What web 2.0 could teach Warner Music's Edgar Bronfman

What web 2.0 could teach Warner Music's Edgar Bronfman

Summary: [Note: At the end of this post I'll be asking for your support so stay tuned.]I'm a Sonos owner.


[Note: At the end of this post I'll be asking for your support so stay tuned.]

I'm a Sonos owner. A Mac user. An iPod lover. A Sansa enthusiast.

What's wrong with this picture?

If you said Digital Rights Management (DRM), you'd be correct.

In the Web 2.0 world everything makes or breaks on interoperability...or sharing. Sharing of thoughts, ideas, media, code, and work. If any point that openness is constricted, the whole system breaks down. Without this environment there would be no mashups, and many of the online services we rely on today would not exist.

Just imagine if all that open interoperability went away and we were back to the old days of closed APIs and closed systems. That's what DRM does.


When the iTunes store originally launched I owned an iPod and a Mac. DRM had no real affect on me personally, and I felt it was a Faustian deal that was necessary at the time to get music sold online. Then I got this remarkable and revolutionary music system, the Sonos, and the ugly truth of DRM raised its even uglier head. I couldn't play the music that I had purchased on iTunes on my Sonos.

Do I blame Apple for this? Not really, as they aren't the original source of this whole issue...the labels are.

However, I think everyone here is pointing a finger. Steve Jobs says it is the labels fault for requiring DRM, and the labels and RIAA want Jobs to license the DRM to other companies. I don't believe that it is impossible for Apple to license the DRM, but there are more important issues that arise from that situation that I'll talk about later.

What really angers me is when I see someone like Warner Music's Edgar Bronfman (via Infectious Greed) make a statement like this:

... let me discuss a couple of issues that have been in the news recently, interoperability and digital rights management, or DRM. Let me be clear. We advocate the continued use of DRM in the protection of our and of our artists' intellectual property.The notion that music does not deserve the same protections as software, television, films, video games, or other intellectual property simply because there is an unprotected legacy product available in the physical world, is completely without logic or merit.But let's not lose sight of the core issue. By far the larger issue for consumers in the music industry is interoperability. As a content company, we, of course, want consumers to seamlessly access our music and to use the music they have purchased on any platform and with any service, physical or digital.The issue is obscured by asserting that DRM and interoperability is the same thing. They are not. To suggest that they cannot coexist is simply incorrect.

Let's dissect what Bronfman is actually saying:

"We advocate the continued use of DRM in the protection of our and of our artists' intellectual property."

The first problem with this statement is that what Bronfman and other executives in the entertainment business think...is that all this stuff they own, the stuff that people slave over and work hard to create...isn't art...it is PROPERTY. Semantics cannot be put aside here because it shows you the difference between someone who creates art, and one who does not.

I hardly believe that Mozart or Beethoven or Picasso thought for one second that what they were creating was...intellectual property.

"The notion that music does not deserve the same protections as software, television, films, video games, or other intellectual property simply because there is an unprotected legacy product available in the physical world, is completely without logic or merit."

In the Web 1.0 world, a lot of companies believed that their intellectual property was more valuable as an asset they kept to themselves, than shared with the world. If you want it...pay for it. Google proved this axiom was wrong. By opening up their technology to the world and sharing their "art," they brought a rebirth to an industry that had been crushed by it's own hubris.

Music is no different.

The thing "without logic or merit," Mr. Bronfman, is the idea that everything produced has a value that can only be equated with a dollar sign. You elude to the fact that because LPs, Cassettes, and CDs, (or as you call it the "legacy product") have no piracy protection technology on them, that doesn't mean that their counterpart...the digital file...shouldn't have them.

I would like to point out to you that in the past 30 years, with all the Chicken Little antics from your industry over people being able to copy the music they purchased, and share that music with others...your industry did not fail or falter as you predicted. In fact, you've thrived. In 30 years, despite real piracy issues, you've made money hand over fist...and you've been wrong about every single prediction you've ever made. You have no credibility on this subject. And you simply can't blame every slump in music sales on piracy. We don't believe you anymore. While you continue to fight your own customers, your customers continue to create the innovation that keeps you in business. 

