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Jobs Favors DRM-Free Music Distribution 755

Another anonymous reader tips an essay by Steve Jobs on the Apple site about DRM, iTunes, and the iPod. Perhaps it was prompted by the uncomfortable pressure the EU has been putting on Apple to open up the iPod. Jobs places the blame for the existence and continuing reliance on DRM squarely on the music companies. Quoting: "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."
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Jobs Favors DRM-Free Music Distribution

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  • by Zelet ( 515452 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @04:49PM (#17910446) Journal
    What is amazing to me is that Jobs/Apple have a near monopoly on digital music downloads/players that would only be hurt by a lack of DRM lock-in and yet Jobs is still advocating for the change. Would any other company or CEO do this?
  • by Phroggy ( 441 ) * <.moc.yggorhp. .ta. .3todhsals.> on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @04:50PM (#17910492) Homepage
    Apple needs to give record labels the choice of whether they want their music to be sold with or without DRM on the iTunes Store. Keep the same prices, keep the same format and bitrate (128kbps AAC), and keep embedding the user's ID in the file, but give the labels the choice, and indicate it to the customer before they buy (a small icon next to the "Buy" button should be enough).

    Obviously most labels will continue to choose DRM. That's OK. Let them. And let the market sort it out.
  • by Dachannien ( 617929 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @04:53PM (#17910542)
    It's probably ridiculous for me to say this, but dammit, this is Slashdot, so I'm gonna say it anyway:

    Is it not possible, nay, probable, that this was Steve Jobs's plan all along with reference to interoperability? The iTunes/iPod Family of Devices gets locked up behind music industry DRM which we all know Apple would rather not have bothered with in the first place. They were slow to fix exploits of various versions of FairPlay, and fixed those exploits probably at content cabal insistence. On the side was a lack of interoperability with other devices/services that went along with FairPlay.

    Now that people are up in arms about the iPod not playing fair with others, more and more Joe Sixpacks are starting to see that DRM is a bad thing. Here comes Steve Jobs, suggesting that if you want to point fingers at FairPlay's effect on interoperability, you should also be pointing fingers at the content cabal.

    Could this have been his diabolical plan all along?!

    Well.... Probably not. But it would sure make for a good conspiracy theory for all the Mac fansites out there.

  • iTunes and DRM (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Clomer ( 644284 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @04:53PM (#17910548)
    About a year ago, I purchased and downloaded two tracks from the iTunes music store. This was before I realized the nature of the DRM that restricts such downloads. I noticed it after I purchased a new computer and had to authorize that computer to play those files.

    The computer I originally downloaded them on no longer exists, so I have no way to deauthorize it. This means that I am down one of the 5 computers that I can authorize my songs to play on. When I realized this, I decided that I will never again purchase any music files that have any DRM on them whatsoever.

    I still use the iTunes music store, but only to browse and hear samples. If I find something I want, I look it up on Amazon or head out to Best Buy and buy the actual CD. If the music companies will remove that asinine restriction of DRM, then I will go back to purchasing music downloads.

    Note that I am against piracy. I think that people that distribute these things wholesale are the scum of the Earth. But I do not appreciate being treated like a criminal just because I happen to like music. I really hope that Jobs gets his way with this.
  • Re:mod jobs up (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CowboyBob500 ( 580695 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @04:53PM (#17910552) Homepage
    Not really. MS has just released a new OS that is more locked down with DRM than any other OS so far. They have been active in promoting the use of DRM and even saying it will be to the benefit of consumers. There is no way that they were forced by the industry to implement that much DRM at the heart of their latest product. I'm not hearing any info that Leopard is going to be similarly encumbered. Make no mistake, MS is a wholehearted supporter of DRM.

    Jobs on the other hand is actually saying that consumers don't want it, and that they'd drop it in a heartbeat if they were allowed to. This is the complete opposite of what MS are saying, not the equivalent.

