The beginning of the end of DRM?

The beginning of the end of DRM?

Summary: 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.

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TOPICS: IT Employment
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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:
  1. Continue on the current course,
  2. License its FairPlay DRM technology, or
  3. 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?

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  • Jobs is such a liar

    Taken from his blog:
    [i]Apple has concluded that if it licenses FairPlay to others, it [b]can no longer guarantee[/b] to protect the music it licenses from the big four music companies.[/i]

    Fair enough. Of course, the measure of honesty in the statement depends on how good a job FairPlay does in protecting the music from the big four music companies. After all, Jobs is stating above that he [b]currently[/b] guarentees that FairPlay protects the music Apple licenses and any change in FairPlay could affect the guarentee that Jobs [b]currently[/b] gives to the big four music companies. Let's see what Jobs himself thinks about the quality of his own guarentee:
    [i]The simplest answer is because DRMs haven?t worked, and may never work, to halt music piracy.[/i]

    Huh? So Jobs says he can't license FairPlay because then he could [b]no longer guarentee[/b] that his FairPlay DRM would continue to protect the music he licenses but then he says that no DRM has ever protected music?

    Jobs is a liar. He is a liar because he states that he can't license FairPlay because it would destroy the guarentee he gives to the evil record company while at the same time admitting that his guarentee isn't worth the kleenex he blows his nose with. Disgusting.

    Queue all the Apple zealots.
    NonZealot
    • *shakes head*

      You are putting words into his mouth. What he is saying is DRM as a whole has not stopped piracy at all. Not FairPLay itself, but every DRM out there. Since only 10% of the worlds music has DRM, all the rest of the music out there is easily pirated if the people that have it choose to do so. He does not say that DRM's don't work because they are too easily broken and then pirated.
      Stuka
    • Did you read Steve J's message?

      Either you didn't read the same post I did, or you didn't understand it. He states that at present, FairPlay prevents direct copying of protected AAC files TO THE RIAA's SATISFACTION, and it is APPLE's RESPONSIBILITY to maintain that "protection". Apple can do that under the current scheme. If FairPlay is licensed to Apple's competitors, Apple has no way to control how well or poorly they will guard the necessary secrets -- and Apple will STILL be responsible. That would be a Very Bad Thing for Apple, and Steve Jobs is right to refuse. However, Apple's responsibility ENDS with preventing direct copying of FairPlay protected AAC files. Steve J's remarks about DRM being useless were in a wider context in which copying of AAC files is one of the smallest risks.

      He's right, too; DRM IS useless for its stated purpose. Even if the RIAA, MPAA and all the rest of the alphabet soup tyrants achieved their dreams and every commercially distributed image and sound was locked down tight with bulletproof encryption from the disk surface to the screen and speaker it wouldn't be enough. At some point all those secret bits have to be turned back into images and sounds or they're useless, and there are ways to record images and sounds. Quality would be reduced, but THAT DOESN'T MATTER to average consumers - they chose VHS over Beta and bought millions of cassette tapes with truly awful sound. Anybody determined to make copies would still be able to do so, and the honchos in charge have to be aware of that.

      So if DRM can never do what they claim they want it for, why are they still pushing it? I'm not sure, but look at what they've done in the past:

      They tried to ban cassette tape recorders.
      They tried to ban video tape recorders.
      They succeeded in putting enough restrictions on DAT recorders that hardly anybody ever used 'em.

      I think that when DRM fails as they know it will, they will claim that it's not enough. They will demand that every High Definition video camera, DVD recorder, and computer incorporate DRM "to keep them from being used to pirate movies", and THEY will hold the keys. Meaning you'll have to get their permission to record your kid's birthday party. Independent filmmakers? "Oops - that key was used to pirate movies in Bangladesh so it's been invalidated. We'll get you another one Real Soon Now."
      -------------------------
      Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!!
      Imaginos1892
    • No zealotry needed

      Your logic and interpretation of Jobs' letter is flawed.

      If the take-your-media-anywhere consciousness takes off among the population,
      then the number of gadgets will dwarf the number of PCs by a huge amount.
      What Steve Jobs is saying is that just like Windows can't be protected on 200
      million computers, DRM won't be protected on that vast number of iPods, iPhones,
      AppleTVs, etc.

      There are 6 billion humans and the number of devices which each can possess can
      be up to five to ten. There's no way you can protect the DRM secret on that many
      devices. So why waste everyone's time, not to mention frustrate everyone with
      DRM restrictions to begin with.
      YinToYourYang-22527499
    • Thanks for the replies but read the post again

      You are all focusing on Steve's 2nd comment which is that DRM can never protect music. I agree. You agree. Let's sing Kumbaya. My post hilighted the lie that was his 1st comment:
      [i]Apple has concluded that if it licenses FairPlay to others, it can no longer [b]guarantee[/b] to protect the music it licenses from the big four music companies.[/i]

      Emphasis on the word 'guarantee' is mine.

