Real Steve: "Imagine."

Steve Jobs provides his Thoughts on Music (tip o’ the antlers to BoingBoing) and specifically DRM.

Here are some key sections:

Apple was able to negotiate landmark usage rights at the time, which include allowing users to play their DRM protected music on up to 5 computers and on an unlimited number of iPods.

However, a key provision of our agreements with the music companies is that if our DRM system is compromised and their music becomes playable on unauthorized devices, we have only a small number of weeks to fix the problem or they can withdraw their entire music catalog from our iTunes store.

So far we have met our commitments to the music companies to protect their music, and we have given users the most liberal usage rights available in the industry for legally downloaded music.

Apple has concluded that if it licenses FairPlay to others, it can no longer guarantee to protect the music it licenses from the big four music companies.

Imagine a world where every online store sells DRM-free music encoded in open licensable formats. In such a world, any player can play music purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is playable on all players. This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat.

Why would the big four music companies agree to let Apple and others distribute their music without using DRM systems to protect it? The simplest answer is because DRMs haven’t worked, and may never work, to halt music piracy.

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.

It’s an interesting read. Jobs also says that as only 3% of music on an iPod is FairPlay-protected, Apple doesn’t see it as a scheme to lock users in.

The part of Steve Jobs will be played by Charlton Heston. The part of Mitch Bainwol will be played by Yul Brynner (antler tip to Your Daily Dosage for the correction).

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  • deep darc says:

    Steve’s Thoughts on Music…

    Everyone who cares about DRM should read Steve Jobs’ Thoughts on Music. (thx Macalope) Here are a few choice excerpts:

    . . . Imagine a world where every online store sells DRM-free music encoded in open licensable formats. In such a world, any pla…

  • Bruce Garlock:

    I think it was Merlin, who said (I am paraphrasing) with regards to the Norway DRM issue: “Why can’t I use my CD in my 8 track – It is locking me into this format – Monopoly!”

    DRM is a joke, and every time someone bashes Apple for the DRM, I explain to them, that it is not Apple, it is the recording companies. Man, it would be great if we could lose the DRM. Norway should be suing the record companies, not Apple.

  • V-Train:

    One day after Apple, Inc. and Apple Corps setle, Jobs channels John Lennon. Was that part of the licensing agreement? 😛

  • Very skillful move on Steve´s part.

  • moog:

    What is it with Jobs and doing everything on a Tuesday? What does he do on a Monday that we don’t know about??!

  • dino:

    Wow. Just…. Wow.

  • Andy:

    Um – anybody think there’s more to this Apple Inc / Apple Corps deal than meets the eye ?

    I mean, the original agreement forbade Apple Inc from publishing music – and that’s now null and void. There is now nothing stopping Apple from stepping in and signing up artists directly with iTunes, producing and publishing music directly (and DRM free if Steve’s comments are anything to go by). New Apple artists could even have samples of their music shipped out on each and every iPod sold…

  • John Muir:

    Smart notion there Andy…. 😀

  • Donn:

    Invoke Ferris Bueller’s Day Off:

    When Steve-o was in Egypt land… let my music go!

  • > “There is now nothing stopping Apple from stepping in and signing up artists directly with iTunes, producing and publishing music directly (and DRM free if Steve’s comments are anything to go by)”

    Bloody hell, hadn’t thought of that. The first 30 years really was just the beginning, wasn’t it?

    Hold on though. As Steve said, 2 billion DRMed songs and 20 billion songs on CDs got sold last year. Some of the 2 billion could get converted to sales for Apple-published music, but regardless of the DRM situation, I ain’t gonna buy music if I don’t like it.

    I’ll also mention, for the billionth time, doubtless without any blog picking it up, that sells 320 kbps MP3s for 99p per track. Their music selection is from lots of independent labels. They’ve got Bloc Party’s new album for £8 right now.

  • So now the question is why the iTunes store retains DRM for artists on labels that don’t require it? For example the Nettwerk Music Group does not require DRM and in fact you can buy DRM free music from their catalog on their site (and from eMusic). The same music on iTunes is DRM’d despite the fact the Label does not require it.

    The likely, and reasonable, explanation is that the iTunes store is not set up to handle sales in different ways. It’s either all DRM’d or not. Or at least I hope that’s the explanation.

  • Jody Chen:

    Andy, that is indeed an intriguing idea. A very intriguiging idea. And here I was thinking it cool that Apple could now sell iPods bundled with music, or even iTunes compilation CD’s (a la the phenomenally successful “Now!” music compilations). Come to think of it, what’s to stop them from selling custom CD’s with uncompressed tracks via snail mail? Select the tracks, arrange the order on the disc, click the iTMS purchase button, and a disc arrives a few days later. The Netflix of music, except you don’t have to send back the disc. Man, the possibilities are astonishing, especially when you factor in TV shows and movies. Downloading is amazingly convenient, but broadband penetration and current speeds make downloading high-quality content (digitall speaking, of course; there are a lot of sucky movies out there) painful at best.

