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Music Companies Mull Ditching DRM 318

Posted by Zonk
from the dogs-and-cats-living-together-mass-hysteria dept.
PoliTech writes to mention an International Herald Tribue article that is reporting the unthinkable: Record companies are considering ditching DRM for their mp3 albums. For the first time, flagging sales of online music tracks are beginning to make the big recording companies consider the wisdom of selling music without 'rights management' technologies attached. The article notes that this is a step the recording industry vowed 'never to take'. From the article: "Most independent record labels already sell tracks digitally compressed in MP3 format, which can be downloaded, e-mailed or copied to computers, cellphones, portable music players and compact discs without limit. Partially, the independents see providing songs in MP3 as a way of generating publicity that could lead to future sales. Should one of the big four take that route, however, it would be a capitulation to the power of the Internet, which has destroyed their monopoly over the worldwide distribution of music in the past decade and allowed file-sharing to take its place."
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Music Companies Mull Ditching DRM

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  • Undermining Apple? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by P(0)(!P(k)+P(k+1)) (1012109) <math.induction@gmail.com> on Monday January 22, 2007 @01:21PM (#17712212) Homepage Journal

    From TFA:

    [DRM-free music] could change the equation for Apple, which has dominated the sales of both Internet music and digital music players.

    Makes me wonder if they're not motivated to undermine Apple, who fought tooth and nail to maintain $0.99/download against the industry's will.

    The record industry views the Occident, paradoxically, with more suspicion than the Orient, though we're their biggest customers; it wouldn't surprise me, therefore, if they began to roll this out first in the East:

    EMI Group last week said it would offer free streaming music on Baidu.com, the leading Web site and search engine in China, where 90 percent of music is pirated.

    Can someone say, “chutzpah?

    • by simm1701 (835424) on Monday January 22, 2007 @01:27PM (#17712304)
      The industry wanted higher prices however. If they came in selling mp3s at double the price on apple, it would be very interesting to see which way customers went...

      On the other hand apple might decide to ditch DRM at that point also - I don't think its ever been completely decided if DRM helps ipod sales and loyalty or not (I dont have a single ITMS store track on my ipod and its full) - its certainly possible that apple would use mp3 instead if they had the option - first and foremost DRM was used to appease the record companies and persuade them to let their music be downloaded legally.
      • by GizmoToy (450886) on Monday January 22, 2007 @01:38PM (#17712490) Homepage
        I doubt Apple would ever switch to MP3s. They've got too much invested in their format to abandon it now. However, I think that if the music industry would let them they'd be more than happy to sell unprotected AAC files. They've gotten as far as they have because of the iPod itself, not the DRM locking users into the system. If you ask iPod users without any iTunes Music Store purchases if they'd switch players when it's time to upgrade, I doubt more than a small percentage plan to follow their iPod up with anything else.
        • by PygmySurfer (442860) on Monday January 22, 2007 @01:54PM (#17712762)
          It'd be interesting if the rest of the industry started selling DRM-free music, yet Apple was forced to continue selling their DRM'd music (it's likely in their contract, after all). I'm sure they'd love to stick it to Jobs, especially after he screwed them out of their variable pricing scheme. I think all that would do is hurt the iTunes Store, though, and not iPod sales.
          • Indeed, it's not as though iPods can't play DRM-free MP3s from non-Apple sources. However, since the iTMS is very successful, I'd be surprised if record companies began allowing DRM-free distribution, but didn't allow it on iTMS. It's possible; for example, labels might intend on making DRM-free copies more expensive-- something crazy like $3 a track-- and Apple might insist on keeping their prices low.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by JWW (79176)
            I'm sure they'd love to stick it to Jobs, especially after he screwed them out of their variable pricing scheme.

            But theres the rub. I believe that in order to dethrone iTunes record companies would have to sell DRM-free music for the same price or less. 99 cents is actually too much. Even without DRM, I would still buy from iTunes if DRM-free music was more expensive.

            Although, if you couldn't iTunes purchases to CD, the equation would change. Apples movie store is unusable in my opinion because it lacks
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          They've got too much invested in their format to abandon it now. However, I think that if the music industry would let them they'd be more than happy to sell unprotected AAC files.


          Interesting. What makes you say that? I haven't seen any behavior out of Apple that indicates that it would be willing to sell DRM-free music or movies of any kind.
          • by soft_guy (534437)

            They've got too much invested in their format to abandon it now. However, I think that if the music industry would let them they'd be more than happy to sell unprotected AAC files.

             
            Interesting. What makes you say that? I haven't seen any behavior out of Apple that indicates that it would be willing to sell DRM-free music or movies of any kind.
             
            iTunes Music Store carries DRM-free podcasts.
            • by jrockway (229604)
              s/carries/links to offsite/. Apple doesn't host the podcasts, they just link to the site that hosts it. Even my lame podcast from a few years ago is on iTMS.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            Interesting. What makes you say that? I haven't seen any behavior out of Apple that indicates that it would be willing to sell DRM-free music or movies of any kind.

            Apple is not in the content business for profit. They are in it out of necessity as a way to motivate sales of iPods. They'd give all the music away if they could without losing money. DRM provides lock-in to iPods for users who already purchased ITMS music (small number compared to iPod sales) and who don't want to backup to CD and re-rip for

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              You avoided the question instead of answering it. You said all sorts of things that indicate absolutely nothing about Apple's tendencies in regard to DRM-less music.

