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Can Steve Jobs end DRM Software?

The RIAA has tried numerous times to get legislation passed concerning digital rights management software as well as spearheading the campaign that if they don't do something to protect their revenue people will be trading their intellectual property all over the internet.

Steve Jobs made a bold statement on Tuesday concerning DRM and the future of iTunes.

"Imagine a world where every online store sells DRM-free music encoded in open licensable formats. In such a world, any player can play music purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is playable on all players. This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat. If the big four music companies would license Apple their music without the requirement that it be protected with a DRM, we would switch to selling only DRM-free music on our iTunes store. Every iPod ever made will play this DRM-free music.

Why would the big four music companies agree to let Apple and others distribute their music without using DRM systems to protect it? The simplest answer is because DRMs haven’t worked, and may never work, to halt music piracy. Though the big four music companies require that all their music sold online be protected with DRMs, these same music companies continue to sell billions of CDs a year which contain completely unprotected music. That’s right! No DRM system was ever developed for the CD, so all the music distributed on CDs can be easily uploaded to the Internet, then (illegally) downloaded and played on any computer or player.

In 2006, under 2 billion DRM-protected songs were sold worldwide by online stores, while over 20 billion songs were sold completely DRM-free and unprotected on CDs by the music companies themselves. The music companies sell the vast majority of their music DRM-free, and show no signs of changing this behavior, since the overwhelming majority of their revenues depend on selling CDs which must play in CD players that support no DRM system.

So if the music companies are selling over 90 percent of their music DRM-free, what benefits do they get from selling the remaining small percentage of their music encumbered with a DRM system? There appear to be none. If anything, the technical expertise and overhead required to create, operate and update a DRM system has limited the number of participants selling DRM protected music. If such requirements were removed, the music industry might experience an influx of new companies willing to invest in innovative new stores and players. This can only be seen as a positive by the music companies."


The "big four" music companies that Jobs is referring to are Universal, Sony BMG, Warner and EMI. These four companies control the distribution of over 70% of the world’s music. If Jobs could convince these companies to allow Apple to distribute DRM-free music it would go a long way towards convincing the RIAA to approve the same.

- Read more of Steve Jobs Thoughts on Music

Here Endeth the Lesson

One Response so far.

  1. It has always infuriated me that the record companies are burning the wrong end of the candle with DRM and all of the antipiracy efforts. The only people who are affected by DRM are little guys like us. And the only people the RIAA goes after are little people like us. Yes - we may download a song here and there via P2P bu that isn't whre they are losing all of their money. They are losing their money in markets like Asia and Europe where CDs are copied by the millions and sold on street corners for a lower price. Me downloading a copy of "Yo Ho! Yo Ho! A Pirate's Life For Me" so I can put it on my son's birthday mix for his party isn't breaking anyone's back.