  • Re:mod jobs up (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @04:55PM (#17910596)
    He's just attempting to deflect consumer ire and make excuses. It is true that the large music giants demand the music be sold with DRM, but the iTunes store insists using a proprietary DRM that prevents playback on any device other than the iPod, and they insist on applying it to every song they sell, including those where the copyright holder has said they don't want the DRM.
  • by Absolut187 ( 816431 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @05:06PM (#17910832) Homepage
    He's being sued in Europe and the U.S. for Antitrust violations.
    This could be a bit of the "Those guys made me do it" defense.
    Not that it isn't true, it is. And yet Apple IS profiting from it.

    Slattery v. Apple Computer, Inc.
    N.D.Cal.,2005 l?page=/andrews/bt/cmp/20050922/20050922slattery.h tml []

    Apple's iTunes hits a sour note in Europe 00779e2340.html []

  • Re:mod jobs up (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Zenaku ( 821866 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @05:07PM (#17910870)
    Okay, poor choice of words. I just meant that they refuse to license it for use in other playback devices.
  • by businessnerd ( 1009815 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @05:09PM (#17910900)
    You are both right and wrong...but mostly wrong.

    You are right in that Jobs could refuse to sell DRM'd music. However, he tried to do this from the beginning. Unfortunately, Jobs does not control the rights to sell the music, the record companies do. The record companies allow Jobs to sell through iTunes as long as he adheres to some conditions. The record companies did not allow Jobs to sell DRM free music. Jobs resisted as much as he could, and iTunes users ended up with one of the least restrictive of the DRM policies, but nevertheless, it's still DRM'd. If Jobs really wants to stop selling DRM'd music, it is not up to him. It is up to the record companies. This is why he is issuing this statement. He is hoping that the record companies will see it his way and allow him to stop with the DRM.
  • by mspohr ( 589790 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @05:14PM (#17910996)
    It's easy to blame the record companies for DRM but why does the iTunes store apply DRM to ALL of their music? ... Even music where the record company/publisher does not request or require DRM?

    Could their be an advantage to Apple by locking ALL the music to their iPod?

  • Re:mod jobs up (Score:2, Interesting)

    by pandaba ( 38513 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @05:23PM (#17911142)
    Just a guess but I would think the major labels told Apple they could not sell drm-free music in any form, because having unprotected songs from one label would make the others look bad and possibly hurt their sales.
  • Re:mod jobs up (Score:5, Interesting)

    by harrkev ( 623093 ) <> on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @05:26PM (#17911208) Homepage

    but the iTunes store insists using a proprietary DRM that prevents playback on any device other than the iPod
    Did you even RTFA? He addresses this. Since you appear to be "motivationally impared" (i.e. lazy), his argument is that DRM has to be kept secret in order to work. At the very least, the encryption key has to be kept secret, even if the algorithms were published (this last sentance is mine, not his). If the DRM is broken for a couple of weeks, the studios will take their ball and go home -- iTunes shuts down. So any breaks of DRM need to be pathed fast. Letting other companies means more eyes, more possible leaks, more software/firmware that has to be updated. In short, a logistical nightmare.

    Face it, Apple needs the studios worse than the studios need Apple. Without music to sell, Apple is in a far worse position. Without Apple, the studios still have CD sales and Zune sales.

  • by neuroklinik ( 452842 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @05:31PM (#17911300)
    Did you even read the message from Jobs? Based on your response, I doubt it.

    You're acting like people don't have any alternative to the iPod + iTunes ecosystem. They do. They've got plenty of alternatives. People buy into the iPod and iTunes ecosystem because it's well built, well maintained, and easy to use. The same goes for the Macintosh. There are alternatives. People aren't *forced* into buying iPods, songs off the iTunes Store or Macs. People buy these products because they work well and are intuitive.

    Oh, and I've *never* felt "locked in" to the iPod + iTunes ecosystem. Why? Because most of the songs I've got on my iPod came off of CDs I own, and the ones I purchased off the iTunes Store have been ripped to standard Audio CDs, ready for reimport back into whatever format I choose. Even formats compatible with non-iPod digital audio players.

