Kudos – mostly – to Steve Jobs for his remarks on Apple and DRM. I like his closing comments:
Convincing [big music companies] to license their music to Apple and others DRM-free will create a truly interoperable music marketplace. Apple will embrace this wholeheartedly.
Yes please. But while I applaud these remarks, I have to note some curious logic in the rest of his defence of Apple’s DRM policy. Remember, the essence of the complaint against Apple is that it will neither license its FairPlay DRM to others, nor support other DRM schemes in its iTunes store. The consequence is that iTunes customers are locked to Apple’s software, and for portable devices, largely to its hardware as well.
Jobs says Apple doesn’t license FairPlay because it could compromise its “secrets”:
The most serious problem is that licensing a DRM involves disclosing some of its secrets to many people in many companies, and history tells us that inevitably these secrets will leak.
However, Jobs has already stated that such secrets often get cracked anyway. The intransigent problem is that the keys reside on the user’s own machine:
In other words, even if one uses the most sophisticated cryptographic locks to protect the actual music, one must still “hide” the keys which unlock the music on the user’s computer or portable music player.
This is a greater impediment to FairPlay’s security than licensing it would be. Further, any iTunes purchase can be burned to CD and ripped to unprotected files, albeit with loss of quality if you choose a compressed format. I also note that DVD Jon (as far as I’m aware) achieved his success at cracking DRM by reverse engineering, not industrial espionage.
So this statement makes no sense:
Apple has concluded that if it licenses FairPlay to others, it can no longer guarantee to protect the music it licenses from the big four music companies.
Apple has actually concluded that it can’t “guarantee to protect the music” anyway, irrespective of whether it licenses FairPlay.
Further quibbles: Jobs sees a “a very competitive market”, where others see Apple’s unhealthy dominance, particularly in portable music players.
Another. Jobs says:
Since 97% of the music on the average iPod was not purchased from the iTunes store, iPod users are clearly not locked into the iTunes store to acquire their music.
No Mr Jobs, they are not locked into the iTunes store (yet). They are locked into the iPod to play this music back. Well, subject to the caveats already discussed. And what about iTunes exclusives?
Finally, Jobs notes that “The music companies sell the vast majority of their music DRM-free”, referring to the continuining importance of CD sales, which greatly exceed online sales.
Yet CD sales are declining and will continue to do so. We are having this discussion because we know that those figures will swing, probably quite fast, and that online or subscription sales will dominate the music business.
Users would love to see more legal, DRM-free downloads. In the meantime, Apple’s refusal to interoperate its DRM with others remains anti-competitive.