Steve Jobs Calls for the End of DRM for Online Music Sales

Steve Jobs has posted an open letter entitled "Thoughts on Music" on the Apple website and, in doing so, joins Yahoo! Music in calling upon the major record labels to abandon DRM for online music sales. He rightly points out that while 90% of music sales are on CD's without DRM, the growth of online music sales is inhibited by the saddling of electronically distributes music with consumer unfriendly DRM. In his open letter Steve discusses the status quo, the problems associated with licensing its "FairPlay" DRM system and, ultimately, concludes that DRM-free music sales is the best way forward.

Imagine a world where every online store sells DRM-free music encoded in open licensable formats. In such a world, any player can play music purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is playable on all players. This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat. If the big four music companies would license Apple their music without the requirement that it be protected with a DRM, we would switch to selling only DRM-free music on our iTunes store. Every iPod ever made will play this DRM-free music.

Why would the big four music companies agree to let Apple and others distribute their music without using DRM systems to protect it? The simplest answer is because DRMs haven’t worked, and may never work, to halt music piracy. Though the big four music companies require that all their music sold online be protected with DRMs, these same music companies continue to sell billions of CDs a year which contain completely unprotected music. That’s right! No DRM system was ever developed for the CD, so all the music distributed on CDs can be easily uploaded to the Internet, then (illegally) downloaded and played on any computer or player.

Continue reading “Steve Jobs Calls for the End of DRM for Online Music Sales”

Wired Article: Signs Music Industry May be Abandoning DRM

This Wired article, discusses the following list of reasons why the major music labels may abandon DRM in favour or water-marked MP3 Distribution:

  1. The label's don't have a choice;
  2. Apple might be forced into interoperability;
  3. Thomson has endorsed selling watermarked MP3s;
  4. Amazon is rumored to start selling MP3s by April;
  5. Sony: "DRMs are going to become less important";
  6. People love AllofMP3.com; and
  7. MP3 has future options.

Dale's Comment: There have been countless articles on this topic over the last few weeks. This Wired article is as good as any other. It presents a nice summary of the reasons why the major labels may abandon  DRM in favor of MP3 music distribution. This article falls into the category of "I'll believe it when I see it", but I do see it as an inevitability. I just don't see it happening as quickly as the recent optimistic bloggers do. But I'd be happy to be proven wrong.

Source: Wired News

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Ars Technica: Why Piracy is More Common than Legal Video Downloads

Ars Technica: Why Piracy is More Common than Legal Video Downloads

Warez.com: Piracy, the clear choice for 2006 

Dale's Comment: Each of these articles make the same essential point. Piracy of video content is pervasive because it provides consumers with a product they want – a vast selection of high quality content, meeting the tastes of both the masses and the long tail – with the ability to use/view the content on any device and with any software/service of their choosing. Something the TV and movie-industries fail to provide to the very consumers eager to purchase it from them – if only it was conveniently available at fair prices and under fair use terms.

This oft-quoted remark by Disney co-chair Ann Sweeney made at a conference in October, shows at least that the industry is finally starting to grapple with the issue: 

"We understand now that piracy is a business model. It exists to serve a need in the market for consumers who want TV content on demand. Pirates compete the same way we do – through quality, price and availability. We we don?t like the model but we realise it?s competitive enough to make it a major competitor going forward."

RIAA Sues AllofMP3 – Seeks Domain Transfer and $1.65 Trillion in Damages!

Following a similar suit by the BPI in July, AllofMP3.com's Moscow-based parent Mediaservices, Inc. has been sued by the RIAA for massive copyright infringement in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York. According to the New York Post:

The RIAA is seeking $150,000 for each instance of copyright infringement. That equates to an astounding $1.65 trillion for the five-month period in question.

Wow! I suspect they'll have a little trouble collecting this damage award if successful! Surprised

Interestingly, along with the damages award, the suit seeks court ordered control of AllofMP3.com's domains. Given the global nature of the Internet, it will be interesting to see if a court would grant such a prayer for relief. Mountainview California-based  Verisign operates the domain name registry for the .com domain space.

