Thursday, April 05, 2007

Jobs predicts the death of audio DRM within a year

A cursory examination of my DRM posts would show that, until the end of 2006, I didn't expect audio DRM to fall so quickly. It appears in retrospect to have been a rotted tree, ready to collapse.

If Jobs is correct in his prediction, this means the effective end of audio DRM within the year ...
AppleInsider | Jobs talks new iTunes functions, DRM and video, iPod storage [transcript]

...Q: You mentioned that 2.5 of 5 million [songs in your iTunes] catalog will be DRM-free by the end of the year. That's presumably not just EMI Records by the end of the year.
A: That's correct. That's our estimate. That's EMI content plus other content from other labels.
Q: And the second part of my question is: What do you think this will have an impact on the iPod-iTunes relationship in terms of now being able to buy your music on any player and not just on iPod?
A: Well again, you've been able to play all sorts of music on iPod forever. iPods have played MP3s forever. So the only music that has been in question is music you buy off the iTunes store. Now again, you can burn a CD and read that CD back in and it takes off the DRM. So you could then play it on anything else. We compete based on having what we we think is the best music store and based on what we think is having the best music players. And if customers agree with us, we are going to do well. If they don't, well we're going to get a message back that we have to work harder...
Jobs tries to imply this isn't that big a deal since consumers could always burn a CD then re-encode the music. In reality anyone who's tried this will tell you the quality is similar to AM radio.

I suspect the non-DRMd files will have, embedded within them, an encrypted and non-removable identifier that can be tracked back to the purchaser's credit card records. I'm surprised nobody has asked about that. It's what I'd do if I were Apple. (Update 5/3/07: and that's what they did, but the one you can see isn't even encrypted. I'm sure there's an encrypted tag as well.)

I'm fine with the price increase, I'll upgrade the DRMd music I like. This will make me significantly more likely to use the iTunes store.

BTW, DRM on TV and video isn't dead yet. I'm not so sure it will die. What killed audio DRM for me was that it severely impaired my ability to listen to music and audio while working or driving. I can't multitask video inputs, so I am much less impacted by DRM on video. I do buy DRMd TV shows and movies for the kids to watch while traveling ...

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