"But let's not lose sight of the core issue. By far the larger issue for consumers in the music industry is interoperability. As a content company, we, of course, want consumers to seamlessly access our music and to use the music they have purchased on any platform and with any service, physical or digital."

Well then...how about removing DRM? If you want consumers to seamlessly access their music...just remove the DRM and that would take care of that. Your call for more DRM only makes the seamless interoperability between devices more difficult.

But wait...there's a more important semantic point to make here. We are not consumers, we...are patrons...of art. No artist that you represent thinks of their fans as "consumers," and it is your constant view that everything is about consumption and money that creates your contempt for the people you actually serve...the artists and the patrons.

"The issue is obscured by asserting that DRM and interoperability is the same thing. They are not. To suggest that they cannot coexist is simply incorrect."

What is completely incorrect is that entire statement. As someone who doesn't know anything about developing technology, it is not surprising that you have no idea what you are talking about. DRM hampers innovation. It closes doors and limits choice. But let's humor you. Let's go to magical pixie land where Apple licenses their DRM, and Unicorn rides are free all day long. That leaves one giant company that controls the whole ball of wax. Microsoft would likely want to license the Apple DRM, and seeing as they currently are the other giant in this game...you are then left with two companies who control the entire industry.

Where's the choice? Where's the innovation?

Steve Jobs claims he wants to eliminate DRM. The music executives claim to want what's best for the consumer and their bottom line. These two things are not mutually exclusive. How about trusting your customers instead of assuming that every one of us is a criminal?

Call to action
So I'm calling here for some action. I'm asking the RIAA, the MPAA, the Labels, and Apple...drop the DRM...open the doors...and do the right thing for everyone. Here's where the reader can help. If we take Steve Jobs at his word, then we only have one mentality to shift and that is the music executive. The tide seems to be turning and we seem to have momentum on our side, so we need to keep putting pressure on the industry. This isn't just for patrons...artists out there can pressure their labels to do the right thing and strip the DRM from their music.

So what I'm asking is that people treat the comments section of this post as a petition. Post your support for dropping DRM, and if we get enough, I'll collect those posts and snail mail them to Apple, Bronfman, and other top music execs. If we keep this thread alive in the world of 2.0, we can force them (albeit kicking and screaming) to do the right thing.


Topic: Legal

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  • DRM requirements

    I have never and will never buy anything that has DRM requirement. I have enough LPs, cassettes, 8-tracks, and CDs that I can do without anything new for a long time.

    I love my ipod, but it is not contaminated with DRM.

    I do support art by purchasing, direct from the artist, whenever possible.

  • Down With DRM!

    What an awesome analysis of the true issue at hand! DRM has screwed me out of tons of songs I legally have payed for and downloaded! I refuse to buy music online anymore because of DRM! After creating a "Media Partition" to a slave drive I bought for my PC, I lost about 50 songs to DRM (and because they had DRM, they were recent songs I listened to quite often) after transfering my media to this second partition! I tried loading them on my mp3 player, but that was prevented by DRM! WHAT'S THE PURPOSE OF DOWNLOADING MUSIC IF THE USER DOESN'T HAVE CONTROL OF WHEN, WHERE, AND HOW THEY CAN USE IT! I buy a game, I can install it, delete it, and reinstall it as much as I want. I buy a Windows OS and I have the ability to reinstall and use that windows OS as much as I want. BUT I CAN'T LISTEN TO MY OWN MUSIC???
    • Yes, and no...

      You know what the sad thing about all of this, its a war between people and other people, against the developers of DRM, and the "Label Companies". I have not heard of 1 compeling reason why we should protect Artist, Music writers and singers, and bands and groups.... not 1...