    The lock-in FUD you keep trying to spread doesn't exist. It's that simple.

    Take your FUD and go home. Nobody here is listening.
  • by WhyDoYouWantToKnow ( 1039964 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @05:33PM (#17911332)

    Apple's CEO just said that they will make all the music they sell DRM-free if the labels allow them to. Where is the spin here?

    Oh, I don't know, maybe it has something to do with 1349218 [] Apple being DRM's biggest backer?

  • It's hard to say, but two immediate problems come to mind. First, and in my opinion most likely, is that they have in place agreements with the major record labels that involve giving the same treatment to all music sold via the iTMS, so that it all has to be FairPlayed. This strikes me as pretty likely, and something that the record labels would insist on; they must realize that online distribution closes a lot of the gap between a small record company, and them, and obviously they want to avoid direct competition as much as they can. So they'd want to suppress anything that a small, independent company could use as an advantage. Hence, demand that Apple apply the same "protection" to all iTMS-sold music.

    The other problem, which isn't exclusive of the first, is that the DRM isn't applied once to each song in the store when it's being added to the database, but added at the time of sale (necessary because it's encrypted with a key that's specific to each user), somewhere on Akamai's servers. It might be difficult to the point of being cost-prohibitive to designate one song as being DRM-free, if the system wasn't designed with that capability from the beginning.

    I've noticed that even songs that are free downloads (promo songs, etc.) from the iTMS have FairPlay placed on them, even when you can go to the band's or label's web site and download it as an MP3 (so it's obvious that the label doesn't care if it's protected); this makes me suspect that one or both of those problems exist.

    It would probably be trivial for Apple to turn off DRM completely, for all the songs in the Store, but difficult both legally and technically, to disable it for just one.

    (I'm not trying to sound like too much of an Apple apologist here, to be frank I think the iTMS is an abomination and I wish Apple had stood up to the record companies when they were screaming about the iPod and contributory infringement a few years ago, and remained a purely hardware company and stayed out of the music-retail business; however, at the time creating the iTMS was the best way of eliminating accusations of the iPod as a "piracy machine." It's ironic that Apple's own creation, created to soothe the record companies, is now coming back to haunt them. Well, that's what you get for dealing with the devil.)
  • by MrNaz ( 730548 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @05:42PM (#17911518) Homepage
    Hold on. I hate MS as much as the next guy, but backwards compatibility is not always possible, or even desirable. I don't think that MS bashing is always the correct position just because the writer feels he doesn't like the look of Bill Gates' glasses.

    Vista SDKs have been available to developers for ages, Apple has had ample opportunity to port iTunes to Vista, it is unfair of them to blame Microsoft. From a development perspective, the iTunes client software is trivial, especially for a company the size of Apple with that much riding on it. The resources to port it were likely deliberately withheld, as the bad press Apple can give to MS is calculated to tie in with the "Mac is better" add campaign. I.e., Apple is using the iPod as a weapon to get a mindshare advantage in the OSX vs. Windows battle.

    This is nothing but a sneaky trick by Apple.

    And I like it!
  • by schwaang ( 667808 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @05:45PM (#17911582)

    MS has just released a new OS that is more locked down with DRM than any other OS so far.
    Which MS did in order to deliver HD-DVD, using the same excuse that Jobs uses to justify iTunes/FairPlay ("they won't let us sell content without it").

    Let's see what Apple does or doesn't do to their OS to support HD movies before we judge them less evil than MS in this regard.
  • by dont_run ( 1050730 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @05:56PM (#17911752)
    1. The "big 4" want their music protected by DRM. Shame on them.

    2. Many indie bands and small record labels don't care about (or even want) DRM.

    3. Many bands, many records would just like to be listed by Apple and show up in the search results. Some of those artists would even want to give away their songs for no money at all.

    So I ask:

    Why not sell both DRM and non-DRM music?

    Why not embrace the revolution and turn iTunes into a universal music search tool?