AllofMP3.com has long claimed that they are in full compliance with Russian law and pay licensing fees on all music sales to Russia's equivalent of the RIAA, the Russian Organization for Multimedia and Digital Systems (ROMS). The RIAA's response is that ROMS has no authority to issue licenses to AllofMP3 and that AllofMP3.com would require licenses from record companies to legally sell downloadable music – which it does not have.

Dale's Comment: Aside from the astronomical damages request, what intrigues me is the global implications of an order to transfer the domain. There has been much controversy at the United Nations over who should control the Internet and the Internet domain space. The U.S. has fiercely guarded its ultimate ability to control it. If such an order was made by a U.S. court at the behest of the U.S. music industry, and if Verisign complies, this might spark protests from nations around the globe.

Note: I have not yet found the claim online. When I do, I'll post it here. Most of the stories online are all repeats of the original AP story so there are not many details available at this point.

Sources: ars technica | techdirt | Associated Press| Out-Law.com | ABC News | PC Pro | Pocket-Link | New York Post | BBC | Playfuls | Red Herring | MP3.com

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Manage your iPod in Windows Media Player with DOPISP

The name seems daft, but this Windows Media Player ("WMP") 11 plug-in seems promising. I've long been a WMP fan. I only use iTunes because it was the only reasonable way to manage music on my iPod – until now. Microsoft chose, once again, not to provide iPod support in its latest version of WMP. To the rescue comes MGTEK with DOPISP. DOPISP is a plug-in for WMP that enables you to sync your MP3 music to your iPod directly from within Windows Media Player.

A free two month trial is available here. No word yet on final pricing. Of course it cannot manage any DRM'd AAC files purchased from iTunes.  If it could, my work here would be done! Well, at least until Apple and/or the RIAA sued them! 🙂

I haven't tried it yet, but one possible downside to this approach to managing your iPod is that it likely won't support podcasts. For some reason that only the God's know, Windows Media Player does not include podcast support. Since I discovered podcasts in October of 2005, I use my iPod primarily for podcast listening while on the road. Without podcast functionality, I'm not ready to head back to WMP!

Sources: DOPISP Website | Smart Cannucks | lifehacker | Uneasy Silence

EMusic Sells 100 Millionth Song without DRM

Online music seller eMusic is second only to DRM-laden iTunes for legitimate online music sales. Most of its library of 2 million songs comes from independent labels. It's success proves that consumers are more than willing to pay fair prices for DRM-free music. While it took the eMusic two years to sell its first 50 million songs, it has taken less than a year to sell the next 50 million.

Dales Comment:  While I applaud eMusic, it too has a business model that I don't like. While individual songs can be purchased, their business model requires the user to pay a minimal subscription fee every month. Song purchases are deducted from the monthly fee. If you spend more than the fee, then you have to pay extra.  My perfect world of music sales is to buy DRM-free songs with no minimum monthly commitment. I would be able to buy as many or as few as I want. Frankly, I'd like eMusic service to mimic that of AllofMP3.com's. Charge a fair per song price, allow me to purchase whatever I want in whatever format I want. That is a service I'd use!

Sources: Washington Post | MacWorld | Sydney Morning Herald | TopTechNews| Tech Dirt | MP3.com | CNet Blogs | PC-Pro | Pocket-Lint

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AllofMP3.com Lives On Despite U.S./Russian WTO Agreement

AllofMP3.com does not seem like it is willing to go silently into the night.

In response to Visa's and Mastercard's cessation of services to the site, AllofMP3 now uses a prepaid credit proxy, Xrost,which can, in turn, be paid by Visa or Mastercard (See AllofMP3's payment page as explained here).

This recent TechWeb article explains that the payment process is not exactly easy. Only the most determined are likely to work their way through the payment maze. See also this Wired Blog description of the process. Incidentally the Wired Blog claim about the "complete legality" of music downloading in Canada is nonsense (see my blog entry on the topic if interested)! 

