This may turn out to be the most interesting week in digital music since Apple opened its online store. First, Steve Jobs told the major labels to forget about Apple licensing out is FairPlay DRM system; the end game was going to be unprotected files. Then, just two days after the Wall Street Journal reported that EMI‘s digital-licensing efforts were particularly backward, comes word that EMI may be taking up Jobs on his offer. Forbes, which seems to have had the story first, notes that “Industry insiders have been buzzing for months that one of the majors was seriously exploring the possibility of freeing its downloads from restrictions.” That major, reports say, is EMI, and it is having negotiations with RealNetworks, Yahoo, MySpace, Napster and others. The talks are still on, and a decision could come as soon as Friday.
This comes on the same day that Warner Music Edward Bronfman Jr. pooh-poohed such ideas, so EMI’s move, even if it is desperate, is quite bold and could have an enormous domino effect on the rest of the major labels.
Marketwatch and others are passing on rumors that Apple has an event planned later this month that will focus on a Beatles-related announcement, made possible by the recent deal between Jobs’s Apple and the Beatles’s Apple. The Beatles are signed to EMI, which makes the whole thing juicier. Things are moving very fast.
This could be enormous. It would drag EMI, which, as the WSJ notes, doesn’t even have a YouTube deal yet, to the front of the line in digital music and it would provide the interoperability that Bronfman and others say they want. Digital e-commerce won’t take off until there is a common standard–and it won’t take off until there is a common standard that doesn’t treat customers like potential felons. The endgame is clear indeed. The biggest seller of digital music wants to do away with DRM and one of the majors appears poised to do the same, too. Maybe, just maybe, our long national nightmare of DRM’d music might be over.
Then, of course, we’ll see if Jobs, who in one of his other incarnations is one of Disney’s biggest stockholders, will call for taking DRM off movies.
Opening-of-the-minds related links:
–EMI’s Apparent Business Model: Slower Deals, More Returns
–Steve Jobs to Music DRM: Drop Dead
— @ MidemNet: Music Industry In Quandary Over DRM
— @ MidemNet: Glaser: Do Away With DRM For Downloads
— @ MidemNet: MPAA, RIAA, CEA Execs Clash Over DRM & Hardware Controls
— Music Industry Taking Brief Break from Usual Practice to Give Customers What They Want
— Yahoo Pushes Futher Into MP3; Launches Full Album With Disney Label
— Yahoo Offers Unrestricted MP3 Download For $1.99; Considering More