Please give Fairplay to the RIAA

I can’t actually verify this, but I’m willing to bet I was one of the first hundred people to download a track from iTunes. It was great and evil at the same time. Instantly I could legally download music, and instantly my wife put me on an allowance. I could sleep at night now that my Napster and Kazaa days of borrowing from other people were over, the risk of viral attack minimized, and best of all I was back on a Mac.

Then I decided to reload my Macs, and discovered the wonder of FairPlay DRM. From that point on, I knew that DRM and interoperability couldn’t exist. We all knew it, but in 2004 there was no better answer it seemed. The music distributors we’re angry that the Internet was a perfect venue for perfect copying of their intellectual property. If something wasn’t going to stop the Internet, then it was either a pack of hungry lawyers hunt down the grab asses or have Apple fix the problem. Unfortunately, the tech world knows what Apple delivered isn’t the best solution since we are all a little unhappy about the restrictions.

Face the music that Apple doesn’t really care about the DRM or Fairplay. It’s the music industry who wouldn’t sign off on the iTunes store without Fairplay technology. Of course Fairplay gives Apple the historical control they thrive for in their products but I feel that is secondary to the real issue. Now that Apple has made iTunes/iPod a huge success, the labels are mad that they don’t control it. In the Daring Fireball article Jamieson’s states

“It’s not particularly healthy for any one company to have such a dominant share.”

Riiiiiiight. What he really means is that it’s it’s not healthy for the record labels to ‘hand over’ control of their distribution to one company alone. Which is silly because it isn’t as though iTunes is the only distribution means on the Internet. Capitalism isn’t an immediate balance ecosystem; there will always be a dominating player in the beginning.

Think about this possibility: When the iTunes store shuts down, what do you think Apple will do for the billions of tracks they have sold to their customers? Do they expect to keep their customers if Apple said “Oh, sorry about that. You’ll need to go out and buy those tracks again.” Of course not, Apple has already thought about this. They’ve done a fantastic job keeping the DRM in iTunes usable to most people. Yet when the day comes, and it will, Apple will send out an application that removes the DRM restrictions or face heavy financial losses.

Apple should give the iPod, the store, and iTunes to the RIAA in this case. It’s obvious the record industry won’t be happy until they claim it. When the day comes, they will undermine themselves in the download market because Fairplay will get ‘adjusted’. It seems in their view that unless they maintain a monopoly they will continue to push tracks from Fergie and Gwen Stefani on us. I really want good music to come back to the iTunes home page. Until the RIAA can focus on, dare I say, music we’re stuck listening to the same two artists over and over again until we think we like it.

“iPods currently only play unprotected MP3 files, such as those ripped from CDs, or songs downloaded from the iTunes Music Store. It applies its own Digital Rights Management (DRM) to the downloads it sells, that prevents them from being compatible with non-iPod music players. The DRM also prevents downloads purchased from most other legal download services, such as Napster and HMV Digital, from playing on iPods.”

What? Just because Microsoft created PlaysForSure (and subsequently abandoned it for Zune) Apple is wrong now? I call the B.S. flag here, because again Apple would have made the iTunes store with or without DRM if the labels allowed it then. Watch the intro Jobs gave on the iPod.

Jobs eludes to the eventual iTunes store by saying he believes people would download a song for a buck. He doesn’t say “Gee if we wrap this up in some awesome DRM consumers would be thrilled to have their purchases managed by us”. DRM is a trade off for an unhappy monopoly who can’t accept the fact that DRM and interoperability are technically and politically unfeasible. Digital Rights Management in its own wording is contradictory. The benefit of digital is exact and perfect copying capability, and rights management is the politically correct way to say law.

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