The biggest name in online music today is Apple. Their successful iTunes store sells songs by the Billion (Yes, with a capital B) to consumers across the globe. Personally, I’ve spent more money on iTunes buying albums and songs than perhaps I’d care to admit to my wife or to my accountant. At last count, I had close to 2,000 tracks from the iTMS, all with its built-in DRM called FairPlay. Lately there’s been a lot of hullaballoo concerning FairPlay and DRM as a whole. Apple’s been largely silent on the subject, conspicuously so for a market leader. Today that silence was broken as Steve Jobs himself released a statement on music on the front page of Apple.com.
The statement is unequivocal in its terms: The record labels require us to license their music for sale using FairPlay. We think FairPlay is a good system, but to license it to others would compromise its integrity. If you can convince the record labels, specifically the big four, to license their music to us without DRM, we will include it in our store. Specifically, Apple points out that the European concern regarding DRM lands almost squarely in their own backyard, as Bertelsmann owns half of Sony/BMG, and Vivendi owns Universal outright, as EMI is an entirely British-owned company.
Steve’s hint is far from subtle: convince the labels to go DRM-free and Apple will gladly follow suit.
It is a truly interesting day for DRM and Apple and all of the music-loving world. Well done, Steve.