              And whether Apple is in the music business to sell iPods or the iPod business to sell music isn't clear, and is actually irrelevant to the discussion at hand. The fact of the matter is that in the trailing 9 months ending on July 1, 2006, Apple received nearly $1.5 billion in net sales from its iTunes-related business. Yes, that's only a 1/4
        • by Khuffie (818093) on Monday January 22, 2007 @02:28PM (#17713262) Homepage
          Apple has been given permission by indie labels to sell their music without DRM, music said labels sell without DRM in places like eMusic.com. Apple refuses to sell unprotected AAC files, even at the request of copyright holders.
        • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Monday January 22, 2007 @02:53PM (#17713592) Homepage
          I doubt Apple would ever switch to MP3s. They've got too much invested in their format to abandon it now.

          On a side note, it's not "their format". AAC [wikipedia.org] was made by many of the same groups that put together MP3, and it's just as standard as MP3, but actually less patent-encumbered than MP3 (though still not patent-free), and with generally superior quality at the same bitrate. Apple's DRM is proprietary, but the AAC format is not.

          And no, they won't switch. There's no compelling reason for Apple to move to MP3, and technically Apple would have to pay patent-holders to distribute MP3s. According to the wikipedia article, AAC doesn't require licensing fees to be paid to patent-holders for content distribution.

        • AAC or OGG please, but not MP3 - you need twice the bitrate for comparable quality :(

          Also:

          In addition, Bainwol said, the ability of consumers to use legally purchased tunes on different devices is not crippled by DRM systems per se. "We're for interoperability," he said, "and there's nothing intrinsic to DRM that prevents interoperability."

          There's nothing intrinsic about handcuffs that stops you from riding a bike, but you'd be stupid to think that it helped or was not some kind of hinderance.
          • by badasscat (563442) <basscadet75@nospAM.yahoo.com> on Monday January 22, 2007 @03:19PM (#17713970)
            AAC or OGG please, but not MP3 - you need twice the bitrate for comparable quality :(

            Can we please just put this myth to bed once and for all? I mean Christ, this test was posted right here on this site, years ago: http://www.listening-tests.info/mf-128-1/results.h tm [listening-tests.info]

            Scroll to the bottom - the difference in quality is negligible at the same bit rate. It always has been (well, ever since LAME popped up). And given the tradeoff in convenience and industry support, I'd take mp3 any day of the week.
        • by tyme (6621) on Monday January 22, 2007 @03:04PM (#17713790) Homepage Journal
          GizmoToy [slashdot.org] wrote:
          I doubt Apple would ever switch to MP3s. They've got too much invested in their format to abandon it now.

          When, in the last decade, has Apple shown any reluctance to abandon proprietary technologies, in which they had a large investment, rather than adopt industry standards? Hm, lets see:
          • I doubt Apple would ever switch to PCI. They've got too much invested in Nubus to abandon it now.
          • I doubt Apple would ever switch to IDE. They've got too much invested in SCSI to abandon it now.
          • I doubt Apple would ever switch to USB. They've got too much invested in ADB to abandon it now.
          • I doubt Apple would ever switch to USB2. They've got too much invested in Firewire to abandon it now.
          • I doubt Apple would ever switch to Intel CPUs. They've got too much invested in PowerPC to abandon it now.
          • I doubt Apple would ever switch to PDF. They've got too much invested in QuickDraw to abandon it now.
          • I doubt Apple would ever switch to VGA/DVI. They've got too much invested in their proprietary video connector to abandon it now.
          • I doubt Apple would ever switch to a multi-button mouse. They've got too much invested in the single button mouse to abandon it now.
          Apple just hasn't shown, in the last 10 years, any reluctance to abandon existing, home-grown, technologies when the market has provided an adequate alternative.

          Besides, the iPod and iTunes already support MP3s, all Apple would need to do is switch the format that iTunes uses to distibute purchased music.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by wootest (694923)
            I actually modded you insightful, and I still stand behind that and the general thrust of your post, but I have issues with two of these.

            They never switched "from Firewire to USB2" on anything other than the iPod for cost and space reasons (cheaper to support one interface than both). Firewire is an IEEE standard - IEEE1394 to be precise. In addition to Apple actively using both Firewire and USB, Firewire as a published standard is just as "proprietary" as is USB.

            PowerPC to Intel: The x86 architecture is ju
        • They've got too much invested in their format

          I don't think it's really "their" format. It's part of the MPEG-2 standard, isn't it?

          But yes I agree that Apple would keep using it, as well they should. It doesn't customers into their own players. Even Zune supports AAC. Anyone can implement it without Apple's permission.

          And yes I think Apple would sell their music without DRM if labels decided en masse to let it happen.
        • I doubt Apple would ever switch to MP3s. They've got too much invested in their format to abandon it now.

          Not at all true, they have equal support for MP3 and AAC in all products.

          However they would simply stick with AAC - and remove the DRM wrappers. AAC is an open format and a number of players support it already, when it does not have a DRM wrapper - even the 360 will play unprotected AAC files!
    • by vought (160908) on Monday January 22, 2007 @01:35PM (#17712430)
      Digital music sales are flagging? Looks to me like they're still growing.

      What the linked article doesn't tell you is that they're counting all music sales - not just online store sales. Overall, music sales are still falling, and the increase in digital music sales isn't offsetting the collapse of CD sales. Record companies are looking for anyhting that will open the field up and get people to start spending money on any delivery format for music.

      Of course, don't tell the astroturfers who write articles like this. You might bring them a little too close to reality.

      Digital Music Sales Doubled in 2006 [msn.com]

      Digital Music sales to more than double in the next five years [forbes.com]

      • by cayenne8 (626475)
        From TFA:"Attali forecast in his newest book that all recorded music will be free in the next several decades. Consumers will instead pay for live performances, he predicted. He said that the business model of digital music should reflect the old radio model: free online music supported by advertising."

