Steve Jobs has been on fire, all over the entertainment news for the past few weeks. As if the iPhone announcements weren't enough, on Tuesday he posted his thoughts on music, calling for the beginning of the end of digital rights management systems. Finally, someone who realizes!
Laying out three possible paths for the future in his article, Jobs makes his opinion clear. Between staying the course, making DRMs cross-licensed open systems, or dropping DRMs and selling unprotected downloads, the clear choice should be selling unprotected downloads. DRM hasn't stopped many people, if anyone, so it should be abolished.
Jobs said the music industry must radically evolve toward a market in which people can easily use any online music service, even if music companies have to remove the technology that protects their copyrights. Makes sense, considering it would do nothing but make online music services more popular.
Because of current anti-piracy technology, songs purchased from iTunes play only on the iPod, while songs purchased from other online music services, such as Rhapsody and Yahoo, do not. "Imagine a world where ... any player can play music purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is playable on all players," Jobs wrote.
"Forcing would-be competitors to sell music incompatible with the popular iPod is not showing any signs of working," the story notes. Removing DRM might attract powerful new players to the market, and writer Antony Bruno names five possible entrants into the music-download business in 2007 as Amazon.com, Limewire, MySpace, eMusic, and Yahoo Music.
"I don't think Steve Jobs would stick his neck out on this point if he didn't believe the music labels will come around," said Chris Castle, a music and technology lawyer who represented peer-to-peer network Napster. "The industry has been moving toward this for a while. This could be the year that it starts to take hold." I agree, imagine if you could use shop around and use whatever music service you wanted, but have it be compatible with your iPod without needing to do something illegal.
Digital music sales were expected to decline in the next year, but perhaps Steve Jobs will be responsible for saving the record industry once again. What a hero, you would think. Until you took a second to ponder his motives.
Once DRM gets the boot and Apple has no choice but to open its software in Europe, it's only a matter of time before the US consumers demand the same. Steve Jobs is thinking about the future and his DRM statement will have put the consumers at odds with the major labels(who obviously want to keep DRM)--making Apple look golden.