On another note, AllofMP3 has engaged a New York-based intellectual property attorney, John Kheit of Chadbourne & Parke, LLP. as a U.S.-based spokesperson, advocate and PR person. In a recent panel discussion Kheit asserted that AllofMP3 has not broken any laws, that it operates legally in Russia and pays 15% of all music sales to Russia's equivalent of the RIAA, the Russian Organization for Multimedia and Digital Systems (ROMS). Kheit claims that foreign rights holders could petition ROMS for payment but that record labels have specifically not requested such payments in fear of legitimizing AllofMP3.

The RIAA's response is that ROMS has no authority to issue licenses to AllofMP3 and that AllofMP3.com would require licenses from record companies to legally sell downloadable music – which it does not have. 

Under the U.S/Russian agreement, Russia has until June 1, 2007 to modify its laws and clarify that such activity is illegal. Until it does AllofMP3.com can continue as is. AllofMP3.com says it will comply with any new laws put in place by Moscow.

Sources: DailyTech | ars technica | The Register | Digital Music | TechWeb | NewHouseNews | MosNews.com | AllofMP3.com Press Release

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TiVo Decode Manager v1.0 Automates TiVo’s Cracked DRM on Macs

This was inevitable. I didn't expect it so soon.

Within days of TiVo's DRM being cracked, someone has automated the rather difficult to use TiVo Decode Manager and created an easy to use TiVo2Go application, without DRM, on Apple computers. The software automatically discovers local TiVos. With one mouse click shows are downloaded from the TiVo, DRM-free, to the Mac by episode, recorded date etc. The resultant Mpeg-2 files still need to be converted to a PC-usable format such as .wmv using a program like VLC. My guess is that it won't be long before the end-to-end process is fully automated.

Dale's Comment: I foresee TiVo-released DMCA take-down notices being sent to whoever controls thebenesch.com (the site hosting the program) in the near future!

Sources: Engadget | PVR Wire

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EMI’s Blue Note & Yahoo! Music Sell a Few More Songs DRM Free

Amidst the music industry's growing angst over Apple's lock on the downloadable music market, EMI's Blue Note division is experimenting with DRM-free music downloads of Norah Jones new single "Thinking About You" for 99¢ U.S. Yahoo! is also making two DRM-free songs by Christian performer Reliant K. available. The prior Jessica Simpson song sold in MP3 or WMA format back in July, without DRM, for 1.99¢ U.S. No sales figures were announced.

Red Herring's quote bu Joe Fliesche, CMO of media research ferm Big Champagne is apt: 

“Content owners believe that digital rights management will protect them from being widely copied. At this point any company that embraces DRM is doing it emotionally or politically, there is absolutely no data to support that it has ever made a difference. It’s not a business issue.”

Sources: ars technica ComputerWorld | Wall St. Journal | Beta News | InfoWorld | PC World | L.A. Times | TG Daily | Warez | MP3.com | Crunch Gear | Red Herring | Fox News | San Jose Mercury News (AP) | PC World (IDG) | EFF Deep Links

Dale's Comment: The song is also available, encumbered by AAC-DRM as usual for 99¢ from iTunes. Which would you prefer to buy? It would be really interesting to get a summary of DRM-encumbered sales from iTunes vs. DRM-free sales if the same song through Yahoo!

The very fact that these DRM-free sales experiments are continuing is a positive sign of things to come.

DRM-Free Song SNAFUs Continue: When I tried to purchase the DRM-Free Jessica Simpson song last July, Yahoo! would not sell it to me because I lived in Canada. This time, when I tried to buy the Norah Jones song (available here), it wouldn't allow me to just purchase and download the song in MP3 format as AllofMP3.com allows. It forces You to first install the Yahoo! Music Jukebox. Something that is anathema to DRM-free music if you ask me. But, I soldiered on intending to de-install the jukebox software after purchasing the song.

it was not to be. When I tried to install the player, Windows XP SP2's "Data Execution Prevention" software wouldn't let me – I tried to except-out the Jukebox from the DEP protection but it refused to budge. I even tried rebooting my system twice after excepting the jukebox software from DEP protection – no go. I enjoy Norah Jones music and would love to buy the song without DRM but the DRM Gods are conspiring against me! Argh!!!