      And again, we are talking about software, which is just electricity passing matterial that semi conducts electricity, and can interpret other forms of electricty. Music from say an "MP3", which is no-no word these days, was written to be interpreted by a computer, and to output sound patterns through the speaker. Come on, society today is so damn stupid. Label companies only know how to sell. Programmers know how to make software, and hackers know how to break software, and crackers do it in the sence that its illegal... but we still come back to the fact that its electricity. You don't see someone sueing over how Apples are made, and then processed and turned into countless deserts and snacks, including apple sauce, apple pie, apple cider... its electricity, and the only thing electricty knows how to do is turn into something else... it soon becomes consumed and turned into soemthing else...
  • Huh?

    OK yes in a perfect world removal of DRM would be great... For the consumer and music listener. However what you fail to address is the whole industry called the music industry. If they remove DRM, how exactly is the industry supposed to make the money to support its employees as well as artists? I mean are the music resellers willing to take the brunt of the removal of DRM and payout a licensing fee? I can tell you as soon as you remove the DRM everything will be shared nad moved back and forth and the money involved would dry up. So now you would have a music industry and a digital music retail environment that generates no mmoney. I do not see the issue being a problem with DRM, the issue is the fact there are no cross-platform solutions or standards for DRM that everyone needs to abide by. When you have 9 different DRM systems in place and most of those OS specific you are at an impass. I think Bill Gates and Jobs are out of line. In order to continue the industry big and small to exist, they need consumer sales to support the marketing etc. The only other way it cold possible work would be a cable model where the music is ad supported, which again is srewing the consumer. So what is left? Subscription services that stream to your device? How does that work without wireless? I mean I am all about the subscription format, however as far as a viable consumer model it has yet to prove itself and would require some kind of free interenet access for the handheld devices... So yeah your argument makes no LOGICAL sense.
    • Bang On!

      The issue is 100 implementations of DRM from 100 vendors. There should be only one standard implementation across all labels and all hardware manufacturers.

      When you buy a DRM song you can play it anywhere, anytime. period. And people remember there is nothing as free lunch!!! Nobody works for free. Everybody has to make a living. All this open source and free software is written by developers who making a living working for corporations writing closed source software.

      If one does not get payed for creating content then there will be no content. Music, software, TV, Films are need money to survive!
      • Faulty comparison

        While I agree with you that the problem is the load of different non-compatible DRM in the marked, your comparison to to Open Source is faulty. Several companies, including Novell, Red Hat and IBM, employs (and thus pay) people to work on open source software. The profit comes from supporting said software, which would be somewhat comparable to a subscription based DRM format.
      • Bullsh*t

        I personally tutor and produce open source code without expecting a single dollar, I fully believe and promote open source, and GNU/GPL.

        We all keep expecting that if someone else makes money from say our idea, that we should all get somthing out of it. This is not how society works, we all have to work together, and ideas are part of the public domain. Everyone has the right to that knowledge, its what we do with it, and how we affect others with it. You have alrights to produce something, but as soon as you mass produce it, you loose the rights and control, all of the sence except for who produced it. The owner of the idea should be reconsied! But that does not mean they can decied who and what does with it...
    • you keep on assuming

      that just because it has DRM thats why we buy it...its backwards...we are not buying because it has DRM get it...So removal would boost sales...
      • not really

        Because of DRM you are forced to PAY MONEY and buy it rather than copy it from your friend or download it from a website for FREE!!!
    • I'll tell you...

      First...we've had recording mechanisms and the ability to duplicate music for years. From cassettes to CDs...even duplicating CD's...we've been sharing music for years and it hasn't tanked the industry.

      As far as artists getting paid...I say screw the labels and allow artists to sell their wares through iTunes and other services directly. I think labels are an old model on the way out. All these employees and layer upon layer of inefficiency. It's silly and wastes more money than it makes. There are a number of artists today that have their "own" labels and are doing really well. Ben Folds and Prince to name a couple.

      Let's not forget there are a lot of artists who would are calling for the elimination of DRM as well.

