I read Steve Jobs' little diatribe about DRM that I posted the other day, and initially I was impressed by his openness about the subject and thought that he made some valid points. And then I thought about it a little bit more and found several holes in his tale of whoa about the corner that apple has been painted in with music-industry-required DRM. This all really came to light for me when I just recently bought a Creative Zen Vision M media player (pictured on the left).
You see, he makes claims that Apple's specific DRM and protecting it involves keeping secrets. He says that if they were to license out the DRM to other stores it would be harder to keep those secrets, the DRM encryption would be comprimised and the major record labels would pull out of the store. He cites their model of DRM as being comparable to Microsoft's Zune store, and Sony's store for their player. He says these companies need specific stores for their specific products because of this secrecy problem. The problem with this argument is that he completely fails to mention of the half dozen stores that support DOZENS of different players from a host of manufactures. One prime example being Napster. I signed up with Napster when I got my Zen, because first of all they gave me a free 30 day subscription, and secondly becuase of course the Zen was one of over 30 players supported by the stores' DRM.
Ok, so now I'll be completely honest about Napster, it's good, but's not great. I have the subscription service that advertised as being able to download anything from the store to an unlimted extent, the only catch is you have to maintain your subscription to have access to the songs transfered to your device. I thought-ok, I can live with that, I listen to enough music that this is a good deal. But I quickly found out that I don't have access to ALL the songs napster has in it's store, but about 90-95% of them. The remaining are "Buy Only". While with most albums this isn't a problem, I keep running into situation where I can download the entire albums except for 1 or 2 tracks and that drives me nuts. So i'm considering switching to yahoo or rhapsody, and I can do this, because I don't have an ipod (anymore). WMA DRM is used by several stores, so I have options. Apple's M4p DRM is used by one store, apple...so if you have an ipod and you want to buy tracks online, you gotta buy from apple, end of story. Steve also points out that music sales are still 90% driven by CDs, which are for the most part DRM free, so the argument that you don't have music buying choices is not valid. This is true, Steve, but if online music buying weren't such a hassle, that ratio would change in a heart-beat (also, illegal trading would drop even more I suspect). I personally don't want to buy cds anymore. To me, buying CDs would be like a personal who buys CDs all them time having to buy Cassettes because of frustrating music buying hurdles.
So the question becomes, why does the top online music download store, sell tracks that only work on one device? Steve wants you to believe it's because of the security reasons, but then why can Napster, Rhapsody, and Yahoo (amoung others) share a DRM model if it's soooo dangerous to do so? Why is it that apple itself only accepts 1 DRM model and mp3s? Apple's actions speak louder than Steve's words. It's all about driving IPOD sales with it's popular Itunes store, and driving Itunes song sales with their popular IPOD. They beleive they've got the consumer trapped in their vortex, and so far they have.
Sure, if everything was DRM-free life would be a lot simpler. But, things would also be a lot simpler if Ipods supported, WMA's or Itunes sold WMA's, or Apple licensed out their DRM model.