Recently Steve Jobs, head of Apple, publicly came out against DRM (Digital Right Management). DRM, for those who don’t know, is the software that recording companies put on legally downloaded music so that it cannot be shared. It’s why you can’t play songs downloaded via I-tunes on your Zune or use switch all those songs from Rhapsody to your new I-pod.
Steve Jobs basically says don’t blame Apple for DRM, it’s the record companies that are making us put DRM on all our downloaded songs. Apple would rather make songs available DRM-free. Now of course Apple could probably do more to change the record company’s behavior regarding DRM but in the end he’s right. DRM has got to go.
When I buy a CD (which I still do too much of), I can play it on my main stereo, my computer, a boombox, my car, my kids can play it on their boomboxes. I can bring it to my neighbor and play it and if I forget it at his house, he can play it without me around. When I get sick of the CD, I can sell it to Cheapo records and someone else can then buy it and play it on their stereo equipment. However, when you legally download a song this flexibility is not available. Depending on what program you are using, downloaded song are restricted to what computer it can be played on, the number of times it can be played, subscriptions have to be maintained in order to continue to listen to a song, and of course you can’t change .mp3 players because the song will only play on certain players. And the record companies wonder why millions of songs are downloaded illegally every year?
Now I don’t envy the recording industry. It is very simple to illegally download a song onto your computer. An eight-year-old with moderate computer skills could probably do it. I understand their concern about rights infringements and paying artists for their songs. However the current system with DRM does not work and only encourages people to illegally download music. A simple, DRM-free, legal means to download music is needed that allows anyone who downloads a song to have the same listening flexibility as someone who purchases a CD. Until the recording industry recognizes this fact, wholesale illegal downloading of music will continue.
What do you think?