Who's to blame for Apple's C.R.A.P.?

Who's to blame for Apple's C.R.A.P.?

Summary: In two recent articles (Note to recording artists: Just say "no" to Apple and GM, Ford, Mazda to drive acceptance of Apple's C.R.

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TOPICS: Apple
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In two recent articles (Note to recording artists: Just say "no" to Apple and GM, Ford, Mazda to drive acceptance of Apple's C.R.A.P.), David Berlind once again rails against Apple and their reticence to license their FairPlay DRM technology. 

David's 'shining' example in the first case is France -- who wants to force Apple to share it's DRM technology.  Sounds good, right?  This is the same country who, along with the rest of the EU, forced Microsoft to release an EU 'version' of Windows which European consumers don't even want.

In the second case, David complains that US Automakers are making their cars iPod-friendly by putting in iPod compatible cables.  Nothing about their offerings preclude the use of other vendor's players.  After all, it can't be all that hard for other vendors to reverse engineer those iPod cables so their players would work too!  But they don't seem all that willing to do so.  Why is that?

Companies like Apple and Microsoft become virtual monopolies because they provide products that people want more than they want products from other vendors.  Should vendors be scrutinized so they do not use their leverage to keep others out of the marketplace?  Absolutely -- but as far as I can tell, there are LOTS of music players on the market to compete against iPods.  Most are less expensive than Apple's offering and most use Microsoft's DRM technology.  Guess what?  Consumers don't want Microsoft's DRM -- or those lame players.  They want an iPod! 

Force apple to compete on an equal footing with Microsoft and the unintended consequence is Microsoft being the music-player monopolist instead of Apple.  Is this such a good outcome? 

David points to Apple's control over your choice of players -- now and in the future -- and he even criticizes Apple's influence over the recording industry to keep music prices LOW even though the industry wants to RAISE YOUR PRICES.  (What's wrong with this picture?) 

His title even suggests that recording artists should boycott Apple but the artists have very little influence over any of this.  Sure, should Apple turn malevolent (a trait many would assign to the RIAA), this could get ugly for consumers but nothing in Apple's past suggests that this is likely to come about.  Microsoft, on the other hand, is notorious for pushing the envelope once it gains a competitive advantage. 

On the other side of this battle is the RIAA -- who used their formidable lobbying efforts to get DRM technology written into the Digital Millennium Copyright Act -- and who now wants to use their considerable clout to raise your music prices! 

I sympathize with David's objections to DRM and in many respects I share them but who is really to blame for Apple's DRM?  Certainly not Apple. 

DRM was brought to you through the auspices of the RIAA and your Congressman!  The fact that Apple is currently better at marketing its DRM than Microsoft is just a plus.  This won't always be the case -- and Microsoft's willingness to share it's PlaysForSure technology will be as fleeting as their willingness to share their Windows XP APIs.

Topic: Apple

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11 comments
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  • I'd like to see more flexibility

    I'd like to see Apple offer artists the ability to sell tracks without DRM. Those under major label contract would, I'm sure, have to toe the company line, but indie artists should get a chance to decide their own fate.
    tic swayback
  • Why indeed?

    [i]After all, it can't be all that hard for other vendors to reverse engineer those iPod cables so their players would work too! But they don't seem all that willing to do so. Why is that?[/i]

    Because the non-standard interface to an iPud is patented [1] and anything that interoperates with one or in place of one needs Apple's (expensive) permission for the next decade-plus.

    No degree of reverse engineering or clever design will get you around a patent on the basic function, which is why iPud headsets cost a slug more than standard ones. Obviously, there's not much in the way of fundamental improvement; they're just an electrical connection and not particularly hard to damage. But there you are: if you buy a third-party pair of earbuds, some of your money goes to Apple.

    Which means, long story short, that there aren't going to be any plug-compatibles until those new cars are sitting in the back lot at Honest Harry's.

    [1] Save the rants wrt the USPTO's rubber stamp.
    Yagotta B. Kidding
    • Slight correction

      Apple uses a standard headphone jack, nothing out of the ordinary and 3rd party headphones work fine. You're thinking of the dock, which is patented and is used by more complicated systems.
      tic swayback
      • I assume ...

