A year ago I don't think that anyone could have imagined these two stunning announcements from the founders and titular heads of the worlds leading technology and digital music device companies. both Steve Jobs and Bill Gates have publicly derided DRM as an impossible mission to secure digital music files with "crippling" DRM.
From Jobs open letter:
The third alternative is to abolish DRMs entirely. 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.
This is the world that DefectiveByDesign imagines!
Jobs continues by asking:
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.
We, and others, have long made this case! The music companies are on a fools errand, trying to stop the illegal distribution of their music with DRM on digital music.
And again, Jobs nails it:
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.
But then, he distances himself and his company from the solution, dropping it at the feet of music lovers and Europeans in particular:
Much of the concern over DRM systems has arisen in European countries. Perhaps those unhappy with the current situation should redirect their energies towards persuading the music companies to sell their music DRM-free. For Europeans, two and a half of the big four music companies are located right in their backyard. The largest, Universal, is 100% owned by Vivendi, a French company. EMI is a British company, and Sony BMG is 50% owned by Bertelsmann, a German company. Convincing them to license their music to Apple and others DRM-free will create a truly interoperable music marketplace. Apple will embrace this wholeheartedly.
Apple should more than just embrace it. Apple should talk to Microsoft and together they should work with their users to call on the record labels to drop their DRM dreams, and let the music be distributed without DRM. Apple and Microsoft have a tremendous amount of clout with the labels whose music they sell, they should now actively work towards the abolition of DRM. Steve Jobs could start by respecting the wishes of independent artists who want to distribute their music through iTunes without DRM.
We are not going to hold our breath, we'll keep on fighting and once again turn our attention on the record labels and Big Media. Next week we'll call for coordinated action to take this message to Sony, Warner, Universal and EMI.