I ask anyone reading this, if you enjoy Norah Jones or Reliant K's music, if you don't mind using the Yahoo! jukebox software and you can successfully install it, to please purchase a copy of this DRM song so we can get the industry ball finally rolling in a consumer friendly direction! 

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TiVo’s DRM Reportedly Cracked

Gizmodo, Engadget and others are reporting that the folks at SourceForge.net have successfully hacked the TiVo DRM using a program they call the TiVo File Decoder.

Dale's Comment: If true, expect a patch from TiVo soon! 🙂  Unfortunately for those of us waiting for the TiVo Series 3 software upgrade that was due out about now, my guess is we'll be waiting awhile longer while TiVo's engineers work at sorting this one out. 🙁

Sources: Gizmodo | Engadget | Engadget 2 | Crunch Gear | PVRWire | Megazone-TiVoLovers | PVRBlog | TiVoCommunity Forum | Daily Tech | ars technica

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Russia Agrees to Shut Down AllofMP3.com at U.S. Request – or did it?

Text of Agreement
Visa and Mastercard halting service to AllofMP3 effectively shut it down. In the face of the credit card departures, AllofMP3.com said it would move to an advertising supported model. Now Russia and the U.S. appear to have reached an agreement to shut it down – or did they?  

ars technica and others are reporting that AllofMP3 says it will not be shut down. Instead it says Russia agreed to certain copyright reforms that AllofMP3.com says it will comply with. Even if this is true, AllofMP3 could never be what it was. If the reported agreement is implemented by Russia, any new AllofMP3.com would be as close to its current incarnation as today's Napster is to its original form.

As of the time of this post, AllofMP3.com was still up and running.

Dale's Comment: This is a sad day of sorts. While the legality of AllofMP3 was always murky, its success (second in world-wide sales only to iTunes) was a clear example of the fact that consumers are willing to pay a fair price for music from a site that services the users needs, if they are given fair rights to use the music they purchase. In the case of AllofMP3.com the user could chose the format they wished to purchase and there were no restrictions on the use they could make of the music.  I look forward to the day the major labels learn this lesson and start offering DRM-free music for sale to honest users under fair terms.

Sources: TechCrunch | CNet | ars technica | Inquirer | The Register | ABC News | ComputerWorld | PC Magazine | MOSNews | MP3.com | Techwhack | Techdirt | ZDNet | Macworld | DailyTech

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ifpi Board Member Quoted as Saying Major Labels About to Abandon DRM

I just came across this New Music Strategies blog post quoting Paul Birch, Managing Director of indie-label, Revolver Records, and independent member of the ifpi's board of directors, as saying the following in an e-mail:

DRM as we know it is over. There may be Son of DRM but that’s another matter. Right now its dead, the majors are moving towards the new model. The one thing you can be sure of is they will still be at the centre of the world music industry whatever happens. The independents are another matter. As our sector’s share has fallen by almost half in just over twelve months, the new model for us is partnership. It always was, I’m just not sure we got it.

The ifpi is Europe's version of the RIAA. This from the man who, on the ifpi's website, is quoted as saying:

"I hate what's happening with illegal downloading. People who love music shouldn't do this. The music industry provides huge choice. By stealing music you deny other people that choice in the future. Some may say it does not affect new and eclectic music. The fact is that it is precisely this kind of music which gets displaced. For small businesses it's particularly tough. Most of us came into this business not to get rich but because we love music. No one who loves music would steal it."

Later in the comments portion of the blog post Mr. Birch confirmed he made this statement but qualifies it as a prediction based on rumblings at board meetings – rather than known fact.