    Why not have iTunes interpret CC licenses and automatically aggregate music found online without applying DRM to music licensed without such requirement?

    And a nice touch: Why not create an ugly icon (a monster?) to indicate those songs protected by the hateful DRM?
  • by rucs_hack ( 784150 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @06:01PM (#17911860)
    Oh come on... why would they lie about that?
    Apple freely acknowledge that the money they make from the iPod is on the hardware. The music is just there to give people a reason to own the ipod in the first place.
    Can you work out just how long they would have stayed in business in the states *without* drm? Weeks? Days? It would have ended in a very loud lawsuit, I can work out that much.

    Besides, how many well organised online music stores were there before iTunes? I can't think of a single one. Plenty of promises, but no decent existing stores.

    And how many that exist now are as good as iTunes? Um... None comes to mind..

    With an even playing field, free of drm, the iPod+iTunes combo would almost certainly win hands down. The only people I know who don't like iPods are tech snops who won't like it just because its made by apple, even though its a very competant little player.

    I got one a couple of months ago. Thus far I haven't found a single urban myth about the difficulties in using them to be true.

    File transfers? Check.
    Copying music back off it? Check, nicely organised by artist too.

    Plus the interface is easy (yes yes, I know it's like Creatives one who gives a crap, the clickwheel rocks), and the sound quality is great. Thats just about everything I want right there.

  • Re:iTunes and DRM (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @06:28PM (#17912434)
    Buying the CD doesn't always work.

    I wanted to buy Weird Al's latest, "Straight Outta Lynwood", so I went to my local store.

    The CD had this little sticker on it saying that it didn't conform to the CD standard, and may not play on any particular player. There's no way I'm going to give money to a store to get something that might or might not work. Even if the store was willing to take it back if it didn't work where I wanted it, I wasn't going to front the money and possibly have to return the "CD". (If you got a "CD" from a Sony-owned outfit, would you put it into a Windows box? I wouldn't. Will it work in a Mac? A stand-alone CD player? It didn't say.)

    I bought it from iTunes, and burned a copy to a CD. Sure, there was DRM involved, but I was going to have to suffer with DRM to get the music no matter what, and I know what I can do with the iTunes purchase: I can put it on my iPod, or play it in my old, low-end, portable CD player (hey, it still works).
  • Re:mod jobs up (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nine-times ( 778537 ) <> on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @06:33PM (#17912556) Homepage

    Without Apple, the studios still have CD sales and Zune sales.

    Do they? I thought part of the issue is that a lot of people want digital downloads, and Apple is the only company that's doing it in a way that's profitable for the record labels. I know I feel guilty buying CDs-- all that plastic and paper when I'm just going to rip the CD and keep it on my computer anyway. On a side note, I feel more guilty for the waste of physical resources of buying a CD than I feel about "stealing" music by downloading it from P2P.

    But really, how long do you think CD sales will last? Not forever. Internet connections are getting faster, hard drives are getting bigger, and people are getting more and more used to the idea that music is delivered to their homes instantaneously. And I don't think the two people who bought Zunes are going to make up for the loss of volume for iTunes sales.

  • by jbarnum ( 560848 ) <> on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @06:59PM (#17913058) Homepage
    By that definition, I don't know if Microsoft qualifies as a monopoly either. There are certainly competing operating systems, as well as competing products for nearly every application package they sell.
  • by Shads ( 4567 ) <> on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @07:26PM (#17913576) Homepage Journal
    My only complaint with the apple drm is the quality. I like everything to be 192+ as I can hear the difference in anything under 192.

    That being said, I buy some music from the itunes store and immediately rip it back to mp3 with myfairtunes -> ( 5 [] ) it's 100% of the quality of the original file just shy the drm ... unfortunately the quality of the original file isn't great *shrug*. It works with the most recent versions of itunes too.
  • Re:mod jobs up (Score:3, Interesting)

    by catwh0re ( 540371 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @07:27PM (#17913598)
    I suppose the problem here is that Apple didn't start out as a big player in the music market.(On part due to their agreement with Apple Corp.)They had to start somewhere and still managed to popularise the online music market. Remember it took a long time to get all the major labels on iTunes Store, Sony was a particularly long hold out while they were trying to leverage their own music store in the competitive gap.

