Thoughts on DRM – a Response to Engadget’s Post Apple/EMI Commentary

Now, there is no way for a man writing on an Apple Blog to say anything against an essay like the one posted on Engadget this afternoon without being called a “fanboy” or an “Apple Apologist” so let’s just get that out of the way up front…if you want to call me either of these things…it’s noted. Say what you want, but regardless of any Apple bias, What happened today is a VERY, VERY good thing…but, like the Internet always does, sites like Engadget are quick to call the deal shady, and self serving.

Can someone please show me a successful for profit company that doesn’t do things that are in its best interest? Anyone? Anyone?

I didn’t think so.

What EMI and Apple did today is a great thing. These two companies have put the ball in OUR courts. We now have a choice, and we can vote with our dollars. The fact that EMI is still selling DRMed tracks in no way lessens what they are doing with the higher quality, DRM free downloads….and the fact that Steve Jobs hasn’t FORCED Disney to release all of their music DRM free is, to me, completely asinine. Steve Jobs does not OWN Disney. He doesn’t snap his fingers and make every executive jump and ask “how high?” on the way up. It just doesn’t happen.

Is it an experiment? Of course it is. Everything in business is an experiment. AppleTV is an experiment. The iPod was an experiment…hell, the MAC was an experiment.

By selling the tracks at a different price point, it will be very easy for individuals to tell the difference between the DRMed and non DRMed tracks…and higher quality audio files doesn’t create the “illusion of greater value” it actually CREATES greater value.

What we’re going to see in the near future from this move by EMI and Apple is the answer to the question, “Does the general consumer care about DRM?” Now, I’m not talking about all of us geeks that spend all of our time on the web, complaining about everything that happens all day long in our chosen field of self-educated expertise. I’m talking about your husband or wife that isn’t into computers…you kid’s teacher…your brother, your grandmother…the GENERAL PUBLIC.

When they see that there are two version of songs in iTunes, they are going to ask WHY…even if they have ignored all the press this announcement has generated. When they ask why…and you, dear reader, will probably be the one they ask…you can tell them why, and explain why non-DRMed, higher quality files, are a better purchase (assuming you feel that way).

I mean, for the love of PETE, they even went so far as to switch the higher quality files and non-DRMed tracks as the DEFAULT for album purchases. This is GREAT NEWS.

So, to the fine folks at Engadget, who I respect and appreciate…I ask, please, stop living in a dream world where all music companies will trust the world to not steal their files and release everything they own with absolutely no restrictions…you and I both know that isn’t going to happen over night. Yes, we both agree that they’re already doing it with CDS. Yes, we both agree they are idiots…but today is a day to be celebrated for the monumental first step that one of these giant companies has taken (EMI, not Apple).

Let’s cut them a little slack.

Comments

  1. I think we agree on more than you realize! Today’s news is indeed VERY good, some of the best I’ve heard in a long time.

    However, I do think you underestimate Jobs’s clout at Disney. Moreover, I think you’re not remembering all the indie labels and musicians who’ve been asking to sell their music on iTunes DRM-free for years. All of a sudden EMI decides to do it and the Apple tidal wave strikes? No, I think Apple is getting too much credit here.

    My point with DRM was that most people who use an iPod and iTunes and iTMS prob don’t care about DRM — until it’s too late (i.e. their hard drive dies and they have to call Apple to ask permission to redownload their music). There shouldn’t be a premium attached to DRM-free music, it should be marketed equally. The higher price was entirely Apple’s choice, and that’s where I found fault in Apple’s approach.

    Believe it or not, other than that I do pretty much agree. And I do appreciate your response! Certainly less caustic than most of the other people who I seem to have riled up today! :)

    -R

  2. @Ryan Block,
    Apple can’t win on this one. When the iTunes store started out with Disney product only (including ABC television), it was… the only studio Jobs could get interested is the one where he has a huge equity position and a board seat. Now that he’s starting with EMI, it’s… if he really cared, he’d start with the labels that he has a financial interest in.

  3. Michael says:

    Ryan -

    I get what you’re saying, and I would agree with you if the files were exactly the same except for the DRM…but they’re not.

    The files are a higher quality audio.

    Plus. I think the price distinction is important for those same people that don’t pay attention to DRM. They will want to know why there are two prices…where, if they were the same, I don’t think that those people would ask or even care.

    It is important that people have this choice between DRMed tracks and Non-DRMed tracks. If they choose the Non-DRMed tracks, then we will all have a very important precedent that the other labels will HAVE to look at.

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