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Apple's Jobs Calls for End of DRM

7 Feb, 2007 By: Jessica Wolf

Steve Jobs is stirring the pot with an open letter on the Apple corporate web site, suggesting that record labels should release digital music with no copy protection rather than Apple sharing its own FairPlay system and opening up the iPod universe to digital music purchases outside the iTunes store.

Jobs asked and answered the big question about Digital Rights Management (DRM) himself.

"Why would the big four music companies agree to let Apple and others distribute their music without using DRM systems to protect it?," Jobs wrote. "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."

Nearly 90% of music sales still come from the unprotected physical CD, Jobs pointed out. And, he noted further, that just 3% or so of the digital music iPod owners stuff their devices with comes from actual purchases at online music store iTunes. That means, Jobs argued, most music in digital players is already DRM free and functioning outside a closed system, so there's no need for players such as Apple and Microsoft, with it's closed-system Zune, to open their purchase and playback environments to competitors.

Of course, Job's arguments would not hold water on the video digital delivery side. Video product has always been released with some kind of copy protection, from the old VHS days to DVD's fatally cracked Content Scrambling System (CSS).

And, while studios are increasingly adding video content to the digital-download universe, those downloads come with specific and fairly stringent copy protection that prevents users from moving the content between too many (if any) playback devices or from burning to a playback DVD.

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