        That the auto companies are providing doc connectors for iPods. So, the connection becomes iPod specific -- but still easily reverse-engineered so a third party could provide an adapter to use their own play with an iPod dock connector.
        M Wagner
        • Wrongly

          [i]So, the connection becomes iPod specific -- but still easily reverse-engineered so a third party could provide an adapter to use their own play with an iPod dock connector.[/i]

          Nope -- it's still patented.
          Yagotta B. Kidding
      • I stand corrected

        [i]Apple uses a standard headphone jack, nothing out of the ordinary and 3rd party headphones work fine.[/i]

        I was going from news items recounting how headphones for iPuds were licensed items.
        Yagotta B. Kidding
  • It is an abomination, indeed.

    .
    jsaltz
  • Poor article

    This reads more like Apple propaganda than objective journalism. It fails to address the key issues. Come back Berlind :-)
    onlyconnect
    • What are the key issues?

      As I see it, the key issues are:

      1) DRM is bad -- unless you work for the RIAA or its members, you probably agree.

      2) DRM will be around until consumers refuse to buy DRM-protected products.

      My point is that telling artists not to do business with Apple will not impact the popularity of iPods nor will it hurt Apple's bottom line because most artists are under contract with RIAA-member companies. They are the ones in control -- not the artists who write the music.

      Telling automakers not to do business with Apple won't help much either because if they don't offer iPod compatibility, someone else will.

      David criticizes Apple for their undue influence over the RIAA but without that influence, music from on-line providers would cost two or three times what it costs now.

      Only two things can kill DRM:

      1) The public refusing to buy ANY DRM-protected content from anyone. I'm not holding my breath because the public doesn't really care.

      2) The public going to their congressmen and INSISTING that DRM legislation be removed from the DMCA. Not likely either.
      M Wagner
      • Or door number 3

        The courts defang the DMCA by only allowing materials covered by copyright and then the DRM can only enforce rules on the 6 exclusive rights that copyright holders have and force it to allow doctrine of first sale and fair use among other limitations placed on the copyright holder's exclusive rights.

        Then again the DMCAr if it would ever pass through congress would do that.

        However your article is poorly written becuase it misses the #1 point. The Apple DRM allows you to burn your playlist to an un-DRMed format (A CD). This can thus be used to make MP3's or any other file without DRM. The DRM does nothing to prevent piracy and claiming that it does is a farce.

        The only reason I can see for the Apple DRM at all is that it would prevent a technically inept user from burning to a CD then producing [insert fav file format], thus locking the user in. It does nothing to stop piracy.
        Edward Meyers
        • But all of the materials ...

          ... currently protected in DCMA have always been protected under copyright law -- including 'fair use'.

          The only component of the DCMA which needs to be 'defanged' is DRM -- for the very reasons you state -- it does not hinder the 'real pirates' -- namely, pirates-for-profit. It does hinder the 'casual priates' (those of us who at one time bought a blank cassette and two LPs and shared copyrighted material with a couple of friends (nowadays, a couple of friends can turn into millions of strangers, thanks to Kazaa and the like -- but what THEY do is not illegal. Go figure.) -- More importantly, DRM hinders geniune licensees from using their copyrighted material on any device they choose.

          David's complaint is not about DRM technology -- it's that DRM is not open source -- but he is barking up the wrong tree.

          Government should not be able to tell Microsoft or Apple that they cannot develop proprietary solutions. David wants to pick on Apple but if it weren't Apple it would be Microsoft. David is not going to change the minds of millions of Apple customers -- who just don't care.

          DRM is part of a slippery slope that began when content providers started scrambling satellite downlinks -- violating the Cmmunications Act of 1934, which declared te airwaves in the public domain.

          DRM is just the latest barrage in the battle for coporatee control of every aspect of our lives. satellite radio is part of the same battle. Two choices -- which are by subscription only instead of dozens of choices in each market all free for the listening. At least iTunes takes your money by the song -- and lets you listen on any Windows or Macintosh computer anywhere in the world without paying them another penny. Like satellite radio, most music services are subscription and they greant you access to your music only as long as you are a subscriber.

          THAT is what we should be upset about. That and DRM -- not whether Apple is a bigger bad guy than Microsoft.
          M Wagner