        I for one would applaude this...especially the part about live performances. That's pretty much the way it was in the 'older daze'. We usually bought the albums which got us excited about seeing the band to

        • by a_nonamiss (743253) on Monday January 22, 2007 @03:26PM (#17714044)
          Man, I'm all for this idea in theory, but do you realize that the Beatles didn't tour from 1966 - 1970? Concerts for generating 100% of the revenue might work for some bands, but if that model had been in place 40 years ago, we'd have no Sgt. Pepper's, White Album, Magical Mystery Tour, Abbey Road. Pretty much all of their best stuff.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by cayenne8 (626475)
            "Man, I'm all for this idea in theory, but do you realize that the Beatles didn't tour from 1966 - 1970? Concerts for generating 100% of the revenue might work for some bands, but if that model had been in place 40 years ago, we'd have no Sgt. Pepper's, White Album, Magical Mystery Tour, Abbey Road.

            Pretty much all of their best stuff."

            Well....sort of.

            The reason they stopped touring back then was because things were a bit different then. The "Beatlemania" thing had been going on so long, and it really wor

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by GWBasic (900357)

            Man, I'm all for this idea in theory, but do you realize that the Beatles didn't tour from 1966 - 1970? Concerts for generating 100% of the revenue might work for some bands, but if that model had been in place 40 years ago, we'd have no Sgt. Pepper's, White Album, Magical Mystery Tour, Abbey Road. Pretty much all of their best stuff.

            At one point in history, composers were funded by wealthy patrons and governments. For example, Handel's Water Music was funded by some king. Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] Perhaps we'll see so

    • by killbill! (154539) on Monday January 22, 2007 @01:57PM (#17712798) Homepage
      I suspect they expected the PlayForSure side to prevail. PlayForSure meant an atomized online music market. It meant no single company dominated it. It meant labels still controlled access to the market.

      But Apple prevailed. FairPlay prevents current iTMS customers from switching to another online music store. It ensures current iTMS customers remain future iTMS customers. FairPlay is the cornerstone of Apple's total domination on the (legal) online music market. It means Apple controls the access to the market, and no longer the music labels.

      Every time a customer downloads a song that is infested with DRM at the request of the RIAA, record labels are putting an additional nail into their own coffin. If they want to break free from Apple's de facto monopoly, they have to drop the DRM requirement. Looks like they finally got it.
  • Achilles' Heel (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Billosaur (927319) * <wgrother@NosPAm.optonline.net> on Monday January 22, 2007 @01:27PM (#17712298) Journal

    From the article:

    Most of the push for music unencumbered by digital rights management, or DRM, systems over the past six months has come from technology, electronics and Internet companies. In part, it is because these companies have been largely unsuccessful in their efforts to produce digital locks that are simple and flexible for the consumer, foolproof to the hacker and workable on numerous makes and models of players.

    Which is why DRM is quite useless. Come on -- if worse came to worse, people would play the music on the stereos and record it using digital recorders then run it through their favorite piece of audio manipulating software and have just about the same quality recording. The music industry cannot hope to stop the myriad of innovative ways of copying music and they are fooling themselves if they think they can make DRM "unbreakable." If this report is true, perhaps some in the industry are finally coming to their senses.

    • by simm1701 (835424)
      apparantly the bionic ear replacement that comes complete with DRM is too far off in the future for the music companies to want to wait.

      I certainly hope DRM is dead and buried before such technology is feasable - I'd dread to think of the lobbying that would occur then!!
    • Re:Achilles' Heel (Score:4, Interesting)

      by ack154 (591432) on Monday January 22, 2007 @01:37PM (#17712474)
      If this report is true, perhaps some in the industry are finally coming to their senses.

      I doubt that. It'll probably end up being them claiming it was their great idea all along and it's "best for the artists" and blah blah blah. They would never admit that DRM is a failure.
    • Indeed (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sterno (16320)
      Though I think the practicality of doing the kind of recording you're talking about is minimal, the underlying truth is valid: where there's a will there's a way.

      What we are talking about here is basically securing something. You are securing data against copying. Ask anybody in the security industry if there's such a thing as a security system that cannot be broken. If they say that such a beast exists, they are trying to sell you said mythological creature and you should run quickly.

      All you can do with
      • All you can do with security is hope to make something secure enough that it's not worth somebody's trouble to break it. The problem is that only one person has to break the security to make the entire security regime worthless.

        Not really - only one person has to break it for it to be worthless for that song. Filesharing networks only work because everybody rips their music and shares the whole collection. If you had to rely on somebody to go through contortions for every song, typically you'd only be ab

        • by cayenne8 (626475)
          "... simply because for all the bitching about DRM rarely does anybody have a credible alternative that generalises (so "make money on concerts" doesn't count). "

          Why is that not valid?

          That's how bands USED to do it...back when they had talent and could play live.

          Amazingly enough...and actually somewhat sad...those same bands are still around today selling out stadiums for $100-$500+ a seat. What happened to the upcoming talent that should be doing that today? Somewhere in the 90's I think...

    • by garcia (6573)
      The music industry cannot hope to stop the myriad of innovative ways of copying music and they are fooling themselves if they think they can make DRM "unbreakable." If this report is true, perhaps some in the industry are finally coming to their senses.

      Regardless of what they say to the media and how the media regurgitates this to the public, the recording industry realizes that they can never have a full proof DRM method. What they do want to stop (and have so far succeeded) is getting the general public
    • Until the music files have digital watermark signals that the microphone picks up and refuses to record. Or records just a screeching whine.