    Since then competitors eager to join this growing market hastily agreed to restrictive DRM - not even the might of Microsoft couldn't convince Sony that sharing music over a Zune is a good idea.

    Now that the contracts are signed, the agreements done and dusted so to speak. Apple are locked into their own success. Contractually - they can't put pressure to free the music from DRM, when they've already proven a model of DRM which consumers evidently don't mind (2+ Billion songs). Apple's business agreements prevent it from being two faced - Especially when there are so many large competitors(Sony/MS/Real/etc) ready to fill any void that Apple leaves.

    At the end of the day, I believe DRM wouldn't be so negatively connotative if companies such as Sony/MS/Real/etc didn't hastily agree to draconian and utterly pathetic DRM restrictions when they launched their own music stores.

  • by guidryp ( 702488 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @07:37PM (#17913778)
    I see a lot of people here stating that Bill Gates said the same, but they provided no reference. So I went looking.It all leads back to blog entry below. From reading this it sounds like Bill Gates is not against DRM, just the current DRM. His short term suggestion for music. Is to buy a CD and rip it, to avoid all that nasty DRM. That most of that nasty music DRM that you would be avoiding in the short term is Apples, is only a bonus I am sure.

    Now it is hard to judge by these quotes that may have transcription problems, but this is in no way denigrating DRM on Bills part. Just current implementations, of which no doubt Vista is getting closer to DRM nirvana. Every time I see Bill Gates speak, he is exactly like a politician, trying to sound out on both sides of issues while ultimately saying nothing.

    Steve Jobs OTOH, is posting clearly without reservation what his stance is on DRM. So this is refreshingly different that Gates comments. -the-future-of-drm/ []
    Gates said that no one is satisfied with the current state of DRM, which "causes too much pain for legitmate buyers" while trying to distinguish between legal and illegal uses. He says no one has done it right, yet. There are "huge problems" with DRM, he says, and "we need more flexible models, such as the ability to "buy an artist out for life" (not sure what he means). He also criticized DRM schemes that try to install intelligence in each copy so that it is device specific.

    His short term advice: "People should just buy a cd and rip it. You are legal then."

    He ended by saying "DRM is not where it should be, but you won't get me to say that there should be usage models and different payment models for usage. At the end of the day, incentive systems do make a difference, but we don't have it right with incentives or interoperability."
  • by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @08:23PM (#17914426) Homepage Journal
    Could it be that Apple could be looking to become record label #6 and offering its music DRM-free?

    I think you're very close to the truth - they don't want to become another record label - they want to destroy the concept of record labels.

    Right now Apple shares their revenues with the RIAA 44/65. Apple's costs are on the order of 10 cents, leaving them 34 cents for a song. That's plenty.

    The RIAA's 65 gets split something like 5/60 with the artists. They probably have a mechanism to book that 60 as all expenses...

    The artist splits his share with his manager, probably like 3/2. So, to tally it all up:
    • Apple: 34 cents
    • Artist: 3 cents
    • Manager: 2 cents

    Now, Apple has just done this deal with Apple. They're probably still splitting it 34/65. The Apple Records shell probably keeps 4 of that for management costs, spreading the remainder 8/8/8/6 (6 for Ringo) among the Beetles. Hey, not bad!

    So, now Apple can setup a meeting with the newly reformed The Police and say, "hey, fellas...". Ditto every other major band that's coming time for contract renegotiations. They can point out:
    • we sell more music than anybody but walmart
    • look at the trend lines
    • your fans will buy online
    • you can still press your own media and sell CD's through Amazon, et. al., and probably even Walmart
    • or screw Walmart

    They can then show them a different split:
    • Apple: 34 cents
    • Arist:43 cents
    • Manager: 22 cents

    and say, "even without Walmart you'll be making more with us". It's not insignificant that the manager is making 11x his current take in the new business model - he's going to be advising the band on what to do next.

