Sunday, June 10, 2007

Apple's first foray into DRM-free music

On April 2, 2007, Steve Jobs shocked the world with it's announcement that it would be distributing DRM-free music from music company EMI.

Why shocked? Because everyone just assumed that the DRM was to keep people from buying anything but an iPod. Without the DRM, people could play the music on any mp3 player they wanted.

The obvious question is: Why would Apple do that?

People immediately began pointing to Apple's trouble in Europe (especially Norway) where it was claimed that Apple was taking unfair advantage of it's position by not allowing music purchased on iTunes to be played on other devices. DRM-free music = maybe get out of trouble in Europe.

But the real question is: Why would EMI allow that? Doesn't that take us right back to the Napster era where people buy a song and send it to 200 of their closest friends? (Or just download it off some .ru website...)

It now appears that Apple and EMI had an ace up their sleeve: turns out they embed your name and possibly email address into each "iTunes Plus" song you buy. Sure, share that song with your friends, but there'll never be any question where it came from.

Privacy advocates are up in arms. "How can you send out my personal information like that?! Er, I mean, how can you let me send out my personal information like that?"

I say, "Brilliant!!" Everybody wants to share everything except one thing: their personal information. Apple has instantly achieved their primary goal: people can listen to their music on any device they like, and they'll think 3 times before distributing it. And EMI has achieved their primary goal: get more people to buy their music, including those without iPods. And users get freedom (and slightly higher sound quality, which I didn't bother to mention since almost nobody can tell the difference anyway).

Not to say there aren't potential problems. Your best friend may not have as many qualms as you about forwarding your favorite song on to his 2nd-best friend. And that guy won't have any qualms about sharing it. Also, what if your computer is stolen and all your music ends up on that .ru site? It'll be interesting to see how it all plays out. But these are exciting times, and it looks like Apple's firmly in the driver's seat.

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views since Feb. 9, 2008