      This whole idea that in order to support and pay artists you have to create a closed system that locks art into a box is silly.

      I think you sound like someone who works for the music biz.
      • RIGHT

        You're right you did have mechanisms to copy material before, but you also had to buy those individual mechanismas as well as the material to copy it on to. All fo that costs money. Digital content removes the need to ahve anything tangible to copy it onto once you have your device. So in order to make the copies there is a cost factor involved even to duplicate, on top of that the quality of tapes etc. would deteriorate after a while. So as a consumer you were a repeat buyer. Youa re missing those two factors with Digital content. Now you can say Art is art is art and you shouldn't have to pay for it... ok. Sure. But if you want a Picasso, how do you get one? You can buy one... well if you ahve the money, or you can buy a print, or you can download a picture of one and print it tou... NO MATTER HOW YOU DO IT, it will cost you money, why shouldn't music? Do you honestly THINK that people will pay money for something they can get by through trading? Give me a break.

        And yes I am in the music business but not for a label. I used to be all about NO DRM until my friends that are artists explained that they don't make JACK from free music. Good promotion yes, but it doesn't feed their kids.

        If there is another viable solution outside of having a UNIVERSAL DRM then let me know. But I put the blame right now on the hardware manufacturers for creating a situation where my DRM only works for MY program, and mine only works for mine. its ridiculous. There should be a corsplatform universal DRM that works with all systems and the music industry needs to DEMAND IT (that is their fault).
        • Cost: Viable Solution

          Canada currently has a media tax. This covers digital duplication for CDs and DVDs, but it also applies to cassettes and I believe hard drives as well. The problem with such a tax is that it is applied to blank media regardless of use, whether it be media or data related. In addition it also doesn't differentiate between original or copied content under copyright fair use law. Further down in discussion a post claimed that DRM should be illegal because it violates fair use, I would like to clarify that fair use allows the duplication of an entire work one time only. Any additional duplication then violates fair use and if ownership of work is lost or transfered then duplicate must be destroyed. However, despite the universal application of the tax despite the media's use it is something Canadians have accepted in order for IP owners to be compensated.

          Regarding trading/file sharing, as I'm not certain if the tax applies to hard drives or not, if it does than this already covers your cost. If it doesn't, since most digital sharing occurs via internet there has also been discussion of ISPs including additional charges to compensate IP owners. Bandwidth is of course not free either and we are already paying ISPs for access. If that access is for file sharing of copyrighted material then this may seem to be a valid solution similar to the media tax above. This still may not prevent piracy however, considering only 1/3 of NA has access to internet and only 1/2 of that is broadband access.

          I do not believe DRM is wrong, it's just presently poorly implemented. If Apple's FairPlay is to become a defacto standard, then perhaps a greater effot should be taken by both producers and perhaps courts to make it an official ISO. Or perhaps the open community should be making an effort to create a standard for ISO approval. Essentially DRM should be used to reflect duplication as described by copyright law. If fair use states one duplication only, then DRM should allow only one duplication. Interoperability will only become a factor if OEMs refuse to implement the ISO DRM. Personally I feel that watermarking the source material may be among the better solutions, that way if the duplicated file is uploaded (as a result of Canada's media tax downloading from file sharing technology is legal, uploading copyrighted material is not) then it may be tracked to the original owner. I'm sure there are flaws with this solution and implementation may be difficult, it's just a suggestion that could become part of such an ISO DRM.

      "If they remove DRM, how exactly is the industry supposed to make the money to support its employees as well as artists?"

      Um, there is NO DRM on any CDs on the market today. That was a tried and failed attempt TWO YEARS AGO.

      And the music companies are doing just fine. C'mon. WAKE THE FRACK UP.
      • Your absolutly right...

        They make enough money from artists and outside influences...