      All hail the return to reel-to-reel tapes!
  • by jimstapleton (999106) on Monday January 22, 2007 @01:28PM (#17712312) Journal
    next thing you know, they'll be using OSS editing tools
    then servers...
    After that?
    It'll be pandemonium, they'll be joyfully frolicking in the free and open streets... Arms flailing, chainsaws revved...
  • by justinbach (1002761) on Monday January 22, 2007 @01:29PM (#17712326) Homepage
    ...right after I get back from my ski trip to hell :-)
  • About time (Score:4, Interesting)

    by koan (80826) on Monday January 22, 2007 @01:29PM (#17712332)
    From where I stand (or sit) DRM wasn't much of an issue, as it was released it was promptly circumvented. I am old enough to recall buying vinyl and when CD technology was introduced the complaint then was the cost of CD's.
    The music companies said the cost would come down with acceptance of the tech but it never really did come down.
    God bless the Internet.
  • by geoff lane (93738) on Monday January 22, 2007 @01:35PM (#17712432)
    Microsoft cripples Vista with DRM and the potential users of DRM don't want it?

    Oh, the irony.
    • Re:Oh, the irony (Score:4, Informative)

      by delt0r (999393) on Monday January 22, 2007 @01:55PM (#17712780)
      \puts on tinfoil hat

      Perhaps M$ want DRM to tie down the PC hardware market to The One OS. The whole: "its the content providers that made me do it", is just the PR department.

      So it goes like this. In the future to buy something online your bank needs you to have a certified trusted computing OS. To get certified reqiures 50,000 US dollars, so there is no free certified version of linux that would work. Then the hardware won't even run a non certified OS because of the "dangers" of uncertified drivers and code running on the hardware. It will be call Genuine Lockin.

      \takes of tinfoil hat
  • by El Gruga (1029472) on Monday January 22, 2007 @01:39PM (#17712506)
    PAIN, and now the Music Biz is feeling pain, so they have to adapt. What else can they do? Their monopoly is over, but they should understand that most 'ordinary folks' will prefer to download music from a legal site, and those same folks dont understand DRM, they just want it to work. .....Its amazing that Apple hasnt taken over the world with that notion of 'it just works'.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by dsraistlin (901406)
      That is because with Apple it does not always just work. If you are the only user and owner of a mac it works almost all of the time. However if you are setting up macs in a network where multiple users use the machine it can be more of a pain in the ass than the current XP limited accounts to get software to work.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    "It's a trap!"

    -Admiral Akbar

    (What? That quote didn't originate on Fark? Oh, frak.)

  • by Anonymous Coward
    It is very good that they are considering to ditching DRM.
    But its not by their own will they are considering that, its because they have to.

    Now, DRM-less music is fair. I will never ever buy DRM-crippled music.
    I wonder what prices they will take, low, reasonable or overpriced?

    Either way, just because its fair with the non-DRM music, does not mean I will just forget what they did and happily and gladly buy their music now even if its not DRM-crippled.

    All their lobbying, scare tactics, intimidation, and eviln
  • by tedgyz (515156) *
    I surely regret commiting to Apple'S DRM and look forward to DRM-free, legal music purchases.

    I really liked the itunes music management, ease of ripping my 300+ CDs, and ease of purchasing new music. But, now I realize I've built my own cage. :-(
    • by Dr. Zowie (109983)
      You can do that now - just use emusic.com.
      • by tedgyz (515156) *
        But that doesn't solve the problem of playing my itunes purchases in a different player.
        • remove the DRM? I mean your posting on slashdot, that right there tells me your at least somewhat smart enough to know how to remove iTunes DRM. Jesus in terms of DRM, iTunes tracks are about as easy to turn off as the little holes you used to tape up on tapes to let you record on them. Besides I would just wait. If they are really thinking about this and are willing to go that step, Apple will just shut the DRM off themselves. Fairplay was always designed to be reversable.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Please tell me that's sarcasm. I can already hear the footsteps of all the 'iTunes is teh evil DRM' trolls thundering over to agree ... *shudders*

      I mean, sure they're funny to watch, kinda like that little kitten that's so determined that it's going to catch you and drag you off by your ankle. At some point, though, you start to feel like you really ought to just put them out of their misery-- after all, they can't really be happy like that, can they?

      -Q (whose iTunes library, incidentally, contains only

      • by tedgyz (515156) *
        Well, I have 212 purchased songs in itunes.

        Here is my problem: I want to play my itunes music and videos on my TV using a remote control. As far as I know, I can't do that - e.g. Windows Media Center. Now AppleTV would do it, but I don't need that - my freaking PC is hooked to my TV. I just need the software and remote.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      If you ripped your own CD's, then they are not copy-protected and you are not in any way committed to Apple or Apple's DRM. Use the tracks on any player or computer that supports AAC (if that's what you ripped them to), or use iTunes or another app to convert them to any format you want.

    • by ocbwilg (259828)
      iTunes is good software, it's just the DRM piece of the music bought from the store that's bad. If you ripped them yourself then they're not DRM infected. I ripped all of my CDs to MP3 files, and I can play them anywhere. But I do really like the design and functionality of the iTunes software and Music Store. It's very easy to use, even for non-technical people like my in-laws.
  • by grimJester (890090) on Monday January 22, 2007 @01:43PM (#17712566)
    Current DRM is mostly useful for locking the consumers into one single vendor for their mp3 players. It might give the record companies some benefit in the long run, as customers would have to buy their music a second time if they buy a new mp3 player, but it certainly eats into their profits right now.
  • by GauteL (29207) on Monday January 22, 2007 @01:45PM (#17712602)
    But it also has to be reasonably priced. The iTunes price of $10, £8 or 10 per album isn't actually much cheaper than what you can get on the high street and you can buy a full CD for similar prices on Amazon.