    Jeremy Horowitz of iLounge has an interesting piece on how the settlement may change the iPod and Apple itself.

  • Jody Chen:

    Following up on Andy’s insight, what’s to stop iTMS from not only signing up artists themselves, but also eventually producing television series or movies themselves? I’m willing to bet that Hollywood has already grasped the implications, and couldn’t be more uncomfortable if they pissed razorblades.

  • LarsG:

    “and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat”..

    You know, not all of the music in the iTMS catalog is licensed from the Big Four. A fair bit is from smaller and indie labels, some of which have no problem with selling their music without DRM. In fact, there are those that have asked Apple to sell their music sans DRM but have been denied.

    Jobs doesn’t have to wait for the Big Four. If he really is serious about this he should give the smaller labels the option of selling their music through iTMS DRM-free. If he doesn’t, it is hard to see his open letter as more than damage control to get the euro consumer ombudsmen off his back.

  • The Quivering Bunny:


    There is one GLARING reason the Great Steve is advocating a DRM-free world. Not sure why people are missing this, but it’s quite obvious (and is causing me quite a bit of quivering).

    DRM-free songs will kill the subscription model.

    I repeat.

    DRM-free songs will kill the subscription model.

    Please help spread this message, before….ahhh, too late, it’s Chris Goro….ahhhh!

  • No, no, this is SO “Shane”.

    Alan Ladd will play Steve, and Jack Palance will play Jack Valenti

  • i love when steve does math. his presentation of numbers can make you believe ANYTHING. it might be some sort of voodoo – but i do love it…

  • Follower:

    As for the idea of selling non-DRM’d music from independent labels while continuing to sell FairPlay-encoded content from the majors: Reportedly, Apple was able to keep prices at 99¢ after the recent contract renewals with the Big 4 music labels by demonstrating the success of the absolute standardization of product on the iTunes Store. (Meanwhile, on the PlaysForSure side, differing prices and levels of DRM rights from song to song have not been good for Napster’s and Rhapsody’s bottom lines.) “One size fits all” (at least for music) is a core concept of the iTunes Store. Selling a mixture of DRMed and non-DRMed music would break that. Once that happens, the major labels suddenly get leverage they hadn’t had before: “Well, since your audience doesn’t seem to mind having two different types of use privileges, we’ve got some ideas about pricing that we’d like to discuss.”

  • Se7en:

    Did you read Scoble’s and that Zune manager’s responses to this? “Table for 2, extra Whine, please”

  • Alan Graham:

    One little thing I’d like to point out…since there is a bit of re-writing of history going on…the original iTunes Music Store allowed 7 devices to playback music…and in a following update…they took back 2 of them.

    Who was responsible for that move? Apple…or RIAA? Labels?

    Anyone else remember this?

  • Alan Graham:

    So what do I know? A little more digging (this was a while ago) and here’s what changed back then…

    Burning playlists contracted from 10 to 7…and guest listeners went from 5 at once to 5 in a 24 hour period.

  • Alan,

    They also increased the number of devices (or was it just iPods?) you can sync to, didn’t they? And more recently let you move songs from an iPod to a computer.

    The Macalope doesn’t defend the actions you note. A company shouldn’t take away functionality. The point of the excitement about Jobs’ comments is that it is a dramatic change in the company’s position. Sure, Jobs is going to spin it (his point about how licensing FairPlay would mean that it would get hacked easier is also silly) making it sound like they always wanted DRM-free music.

    People do remember that Apple’s a corporation, right?

  • Macalope, I am quite disappointed with you. You posted the direct pronouncement of Jobs yet left out a huge essential part:

    “These are the words of Jobs; thanks be to Apple.”

    Now let us now gather around the warm glow of our iPods as I recite an excerpt from the sacred Book.

    “…And so it came to be that Jobs did cast off the chains of licensing rights on Apple put upon it by another called by the same name. And slowly flexing its newly restriction free limbs Apple did arise unto its feet. Behold the radiant monolith that hath emerged! It was then that this magnificent pillar, with Jobs at its head, turned its focus on the four giants of hymn. Lo, His voice bellowed proudly and defiantly at the great beasts, ‘For to long have ye oppressed my followers’ measures! No longer will I passively observe such injustice done unto them! I, Jobs, demand that you release your chains upon the hymns of the faithful and of those that hath turned toward the light!’ And when the giants heard Him they quivered with such terror for they knew that they hath invited the wraith of Jobs upon themselves…”

    Jobs 23:45-52

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