Can't hear your utopian vision over the sound of my iPod.
Cory Doctorow takes his cardboard sign that says “DRM-ER, REPENT!” to Salon today to harangue you mindless sheeple who continue to buy iPods.
Tsk. You idiots.
Doctorow doesn’t believe Steve Jobs when he says he’d drop DRM in a hearbeat if the recording companies would let him, saying Apple is enjoying the benefits of locking customers into iTunes. If Jobs is serious, he asks, why won’t Apple sell songs from artists who own their own music and want it to be sold DRM-free? Why are some podcasts DRMed and some DRM-free? Why has Apple always sold Pixar movies with DRM? Why was Apple’s first pitch to the music companies to sell DRM-free music?
Whoops, he didn’t say that last one.
To be sure, though, Jobs is only talking about music. No one is under any illusions that the movie business is going to budge one inch. The Macalope will stipulate that there is a bizarre inconsistency in the treatment of the two media. One’s DRM is under attack, the other’s is not.
Mr. Gruber has opined here on whether or not Apple would offer both DRMed and DRM-free music and the Macalope agrees with his analysis – it’s going to take some critical mass to get Apple to do it (not just a smattering of indy bands), but if one of the companies says “OK”, Apple better come through.
As for podcasts being offered both ways, it is an inconsistency, but consumers of podcasts are almost certainly more aware of what the heck DRM is in the first place.
Doctorow does make some good points but, as usual for him with this subject, he’s so wound up about it that he keeps heading off into la-la-koo-koo crazy-bananas land to make sure you know how bad DRM is.
Apple may have created a successful “Switch” campaign by reverse-engineering Microsoft products like PowerPoint to make Keynote, an Apple program that lets you run old PowerPoint decks on your Mac, but Microsoft can’t create a “Switch to the Zune” campaign that offers you the ability to play your iTunes Store songs on a Zune, Microsoft’s latest abortive iPod-killer.
What? Apple’s “Switch” campaign is based on getting PowerPoint files to open in Keynote? Since when? Apple’s own “Get A Mac” ads actually reference the Mac version of Microsoft Office, not iWork.
The Macalope knows Doctorow is trying to compare Microsoft’s lock on office applications to Apple’s lock on digital music, but it’s a rather tortured comparison. Even MP3s are not editable in the way a PowerPoint presentation is.
Not only won’t your iTunes Store music play on those devices, it’s illegal to try to get it to play on those devices.
Doctorow doesn’t say it explicitely, but he seems to be implying that even burning an audio CD of your iTunes Store purchases and re-ripping them as MP3s is illegal under the DCMA. The Macalope has never heard that before and is inclined to think that’s not true, but he wouldn’t be completely surprised to find out it is. You would have to re-enter all the metadata and for a large number of tracks that’s going to be a huge pain in the ass.
Doctorow then plays his Apple street cred card again.
I’m a lifelong Apple fan boy — I have an actual Mac tattoo…
That’s cute. As long as we’re whipping it out and comparing sizes here, the Macalope feels compelled to point out that he has a head actually shaped like a Mac.
So… you know…
If you rip your own CDs and load them onto your iPod, you’ll notice something curious.
The iPod is a roach motel: Songs check in, but they don’t check out. Once you put music on your iPod, you can’t get it off again with Apple’s software. No recovering your music collection off your iPod if your hard drive crashes.
So now the complaint is that the iPod isn’t an archival device? Well, it’s probably good you’ve got the CDs, then.
The Macalope thinks the real concern would be your iTunes-purchased music and those files can be copied off your iPod and onto another machine. Frankly, the Macalope doesn’t understand why Apple restricts this feature to iTunes-purchased songs. Probably at the behest of the recording industry which assumes any MP3s you have on your iPod must have been stolen in the first place.
What’s more, Apple prevents copying indiscriminately. You can’t copy any music off your iPod.
Not technically true as you can sync your purchases to another authorized machine. But, yes, you can’t copy them off individually.
Apple even applies the no-copying measure to audio released under a Creative Commons license (for example, my own podcasts), which prohibits adding DRM. The Creative Commons situation is inexcusable; because Creative Commons licenses are machine-readable, iTunes could automatically find the C.C.-licensed works and make them available for copying back to your computer.
Apple has “locked” the iPod so you can’t copy any non-DRMed content synced with iTunes off of it, but the files themselves have not been DRMed. You can copy them from machine to machine a variety of other ways, including using the iPod as a hard drive. It’s a rather stupid encumberance, but it’s not exactly keeping people from copying Creative Commons works. It’s really just saying you can’t use iTunes to do it and if you want to play it and copy it, you have to put it on there twice.
Stupid, yes. Evil? Only if you’re incredibly pedantic about DRM.
Videos you buy from the iTunes Store can only be watched on Apple’s products. So every movie you buy from Apple is a tax down the line of switching from Apple to a competing product.
The Macalope’s got to go with him here. This is a piss-poor situation engendered by the recording industry’s ability years ago to control how DVDs and DVD players were designed. The least the industry and Apple could do is allow customers to burn them to a fixed number of DVDs.
Conceptually, spyware and DRM have the same goals: to do something to your computer that you don’t want to happen.
Oh, please. It’s crap like this that makes Doctorow so unbearable on this issue. Does the Macalope need to point out the difference between consensual sex — albeit with someone who you fear may end up being too clingy but, hey, they’re right there and they’re willing and you wouldn’t even have to get up off of the couch or possibly even move — and, well, getting raped?
At the end of the day, DRM is the biggest impediment to a legitimate music market. Apple doesn’t sell music because of DRM — it sells music in spite of DRM.
Doctorow’s strident war against DRM certainly has a goal the Macalope agrees with. But while the horny one is not naive about the motivations behind Jobs’ statement, he also doesn’t think Doctorow helps his own case by stretching the truth to try to scare the kiddies about Apple’s DRM.