    So, you're right, the timing of this letter serves as the official "flipping the bird" by Apple to the RIAA. They apparently think their new business model is now proven and inevitable.

    Good luck boys, have fun storming the castle!
  • by GoulDuck ( 626950 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @09:32PM (#17915178)
    No, it's not piracy, but it's not easier than to be a pirate. That's what I wanted to say.
  • by bursch-X ( 458146 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @09:33PM (#17915184)
    Are you aware that Apple is compressing all the Music from their digital masters which have a much wider frequency and dynamic range than a shitty Audio CD? I bet some of those 128 AACs actually sound even better than their CD counterparts, compressed or not.
  • by SnowDog74 ( 745848 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2007 @10:00PM (#17915392)
    Throughout the discussion here I've noticed one observation conspicuously and repeatedly being ignored for its subtle, but ultimate, relevance to the matter at hand.

    Jobs noted the proportion of iTunes Music Store purchases on the average iPod... 2.2%. Note how surreptitiously his real point is being made...

    People buying iPods are barely loading them with DRM iTunes.

    I'll repeat that... People buying iPods are barely loading them with DRM iTunes.

    This should be ringing off alarm bells in your head. Jobs is not a moron. He is very careful to position his RDF in direct relation to how much leverage he inherently possesses over the entity he's selling to... whether the music industry or consumers.

    In this case, the data begs, no, screams the obvious... DRM iTunes are an insignificant factor in the usage of iPods. They are a loss leader that may attract some consumers to the concept, but practically anyone buying an iPod discovers, sooner or later, how absurdly easy it is to pop in a CD, rip it, and drop it to your iPod.

    Apple stands to lose very little if the record companies fail, once again, to pay attention to the tea leaves that indicate the public isn't buying their artificial attempts at keeping a dying distribution monopoly on life support. Someone suggested Apple has more to lose because if they have no songs on the store, they won't sell iPods. I think the data suggests otherwise. Clearly they sell far more iPod capacity than is used to hold purchased iTunes... which is a good indication that they could continue to sell iPods like crazy without any iTunes Music Store because iTunes without the music store still facilitates a very aesthetically appealing, functional, integrated solution, quality controlled top to bottom by Apple without reliance on third parties for operability assurance.

    There's an argument about interoperability but let me remind everyone that a device that doesn't like to talk to other devices still functions in and of itself. A device that doesn't even talk to itself or its own peripherals very well is, however, entirely useless. Interoperability isn't as critical an issue as operability assurance. If you buy a device, you expect that it works. Third party conglomerations of software and hardware very often fail this most basic consumer expectation in too many ways to count. Hence my absolute amusement whenever naysayers play down "it just works" as a superfluous requirement demanded only by design aesthetes. I presume there isn't a consumer of sound mind on the planet who wants their product to "just fail."

    In that regard, iPod + iTunes still has strategic competitive advantages of tremendous importance against competing hardware and software.

    Jobs isn't being philosophically altruistic in his statement. This isn't to say his action isn't admirable, but to fully understand just what kind of balls he has to come out and deliver such a bold ultimatum to the recording industry, one has to understand the confluence of factors that give support to his assertions.

    It was evident as early as the birth of the world wide web that internet distribution of music was an inevitability. Record companies hurried up and did nothing. This is not for lack of foresight. They knew it was coming. But the implications go far beyond piracy. The real fear of opening up the distro monopoly has to do with the realization by recording artists that record companies are now superfluous. Once upon a time, record companies offered promotion, marketing and distribution resources that were largely unmatched. The internet has entirely changed this. The RIAA barrage of lawyers being hurled at every twelve year old and grandmother is not because piracy threatens their bottom line. Artist independence threatens their bottom line. The entire internet threatens their bottom line. But if we put the internet and RIAA on a scale, and factor in growth momentum, the scale tells us that the internet is unstoppable. RIAA also knows this. But t

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