Steve Jobs, Slayer of DRM

Courtesy of Mac Rumours comes this memo from Steve Jobs on FairPlay, the Digital Rights Management (DRM) anti-piracy technology with which Apple encodes downloaded music. DRM limits where and how digital music can be played. Ideally, such measures prevent pirates from freely sharing illegal music – but legitimate owners of DRM-encoded music are also hindered. FairPlay has the further stipulation that buyers of iTunes music are locked into using an iPod if they want their music to be portable – a limitation that has likely served Apple quite well. Their success with the combination iTunes + iPod model is the envy of the industry, and other digital music player manufacturers want a larger piece of that pie. Or is it Apple that's getting greedy?

Last year, Apple encountered legal pressure in France when Apple tried to open its iTunes store there. Now, Norway is attempting to declare DRM outright illegal. By insisting on applying DRM, Apple finds it is limiting its global market.

In his memo, Steve Jobs explains why and how DRM came into existence, and three routes it could take from here. Ultimately, he suggests that DRM is insisted upon not by Apple, but by its constituents:

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.

iPod owners and iTunes users have often felt that DRM is more of a political gesture than an effective practice; there are simple and sundry methods to strip a purchased song of its DRM. But by making the effort to protect the contents of the iTunes Music Store, Apple has a token to show the recording companies with whom it contracts to stock its digital shelves.

There's a different standard of store that offers all its music – including the Beatles' – without any DRM whatsoever: the Brick-and-Mortar Store. Pop any music CD into your computer, and you can create a digital audio file based on the MP3 compression format, which is compatible with almost every platform and player.

Perhaps iTunes is headed in that same direction. Physical CDs have given consumers unrestricted access to music for decades; Jobs thinks it's time for the now-proven online business model to grant its clientele that same freedom.

And if it does, who's to gain: Apple? Norway? Music studios? Artists? Consumers? Or pirates?

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Computerworld Staff

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?