    That is not reasonably priced. People expect lower prices when they receive less and when it costs less to distribute.

    I might very rarely buy an album at £8, but at £4 I would probably buy every album I like.
    • by grahammm (9083) *
      What about Magnatune's policy of allowing the purchaser to choose how much to pay for the album download? I do not (of course) know the figures but I would be very surprised if the majority of downloaders only paid the minimum amount.
  • by RalphBNumbers (655475) on Monday January 22, 2007 @01:47PM (#17712626)
    Those who think that this would somehow immediately undermine Apple's dominance with the iPod are misguided as to why the iPod is successful imho.

    The tinfoil headgear sporting subset of /.ers might like to see Apple's DRM solely as a lock-in scheme, and while no doubt Apple finds any lock-in a reassuring safety net in case they do someday drop the ball on iPod design, for the moment (and for the foreseeable future with the iPhone) Apple doesn't *need* lock-in. The iPod isn't selling because people have huge collections of .m4ps they need to keep compatibility with, it's selling because it's slickly good at what it does and it's a brand a lot of people are pleasantly familiar with.

    The simple reality is that if the Music companies start allowing DRM-less downloads, then Apple will probably make even *more* money selling iPods than they are now, as more people start to buy unencrypted music via their computers to put on said iPods. In the long term their share of music sales may be hurt, but as the world's 4th largest seller of music, they already have plenty of momentum and market power; combined with their slick store and integration in iTunes, I would think they can do just fine in a less partitioned market, and retain a good deal of influence with the music industry selling unencrypted music.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      We got an iPod shuffle because of DRM. I originally got an MP3 player for my wife. However, we have a Mac, and every non-apple music site has a custom DRM application you have to download, which only works on Windows. The few sites that have mp3 songs do not have the songs that she wants.

      I know we could have used iTunes and stripped off the DRM with JHymn, but it was important to my wife to be able to buy and listen to music by herself (she's not particularly technically minded), and it would have been a

    • by jj00 (599158)
      For the music industry, this has more to do with the pricing of music than the device it's working on. I think the industry realized pretty quickly that they can't have one vendor tell them how they can price their product; Apple's in the iPod business, and the music industry is in the music business. The best way around this is to offer their product in a format that can free them from Apple while still providing a way to provide music to those people who own an iPod.
    • I think you're right, and it's also worth noting that, in an open marketplace with no DRM, Apple's iTMS would probably still do quite well. Yes, it's true that if I had to choose between a $1.00 MP3 or a $1.00 DRMed AAC, I'd buy the MP3. But if you drop the DRM from the AAC and sold them again for the same price, AAC actually provides slightly better quality at the same bitrate, so why buy from Apple.

      Plus, if you have an iPod, it's likely that you have iTunes installed on your computer anyway, and it's p

  • by zesty42 (1041348) on Monday January 22, 2007 @01:48PM (#17712630)
    Perhaps, they are realizing that DRM is causing them to lose not only revenue (in terms of people buying less) but market share (people buying elsewhere). I used to buy music that I heard on the radio like everyone else. Since the Sony rootkit mess I get my music from eMusic [emusic.com]. I've found a lot of great bands/labels. Now, no matter what the major labels do, I'll never go back to them 100%. Another less techie friend of mine just recently got fed up with iTunes DRM and ask me to help find something else... guess where I'm pointing.
  • by gradster79 (878963) on Monday January 22, 2007 @01:48PM (#17712644)
    Stupid comment of the day, courtesy of the article: In addition, Bainwol said, the ability of consumers to use legally purchased tunes on different devices is not crippled by DRM systems per se. "We're for interoperability," he said, "and there's nothing intrinsic to DRM that prevents interoperability."
  • by mce (509) on Monday January 22, 2007 @01:50PM (#17712672) Homepage Journal
    Last week I had a chat with the former managing director of one of the big four labels in my country (and in a few others as well). His personal opinion is that DRM has to go. When asked directly, he stated that in the music industry boardrooms, about 50% of the people are by now convinced that it has to go, whereas 50% have not yet reached that point. One of the things that's holding them back, is that the movie and especially the games industries are putting pressure on the music one not to drop DRM because they fear the domino effect.
    • Games are a very different animal. DRM isn't what stops me playing PS3 games on my laptop, or loading Wii games onto my iPod so it's a much more mute point. There's really no business case for dropping it.

      For the most part, there's nothing for movies to interoperate with and CSS is so lame that it can hardly be considered DRM. Even with years of easily copied digital product, the Movie industry is doing just fine. It wouldn't make one iota of difference if they dropped CSS now.

      • by soft_guy (534437)

        Games are a very different animal. DRM isn't what stops me playing PS3 games on my laptop, or loading Wii games onto my iPod so it's a much more mute point. There's really no business case for dropping it.
        DRM could stop people from developing and using emulators for game systems.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ewhac (5844)

      One of the things that's holding them back, is that the movie and especially the games industries are putting pressure on the music one not to drop DRM because they fear the domino effect.

      Oh, please, it's because of the games industry that we have copy protection at all. They invented this boogeyman back in the 1970's and have been fighting this losing battle ever since. The only effect it's had is to make Macromedia rich selling the same defective merchandise over and over again.

      The "mainstream" soft

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by nine-times (778537)

      That's an interesting point, especially when you consider that record labels, game companies, and movie studios are often owned by the same parent companies.