        But they have not stop trying to use DRM since sony... they still use with Apple, they still use it with Microsoft, infact alot of of outside influence is still initiating a DRM, but any programmer that isn't coming with the idea to sell DRM to the label companies knows for fact, unless hacking was "illegal", there is no way you can stop cracking DRM methods and having free music, no way, you would have to unplug the internet, and cover your eyes, ears and mouth....
        • PS:...

          Hacking is NOT illegal, and any small minded person to stand up say "F*** YOU HACKERS", you would be stopping inventers of new ideas, and of old ideas. And quite frankly, everything would be boring... Keep our society, a Free Society!!!
    • Nothing new...

      If you really think that DRM has stopped those who want to "share" the music, you're only fooling yourself. The ones prone to this type of activity have found numerous ways around the idea and are making copies for their friends as we speak. The theory that DRM is saving the industry, and without it the artists will go broke is just silly. "Back in the day", I could walk into the public library and check out records or tapes and take them home and make copies till the cows came home. Amazingly, the record comapnies and artists managed to stay in business and even thrive. They just have this warm fuzzy feeling today that DRM is doing something other than ticking off the people who enjoy the convenience of not having to go to the store to get the CD.
      Without DRM, I'm not going to use the content in a criminal fashion, I'm just going to be able to back it up to CD without having to jump through half a dozen hoops... AND I'll be able to play it on my iPod or Zen Jukebox, which ever takes my fancy.
  • Great!

    I agree with this article. I think we'll see a day when DRM is gone and when the 'big four' are not quite as powerful. The independent labels are already growing and the catalog at eMusic is becoming larger every week.

    eMusic has been a pioneer in this DRM free distribution, and would like to see other companies move in this direction.

    However, it does strike me as odd that iTunes offers some of the same songs as eMusic, but they are *still* encoded with the DRM on the iTunes copy...

    I am not a criminal and I feel that if teh companies would make a peace gesture by removing DRM people woudl love to buy music. buying music off the net is FUN! but drm's take all the FUN right out of it...if i want to show a song to someone I can't...yet back in teh day i could make someone a mix cd and (i guess you could call that piracy) but noone cared...if the person wanted the album or to support their artists that they loved they woudl buy the album. It still holds true today. We will gladly buy an album to support the artist and their music and if you ask me the record companies are just teh greedy middle men. Alot of artists already give their music for free esp when the whole napster thing was going down. I boycotted those who didn't show good faith and were greedy and bought teh albums of those that gave their music for free...you gotta give a little in order to get back...gosh don't they knopw anythign about karma?
  • DRM

    Nobody's going to like this, but Patron of the arts, and that's laughable, since everybody that could steal very song availablve on Napster did, are we those 'patrons'? Patrons of the arts has been tried, in the 14th century. Maybe 20 serious composers (I'm laughing already - think of Fall Out Boys as accepting patronage apart from money) were supported by the Nobility. The other 0ne million struggling european composers simply starved. It wasn't until Queen Anne (this is copyright 101) started protecting writers and musicians and printers (think record labels) did the "artist" start getting any money to survive. So to go back to the stone age and hope the millions of greedy users who proved they would steal when Napster was happening, are going to be "patrons" of the musicians, is hilarious! Without some way to pay, and pay for ALL their work, get real, nobody who creates music will ever get paid. You may not like DRM, Jobs may want to use iTunes to make himself richer by selling hardware, and hope he can fool the public into thinking he's helping the music fan, but he's not. These guys like Jobs didn't get richer than you and I buy being stupid, and we're getting a real snow Job by them now. Fix DRM and make it so if we dig music we can play it on everybody's iPod, Zune or whatever, and make the price cheap. Wake up everybody, the technologists are tooling you saying we can't make it easy to pay - fairly - a little money for songs somebody else writes and produces to survive.
    • nobody is saying

      that there is no way to buy teh music. The stores are already in plavce for the availability of easy sales. All tehy are doing is removing restrictions to not play on someone elses computer...Since when did DRM mean buying music? I don't understand how everyone keeps equating the two. ITS RIDICULOUS