Music without DRM

Reports are popping up all over that the major record companies are cautiously gearing up to sell music in MP3 format, without any DRM (anti-copying) technology. This was the buzz at the recent Midem conference, according to a New York Times story. The record industry has worked for years to frame the DRM issue, with considerable success. Mainstream thinking about DRM is now so mired in the industry’s framing that the industry itself will have a hard time explaining and justifying its new course. – Ed Felten

 

I think Apple deserves a lot of credit for this. When Steve Jobs convinced the Big 4 to sell their wares through iTunes, they had no idea what sort of Frankenstein monster they were creating. Now that Apple has a virtual monopoly on the MP3 player market and complete control over the only DRM system that plays on an iPod, FairPlay, they had two choices: either cede control of all music sales to Apple or go DRM-Free and sell music from other sources that will still play on the dominant music player.

 

People will pay for music if it’s in a format they want, and it’s easy and simple and they like the price. People don’t have a problem paying for music – online, offline, or wherever they want it. – Keith Harris

 

If this story is actually true, it will be interesting to see how important Apple considers iTunes to be. Will they sell non-DRM music through iTunes? If they refuse and other sources are available, will it hurt iTunes sales? If iTunes sales suffer, will Apple care? There has long been a perception of that iTunes is pretty much a break even proposition because of licensing rights and credit card costs. 2007 could definitely turn out to be an interesting year.