      I have such a hard time thinking about the different impact of DRM across these industries. The use of these media are very different. I think that most people, really, are more interested in Netflix-type distribution for movies. Really, for movies, I want a cheap and extensive on-demand library. I want to see any movie whenever I want whenever I w

  • by Andy Dodd (701) <atd7@corne[ ]edu ['ll.' in gap]> on Monday January 22, 2007 @01:51PM (#17712690) Homepage
    In a previous post on a different article, I commented that the music industry was stupid not to look at the success of allofmp3.com and learn from it. While allofmp3 was bad for the RIAA in that the revenue stream broke down between the user and the RIAA (it ended at allofmp3), its success proved that users ARE willing to pay for their content if provided conveniently at a reasonable price in a usable format.

    In short, they need to make themselves cost competitive with P2P. How do you make yourself cost competitive with something that is free?

    The same way people compete with (and/or make money from) freely available open-source software. Don't market the product itself, market convenience associated with that product. For open-source software, that convenience is packaging and tech support/customization contracts. For music, that convenience is selection and a guarantee of quality. allofmp3 succeeded for three reasons:
    Very low prices (Probably too low for the RIAA's tastes, but even twice the price of allofmp3 would have appealed to many. RIAA could make up for the low per-track revenue via significantly higher volume. e.g. back in the days of pyMusique, I bought quite a few single $1 tracks, but no complete albums. With allofmp3, I frequently would purchase an entire album for $3-$4 even though I was only looking for one track from that album initially.)
    Convenience - allofmp3 had a great selection that made it far easier to find music than on any P2P network. Only the RIAA has the capability to actually beat that selection. Also, people would be more willing to give credit card info to a "trusted" source rather than a clearly shady Russian company with apparent mob ties.
    Last, but clearly not least - no DRM. DRM goes way beyond nullifying the above "convenience aspect", and in fact makes P2P the more convenient option, free or not.
    • by Znork (31774) on Monday January 22, 2007 @02:15PM (#17713070)
      "In short, they need to make themselves cost competitive with P2P. How do you make yourself cost competitive with something that is free?"

      That's the rub; the entire industry is built upon monopoly control, it is _not_ cost competetive. Allofmp3, eMusic, last.fm, etc have proven there are a multitude of models around convenience that work fine for music distribution (even for uncopyrighted classical music), but _only_ if you have a cost structure that supports the model.

      That means no more media blitzes. No huge launches. No payola. No hundreds of thousands of free cd's sent to dj's and radio stations. No half a million dollar videos for MTV. No coke parties.

      But without those things, they cant control the market anymore, they wont be able to shove their particular artists down the listeners throats and push the independents to the side. They need the huge per-artist revenue and expenditures to minimize the variability and risk in the market, and that entails a high level of control and a high unit price to recoup the expenses.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by fyoder (857358)
      Don't forget 'choice of format'. In fact I'd replace 'no DRM' with that, since given choice I don't think many would choose a DRM encumbered format. I like high quality oggs, and allofmp3.com provides that. Someone else might prefer mp3. Others a lossless format.
  • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Monday January 22, 2007 @01:51PM (#17712704)
    The music companies seem to think that by making online music without DRM, they will help their sagging sales. I don't think that what plagues the industry. Like all industries, the music industry wants growth every year. But they compare sales today to what it was in the boom days. Back then, sales were booming because the CD was replacing tape and vinyl as the preferred medium. The industry didn't seem to see that some sales were people replacing their collection as opposed to buying new music. There are other reasons too (some which were self-inflicted), and it was covered in a Frontline episode called The Way the Music Died [pbs.org] that chronicles the music industry today.
  • Mulled Whine (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Monday January 22, 2007 @01:52PM (#17712710) Homepage Journal
    Can you imagine what "mulling" is like at the executive level of these big music publishers?

    A roomful of people unfit to work in any industry not underwritten by a century-old monopoly. Whose added value lies in conning artists into working for a tiny fraction of the value they create, or their weight in drugs, whichever is less. Or in conning consumers to pay over and again for either some good products produced as "pop" generations ago, or some awful products produced more recently that they sell to children as soundtracks to free music videos and the lives of talentless celebrity models.

    These people don't "mull". All they can do is whine and fail when their crooked old tricks don't work so good any more. Years of lying about DRM and piracy hasn't reversed the drop in their profits, as the least-dumb people have all fled their business. Their decisions are made mainly by listening to tech vendors tricking them into broken tech protection of a broken business model, instead of changing the model. If they do drop DRM before they go permanently broke, it'll be because they can't afford it themselves, or just because they screw up their stupid strategy by making irrecoverable mistakes implementing it.

    Information might not want to be free, but nature abhors a vacuum. The empty space at the top of the music content pyramid is sucking control of all that content inevitably out to unimpeded access by any consumer who wants it.
  • Pigs warmed up and ready to fly, Temperature in Hell drops to 75F, and "W" announces we are pulling out of Iraq.

    Sounds like the RIAA's IQ has risen by a few notches. Now I wish they'd also offer the choice of ogg in addition to MP3. You know, they could still 'finger print' the music files with tags to identify who the original customer was that paid for the download. That way, they could still sue anybody who shared their purchased music. The finger printing would NOT prevent inter-operation of the fil
  • by sconeu (64226) on Monday January 22, 2007 @02:16PM (#17713082) Homepage Journal
    For the first time, flagging sales of online music tracks are beginning to make the big recording companies consider the wisdom of selling music without 'rights management' technologies attached.

    But I thought we needed harder DRM because the flagging sales were caused by those Evil Content Pirates(tm)!!!!!

