRMs entirely
Larry Dignan has done a great job of covering this already (even digging into Jobs' motivation) so I won't here again, but some interesting new developments have happened since the Jobs' missive.
- The Norwegian Consumer Council has weighed in on Jobs' opinion of the state of DRM, stating that "Apple... should be addressing the issue of record companies and DRM themselves if it needs to be addressed."
- The RIAA's Mitch Bainwol has endorsed licensing FairPlay to other manufacturers.
- Zune marketing director Jason Reindorp, referred to abolishing DRM as "irresponsible, or at the very least naïve"
- Jon Johansen, a.k.a DVD Jon of DeCSS fame, has reponded with a series of blog entries in part that Jobs is "using bogus arguments to support his claim" that licensing FairPlay is not feasible. "Licensing FairPlay is quite feasible, it’s just that Steve doesn’t want to do so."
Jobs clearly lays the blame for iTunes DRM at the record label's doorstep, but the question comes down to why he's saying it now. Did Jobs have a bona fide epiphany on DRM all of a sudden? Or is pressure from European customers starting to get to him?
Personally, I'm anti-DRM to the highest order. I want to be able to play my music on whatever hardware that I want, whenever I want. I've only purchased a few albums on iTunes (damn exclusives!) and opt for DRM-free CDs whenever possible. But at the same time, as a publisher I understand the need to protect your content.
Where do you stand on the DRM issue? Would we be better off if the labels released their death grip on music in the interest of technological progress? Or would chaos ensue?