      Here, Steve is saying that up until now, he has guaranteed that FairPlay will protect the music he is licensing. Guarantee it. He then goes on to say that he can't license FairPlay because [b]it would break his guarantee[/b]. Since Steve admits that it is impossible to guarantee that [b]any[/b] DRM system will protect music, he can't use this as an excuse for not licensing FairPlay. The lie isn't that DRM doesn't work. The lie is that he won't license FairPlay because that would break his DRM. Since he already admits that all DRM (including his) is broken, why doesn't he just go ahead and license FairPlay? He is lying about why so we have to assume that the real reason is good for him and bad for you.
      NonZealot
      • AAARRRGGGHH!!

        Again you're not getting it. Apple has a contractural obligation to the record companies to prevent unauthorized copying of FairPlay protected AAC files. They are required to "guarantee" that FairPlay remains secure - AND NOTHING ELSE. Licensing the system to competitors would make that guarantee much harder to keep as their actions are beyond Apple's control. They are NOT guaranteeing that the content will not be copied from other sources, just that FairPlay will not be the weak link. Why do you have such a hard time understanding that distinction?
        ----------------------
        "Relax, Charlie; I've got an ANgle."
        Imaginos1892
        • Who said anything about other sources?

          [i]They are NOT guaranteeing that the content will not be copied from other sources, just that FairPlay will not be the weak link.[/i]

          You are the one who assumes I've ever been thinking of other sources. True, they exist, but I'm talking 100% FairPlay. What is the immediate response you get from Mac zealots when you complain about iTMS DRM?
          [i]What is so hard about burning the songs to CD and ripping them? Its so easy that my technophobic grandmother can do it. That is why iTMS is better than the rest because it is so easy to remove the DRM! GO APPLE!!! M$$$44$4dollar$$ $UX!!![/i]

          FairPlay [b]is[/b] a weak link already. We now know 2 facts:
          1. Jobs [b]guarantees[/b] that FairPlay protects the music it licenses. [b]Guarantees[/b] it!
          2. FairPlay DRM can easily be removed by grandmothers. The Mac zealots guarantee it.

          We can come to 1 of 2 conclusions from those 2 facts:
          1. Jobs is a liar.
          2. Jobs truly believes that FairPlay is 100% efficient at protecting the music he licenses in which case he is a fool.

          Either way, you [b]cannot[/b] trust [b]any[/b] guarantee that Jobs gives you. If he says "I guarantee it" it means "cross your fingers and hope nothing goes wrong!".
          NonZealot
          • Now I see your confusion

            You're not clear on the terms. He means that Apple guarantees that FairPlay
            successfully enforces the restrictions demanded by the record companies and
            agreed to by Apple. The record companies REQUIRE that Apple make that
            guarantee. They have agreed to allow record-on-CD-and-re-import so that is
            NOT a "failure" of FairPlay or Apple's guarantee. They have NOT agreed to allow
            direct copying of AAC files to unauthorized devices, and if such copying occurs
            due to a failure of the FairPlay DRM they can remove all their material from the
            iTunes Store unless Apple fixes it fast. If FairPlay is licensed to other parties that
            Apple has no control over this scenario becomes much more likely.
            -----------------------
            Don't make a fuss, just get on the bus.
            Imaginos1892
          • Is that why the RIAA's response to....

            Job's denouncement of DRM was for Jobs to license it's DRM to it's competitors? Seems they want Apple to license it, so I guess that puts the burden on the labels if something goes wrong. Jobs knew what their response was going to be...clearly.
            xuniL_z
  • Steve's just trying to get credit here

    I think you over-rate Steve's influence here. While it is true that this is what he's been saying all along (go back to the initial interviews when the iTunes store launched, he repeatedly says DRM is bad, won't ever work and is only there because the RIAA demanded it), he seems to have made this big public splash in an effort to take credit for what's already happening. The RIAA companies are already well down the road to abandoning DRM.
    http://tinyurl.com/yqqefu

    By making this big gesture, Steve gets to claim to be the great liberator. Don't believe the hype.
    tic swayback
    • What hype?

      What a rediculous claim, that "a business person does something so publicly in order
      to draw attention to himself". Steve Jobs does what he does for his business.

      If all you see is the man, then you have a problem.
      YinToYourYang-22527499
      • Is this your first encounter with Steve?