    I'm so confused, I don't know what to believe anymore!!!
  • by nightsweat (604367) on Monday January 22, 2007 @02:33PM (#17713324)
    And I used to buy a lot of CD's. I buy fewer now, because I'm older and pickier, and I've looked at iTunes and other stores, but I just didn't want to have to go through the buy, burn, rip cycle to remove the DRM. If the label actually allow drm'less mp3's, and make it as easy to buy as an iTune purchase, I'll buy a lot more music a song at a time on impulse.
  • by Sloppy (14984) on Monday January 22, 2007 @02:34PM (#17713344) Homepage Journal

    The record companies have made most of their revenue selling unprotected CDs (and unprotected tapes and unprotected vinyl discs). Selling non-DRM music is a known good, safe, conservative, proven business model to which the record companies owe just about every penny they have. Without this business model, they simply wouldn't exist today.

    DRM was a radical, speculative tell-the-customers-fuck-you-we-don't-want-your-mon ey-go-away model that has a track record of failing. Look at the software industry of the 1980s when copy protection was widely used. It didn't make a dent in piracy (because no one ever invented copy protection that actually works), but the interoperability problems sure as hell pissed people off (e.g. "whaddya mean this won't run on my new AT?!?", "whaddya mean my defrag utility trashed the 'secret' sector that wasn't allocated to a file?!?") and increased support costs.

    Nobody knows if the record companies will actually decide to continue to remain in the having-customers business, but one thing is for sure: it's the obvious no-brainer thing to do, if protecting/increasing shareholder value is anywhere on their list of priorities. There's nothing controversial about wanting to maximize profits. Telling customers, "sorry, our new product isn't compatible with your equipment, costs more, and doesn't work as well as what you're used to, because we really just don't like you, so please buy someone else's music instead" on the other hand, is pretty out-there.

    • by cdrguru (88047)
      You miss the point. Today, there is no reason - utterly none at all - to pay for music. Within a few years the folks without broadband access will be further marginalized and fewer in number. Their parents that dutifully paid for entertainment media will be gone from the marketplace, having been replaced by folks that know better. It is freely available on the Internet. All of it, software, music, movies, whatever.

      The point of DRM is to discourage "casual copying". It doesn't make it impossible, just
  • by hobo sapiens (893427) <[ ] ['' in gap]> on Monday January 22, 2007 @02:36PM (#17713378) Journal
    The Economics of a matter drive behaviour. DRM is not economically viable. The RIAA is greedy, but they aren't stupid. Follow me:

    *It costs money to produce new DRM schemes.
    *DRM is easily and routinely cracked or bypassed by pirates.
    *The people who want to pirate will pirate, the people who willingly buy music will continue to do so.

    Abandoning, or at least containing DRM is just a matter of time and is really just an acceptance of reality. It's pointless and costly. Even if they don't totally abandon DRM, I can see them giving up on building the perfect scheme and just sticking with the easily bypassed and/or cracked schemes they have now. If someone claims that it somehow cost-effective to try and stay a step ahead of the pirates' ability to crack DRM, I'd say that person is deluding himself. And once it becomes too costly to keep up the arms race, they will stop. I'd say we're close to that point.
  • This could work out for the music industry, partly because it cuts out the take that Apple and Microsoft get now. If music files are plain MP3 files, anyone can make an player, and players will cost $29.95. No more iTunes store. No more lock-in. No more 50% profit margin for Apple.

    This is the RIAA's revenge against Apple. In a year, the iPod could be irrelevant.

  • by MattW (97290) <matt@ender.com> on Monday January 22, 2007 @02:54PM (#17713610) Homepage
    It will be interesting to see. Personally, DRM IS the #1 reason I don't buy more music. I can't be bothered fooling around with p2p networks. Busy, bad quality, lawsuits, spyware, etc. Unacceptable. On the other hand, I don't want to buy from places like iTunes - though I occasionally do - because I'm already irked about CDs I can't locate or that suffered damage when moving that I can't rip. I'm not interested in a bunch of music I won't be able to play when Apple goes bankrupt or only produces mp3 players I hate. (long live the iPod)

    But am I normal? I don't think so. Some of my other technical co-workers have argued that iTunes and the iPod have won massive acceptance via ease of use, and that's all most people think about. I'm not completely in concurrence: I think people know that "mp3" means fully cross-platform compatible. No matter what you're using for software or hardware, the mp3s will play. People confused about what will work - iTunes, iPod, Zune, playsforsure, Rhapsody, ogg, m4p, m4a, aac - could easily get dizzy from the myriad technologies in play, and simply not want to buy. They get iPods, rip their CDs, and that's that.

    I don't think that DRM-free music will kill filesharing. But I am quite certain it will not ENABLE more filesharing. It's already trivial, and frankly, p2p networks are now overrated. People have built such monstrous mp3 collections and storage is now cheap that the duplication is happening en masse. People who connect in real life can easily swap gigs of data. Broadband is more widely deployed, and a simple memory stick with 2GB worth of music is a fast way to distribute massive amounts of music. Or burn a data DVD.

    But even if DRM inhibits online music sales to would-be legitimate customers like myself, is that sufficient? Would music priced at $.99/song and $9.99/album be sufficient to attract? Certainly I'd buy a fair bit. I'm not at all against flexible pricing, because I buy music for the long haul, and my interest in collecting the latest hits is nil. I'd prefer access to a backcatalog for less, over $.99 fresh hits. (Although they could price the backcatalog cheaper AND still cap at $.99)

    Either way, DRM is bad for consumers, bad for music, and AT BEST non-impactful for record companies. Removing it may not save them, but it won't hurt them. There's only upside here.
  • This might come as quite a shock, but I don't care about DRM. I have been buying media off iTunes for over a year now. I have spent over $1000 at iTunes. (Mostly TV shows)

    HOWEVER, that being said I do want the freedom to play the media on ANY device or OS that I own. Yes, that means my cell phone regardless of provider or model, my Linux server, my Playstation 3, AppleTV, my Macs, etc.