Dale's Comment: If Mr. Birch is quoted accurately and his predictions are true, much of my work here would be done. Ha! I'll believe it when I see it! 🙂

Sources New Music Strategies

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Danish Court Blocks AllofMP3.com

One of Europe's largest ISPs, Tele2, has been ordered by a Danish court to block AllofMP3.com, the controversial Russia-based MP3 etailer. To my knowledge, this is the first decision of its kind anywhere in the world. The decision sets somewhat of a precedent insofar as there is now an affirmative obligation of a Danish ISP to effectively censor the sites their customers can access. Tele2 has said it will appeal the decision.

Dale's Comment: This ruling can be easily circumvented by Danish web surfers simply by using any of the numerous anonymizer sites on the Internet.

Sources: Slyck

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First a Song, Now a DRM-Free Album – Yahoo!

Yahoo! is the proper exclamation for this event. On July 20, 2006, Yahoo! and Epic released the first single by a major U.S. label without DRM, Jessica Simpson's "A Public Affair" for $2.00 U.S. Now, Yahoo! and Hollywood Records are set to distribute an entire album, Jesse McCartney's "Right Where You Want Me" without DRM in MP3 or WMA format for $9.99 U.S.

Dale's Comment: These may seem to be baby steps. But for an industry content with suing tens of thousands of its customers rather than providing them with a fair and convenient way to purchase music online, this could be the beginning of something bigger.

Sources: ars technica | PC Pro | Bit-tech.net | After Dawn | Business Wire | Beta News

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Weird Al Yankovic’s New Single: Don’t Download this Song

Click Here to Download the Song (MP3)

To a melody quite reminiscent of "We are the World" (hum… any copyright violations there?), the irreverent Weird Al Yankovic has come out with a new single entitled: "Don't Download this Song" and promptly makes it available for download without any DRM/TPM restrictions. Some choice lyrics:

"Cause you'll start out stealing songs, but then you're robbing liquor stores and selling crack and running over school kids with your car"

"It doesn’t matter if you’re a grandma or a seven year-old girl, they’ll treat you like the evil, hard bitten criminal scum you are."

Sources: Don't Download this Song Website | Wired Blog | MP3.com | Cinema Blend | MP3 Newswire | P2PNet

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BPI to Sue AllofMP3.com

The BPI received permission from London's High Court to "serve proceedings" against AllofMP3.com. When that happens, the Russian judicial system will be obligated by international agreement to look into the matter.

Sources: ars technica | PC Magazine | CDFreaks.com | Scotsman.com | Information Week

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AllofMP3.com Responds to Recent Scrutiny

In response to recent Russian law enforcement scrutiny brought on at the behest of the the ifpi and U.S. Trade Officials (including threats that sites like AllofMP3.com could limit Russia's chances of becoming a member of the WTO), AllofMP3.com has put out a statement detailing its compliance with Russian copyright law.

Sources: Slyck | P2PNet

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Consumer Electronic Association Runs Pro-Consumer Ads on Capital Hill

Full-Sized Ad Copy
The Consumer Electronics Association has created a new ad, that will run in two Capitol Hill publications today. The add argues that it is time the content industry learns the difference between real pirates and average consumers and that consumers of lawfully acquired music should be able to use it however they wish.

Sources: EFF | Related CEA Fair Use Press Releases | Engadget

Russia-based AllofMP3 Launches DRM-free allTunes

Russian-based AllofMP3.com has released a beta of its latest desktop music library and download tool allTunes. Although the name is an obvious play on iTunes, those familiar with AllofMP3 will know that they are infamous for extremely cheap, high quality and quasi-legal, DRM-free music downloads in MP3 format on the web.

Sources: Tech Crunch | ars technica | All About Symbian

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RIAA’s Next Big Target: Russia

Certain regions remain outside the RIAA's and IFPI's sphere of influence. One of those is Russia. A number of music download services operate out of that country, including the well-known AllofMP3.com. None of them have the blessing of the IFPI or any of the labels to offer music for sale, yet they have been given the green light to stay in business by Russian law enforcement. Now the RIAA is attempting to gain the support of the US government in its fight against the Russian music download services.

Source: ars technica

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