More about DRM

It looks like the forces of status quo in the music world are lining up against Steve Jobs in the fight over DRM. I expect the Record Companies will not just rollover to for Steve Jobs. My guess is that think the record labels think they have the control when it comes to iTunes and Apple.

Here is a quote from Edgar Bronfman made during the Warner Music Group F1Q07 Earnings Call:

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, film, 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 co-exist is simply incorrect. At Warner Music, we continue to seek a balance between appropriate protections for our intellectual property and a robust and satisfying music experience for consumers. Interoperability sure would enhance that balance, while eliminating DRM would do just the opposite.

We will not abandon DRM, nor will we disadvantage services that are successfully implementing DRM for both content and consumers.

I recognize that there are interesting music business models that only work with strong DRM. Any kind of music rental service like Rhapsody only work DRM. You have to be able to turn off the music if the customer quits paying for it. The problem with this business model is that it depends on the music companies putting DRM an the rest of their music also. It is the only way money can be made off the business model.

Bronfman makes a classic mistake in his argument above. He claims that Music deserves the same protection as Movies, Software, or Television. He is saying that Intellectual Property is Intellectual Property no matter what the form. He is making the mistake of viewing music the way he wants to view music, not the way his customers want to view music. Most of the customers I know view all these forms as different from each other. That is what is important in the end.

I think Apple has more control than the companies recognize. I am not sure if the average person could tell you what label their favorite artist is on. The average record label might say this is unimportant. The record label controls distribution. A major artist would not need to be with a able to get their album on iTunes. If they cut out the record company, they might be able to take the smaller sales that would come from not having a physical CD.


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