    Thats a perfect world though, which will never happen. I don't mind DRM to protect the content makers, but I don't want
  • by Technician (215283) on Monday January 22, 2007 @03:23PM (#17714016)
    For the first time, flagging sales of online music tracks are beginning to make the big recording companies consider the wisdom of selling music without 'rights management' technologies attached. The article notes that this is a step the recording industry vowed 'never to take'.

    Wow, a cluestick is finaly showing up. The reports of only 22 purchased tracks per iPod sold is showing that consumers are voting down DRM with their pocketbooks in a big way. Wow, we finaly got enough votes in to be noticed.

    A few bands jumping ship to go to a non-DRM music site is probably the biggest clue stick they got. If they don't have a monopoly on the artists, they have no control. These are desprate times for the labels. Bare Naked Ladies has gone to e-music. Some of the newer TSB stuff is not on RIAA cartel labels. (Too bad the Wizards of Winter track is in a RIAA cartel album. It's the reason I haven't bought it yet.)

    The RIAA cartel labels have to make a big move fast before this leak grows and takes down the ship. They are busy trying to patch the P-P hole with a product that doesn't sell well because it is mostly useless to most people.

    Maybe soon I can buy tracks in MP3 that I can play besides some obscure indi stuff on e-music.

    Remember, I have rejected DRM music tracks and stuck with the most universal standard in the world. MP3's play on my flash player, all my computers, my DVD player (as MP3 CD) and in my car.

    No other format is that compatible in my mixed environment. The incompatible DRM formats has kept me out of online music stores. Now if they will do something about the price fixing at a high price. Even better would be to fix the "for private home use only" restrictions so I can also legaly do one of the Christmas Light Shows, or play a ripped CD with a wedding slide show at a wedding reception, and post the video without breaking a bunch of license clauses in the process.

    They have no simple way to use CD's in any public performance such as a public light show, a public wedding slide show, or DJ'ing the reception dance as an amature DJ. All these public performances are prohibited by the Private Home use clause.

    I would have bought lots of music if I could have actualy used it. It was too restricted to be of much use in todays world. DRM was just icing on the cake making the expensive product even less useful.
  • by amper (33785) * on Monday January 22, 2007 @03:33PM (#17714146) Journal
    Because practically the second they start offering DRM-free music in a format that is of relatively high quality (say 128Kbps MP3 or better--the current standard) and is delivered online (meaning you don't have to rip your CD's, which already are mostly DRM-free), the recording industry will have signed their own death warrant.

    Most people I know are already obtaining the majority of their music files via some means other than outright, legitimate purchases--even when they understand that I am a recording musician and that at least part of my livelihood depends upon the ability to sell my recordings. Even some recording musicians I know do the same thing. DRM is the only method by which profit can be extracted from digital media sales, barring other barrier technologies (it's currently time-consuming and/or difficult to transfer CDs and DVDs, and storage requirements and processing power required are still relatively expensive, and bandwidth isn't what it needs to be quite yet for high-quality delivery of large files--however, all of these problems are well on their way to being solved).

    Now, you may argue whether or not this is a good thing or not, but for my own part, I believe the end result will be a net detriment to society. Granted, it will break the power of the large studios, but it will also break the profit model entirely for everyone. Technology does not discriminate between a greedy studio exec and an individual musician. You may spare us your ideas on how to make a decent living as a musician sans the sale of recordings unless you yourself are prepared to hit the road and perform night after night. Those of us who have done it already know it doesn't work very well.

    Unfortunately, I also believe that in the end, no DRM scheme is workable in the long term, both for technical and ethical reasons, but human nature is what it is, and secrets aren't secrets if two people know them.

    You think the state of our musical culture is bad now thanks to the RIAA? Wait until DRM is gone. I guarantee you'll regret it.
  • by unity100 (970058) on Monday January 22, 2007 @08:10PM (#17717472) Homepage Journal
    let me tell you one thing,

    if they sold the songs in mp3, high quality format, and guaranteed that they will be available forever, i would not even bother saving zillions of mp3 in my hard disks and trying to transport them to new pcs, friends', relatives', acquintances' computers, worry about the loss of mp3s in the event of a hd format is needed (windows reinstall etc), and so on, and instead just DELETE them whenever im in distress and just get what i want from the OFFICIAL site for 1 cents per song again.

    same goes for movies. WHY the hell try to maintain them in cds, dvds or etc when you can just download them in high quality format from its ORIGINAL seller ? JUST sell it for something reasonable, NEGLIGIBLE - for maybe, say, $5 ? It is not even the price of a regular hamburger dammit ? WHENEVER i want to watch a movie, i would just download it, watch, and delete without any worries. No disk space use, no corruption, hell and even no worries that children might find and watch some no-no movies for their age ...

    Games. god. If games were sold for $5 or so a piece, why not buy MANY games ? huh ? Just for the sake of trying, there is no barrier to buying them $5 per piece. Even the thought that, 'i might want to play something like this maybe sometime' would without any worries of expensiveness or anything would let anyone buy the games they would NOT normally buy then. Heck, even for collections maybe.

    Actually, the execs, policy makers and old coots in the helm of media companies, you are witless idiots.

    Have you gone such a road, internet would be busy with zillions of terabytes downloaded everyday from your products and you would be busy trying to get more accountants to do the accounting instead of lawyers for trying to fight against 'the people'.

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