        Seriously, I'm as big an Apple fanboy as you'll find here, but the man is an egomaniac. Ask anyone who's worked with him.

        ---Steve Jobs does what he does for his business.---

        A lot of Apple's appeal is due to their image as "the good guys". Think how valuable it would be to Apple's business if music buyers saw them as the David who slew the Goliath of DRM.
        tic swayback
  • Queue all the Apple zealots.

    That is exactly what this "stunt" is all about. Apple pretending to be good and just a pawn of the music industry at a time when they are under scrutiny for their dominance of the player/store music market.

    To a certain extent Jobs is right, but his motives are very self serving. Though none of the Apple fan boys will admit to that. They live in another world where Stevey boy is always right and true and all is good in the world, as long as it's white.
    Oknarf
    • Queue all the zealot zealots

      Given that there are more people on ZDNet obsessed with Apple Zealots than there are Apple Zealots, you are in good company. Not sure why you Windows users are so obsessed with us Mac Fanboys, or why you need to post ten times more posts about us than we actually post, but hey, at least you have a hobby.
      tic swayback
      • I've thought that myself

        There's what? 4 maybe 5 Mac posters that regularly post and declare they use a Mac. Then there is about 9 anti-mac zealots that troll these site looking for these 4 or 5 posters. It's really bizarre if you ask me.
        voska
        • Because . . .

          They are:

          1) Bored.

          2) living in their parents' basement, and they've run out of porn to download.
          jlhenry62
    • Little thinkers

      You can't know what lays outside of your cave if you never venture outside of it.
      And so, everyone who has a spasm whenever Steve Jobs does something, is, as
      usual, thinking in their small boxes--making knee-jerk statements and not
      thinking things all the way through.

      Apple makes its lion's share of profits selling iPods while the music companies
      make it from the sale of songs through iTunes. So, why is Apple exclusively
      responsible for DRM when DRM doesn't affect iPod sales? I don't get it.

      While we're at it, since we're all such unbiased thinkers in these anonymous
      settings, why not insist that Xbox games play on Nintendo? Or Canon batteries
      work on Nikon? Or WalMart movies work on Macs?
      YinToYourYang-22527499
  • 3% of peope's mp3s are DRMed

    according to Steve Jobs, and I have no reason to doubt him.
    It certainly looks like he's right about DRM being pointless.

    If so, then Vista will look like a white elephant. In the UK (not sure about elsewhere) environmental organisations have criticised Vista because it wastes a lot of CPU power checking for stolen content.

    I'm pretty much of a fence sitter. I don't mind paying for music, but I won't buy DRM music (not after my experiences with MSN Music Club).
    But then I don't buy or listen to much music anymore. I used to, but there seems to be so many other things to do now.

    It seems to me that DRM is firmly entrenched in Video Games console games like Xbox360 and PS2/ PS3, but no where else particularily. DVDs are, but the encryption is so weak, it's easy to "rip" DVDs, not to mention the other ways of copying eg: camera in cinema and so on.

    The adage that "illegal" or people watching non-DRM content get a much better experience than those watching DRM content.
    Apparently you can fast forward, there's no FDA notice, you can put the video onto your handheld or mobile phone to watch it later, no commercials you can't skip.

    It's pointless MPAA and RIAA offering their wares through DRM if hardly anyone will buy them in this format.

    It seems to me that movies, music and even games to a large extent are increasingly hard to make money from.
    The shipped volumes for all new consoles including wii seem a bit small to me. It could be the new generation happened too soon, or the hugely expensive games that are getting 5/10 in reviews.

    My kids seemed to be fairly uninterested in most games, then I got some classics like Zelda, Pokemon Colosseum and so on. These captured their interest for quite some time, but far and away most games are finished with in a couple of days, and never played again. Classics like zelda are very seldom seen.
    stevey_d
    • Re: 3% of peope's mp3s are DRMed

      [i]The adage that "illegal" or people watching non-DRM content get a much better experience than those watching DRM content.
      [/i]

      That is too true. I rip all DVDs I buy for that very reason. Yes, it's illegal and yes, I'm a criminal. But I'm not doing anyhing immoral, inappropriate or unjust. I'm not violating anybody's rights and I'm not stealing anything.


      :)
      none none
      • Same here

        I don't do it, yet. But the second I get a DVD burner I'm going strip the DRM off all my DVDs and get rid of those STUPID previews they don't allow you to skip.

        A preview is cool but come on, I have discs that are 5 years old the previews are useless now but I still can't skip them. I have to fast forward through them. What a pain.
        voska