AudioBooks on the Zune

It took them two years, but Microsoft finally figured out that “the ability to support for their own DRM(The Danger of DRM)”: is an area where they might have a definitive advantage over the iPod.

bq. One new media type that Zune is adding this time around is support for audiobooks. Although audiobooks won’t be sold on the Zune marketplace, Zune will be an available option through, a leading purveyor of audio books, as well as through OverDrive-powered Web sites, an infrastructure provider for major booksellers and library systems. “Now you’ll be able to integrate your Zune with libraries,” Seitz says. “The Seattle and King County library systems, for example, offer loaner audiobooks. Now Zune customers can put them on their Zune for free.” – “Microsoft(Cutting the Cord: Zune 3.0 Offers Downloads From the Airwaves)”:

It is just unfortunate that it took them two years to figure it out.

NBC v. Apple

One questions that arose the other day in the Apple-NBC Kerfluffle was the demand that NBC wanted more copy protection.
bq.NBC Universal also wants iTunes to stiffen anti-piracy provisions so computer users would not have easy access to illegal downloads. – “Associated Press(Apple, Striking Back, Bars NBC Sales on ITunes)”: Most people were quite what that meant.
bq.NBC apparently wants even tighter DRM on its videos than already provided by Apple, which allows users to authorize up to five computers to play back the video but has no DVD burning capabilities (unless the user wants to back up the file itself to a DVD). And as we know from the private admissions of Hollywood, stricter DRM restrictions aren’t about piracy-they’re about control. – “Jacqui Cheng(NBC wants more DRM, higher prices from iTunes)”: Good guess… but not quite.
bq.In addition, we asked Apple to take concrete steps to protect content from piracy, since it is estimated that the typical iPod contains a significant amount of illegally downloaded material. – “Cory Shields(NBC disappointed in not negotiating new iTunes Pact)”: Apparently, NBC wants Apple to force users to only be able to download preapproved material onto their iPod. That sound bizarre, but is actually exactly “what CableLabs forced TiVo to do(TiVoToGo and CableLabs)”: Which is probably another reason you won’t ever see an Apple TV with CableCard Support.

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I ran into one of those Internet changing events last night. users, very upset at the news aggregate site for deleting articles containing an encryption key that could be used to crack the digital rights management on HD DVDs, have inundated the site with thousands of recommendations to pages that contain the code. The protest was apparently heard by Digg administrators, who later reversed the ban. – “Steven Musil(Unhappy Digg users bury site in protest)”: If you have never seen the film “Antitrust(Antitrust)”:, there is a similar scene in the film. And just as in that scene, once information gets out on the Internet”, there is very little that can stop it. And you would think that the existence of things like the “Gallery of CSS Descramblers(Gallery of CSS Descramblers)”: would have made things clear that “their attempts(AACS licensor complains of posted key)”: to supress things just won’t work. But the question is, should Digg be let off the hook?
bq.I suggested a couple of times that Digg was operating out of fear, and not out of legal requirement, based on the fact that Reddit still has the key up, and Wired published an article on Feb 13, 2007, with the key, and that is still up. I used no foul language at any time. My account has been disabled for misuse. – “Nougat( How I got banned from Digg)”: Removing the posts was one thing. Disabling accounts was much worse. I am perfectly willing to forgive, but I think “Kevin Rose(”: and his fellows need to meet everyone more than halfway.

The Day the DRM Died

bq.EMI will offer songs without DRM, iTunes is first partner. Songs will be encoded at 256k and sold at $1.29 per song, $0.30 more per song than the current price. These will be offered along side the existing lower quality, DRM tracks, and consumers can choose. – “Michael Arrington(EMI, Apple Are Announcing Sale Of Non-DRM Music for $1.29/song)”: Is this a game changer? I think so. For one thing, it means I will finally start using the iTunes gift card my brother and sister-in-law gave me for Christmas. And I will definitely have some new tracks on my iPod tonight.

Interoperable DRM

bq.DRM is bad, but if we must have it, make it interoperable. Microsoft is willing to license Windows Media to Apple. Apple should be willing to license FairPlay as well. It’s that simple. We can talk about imaginary worlds where everything is free (free as in non-DRM’d) and no one steals, but let’s talk about reality a bit, eh? – “Paul Thurrott(In Web Manifesto, Apple’s Jobs Calls for End to DRM)”: Now that “Steve Jobs(Jobs on DRM and Music)”: and “Bill Gates(Bill Gates On The Future Of DRM)”: are on record as saying that DRM doesn’t work, it is simply not the time to give the record companies what they have wanted all along: a unified platform that plays enough music that will make them enough money that they can ignore the countries and companies that are actively trying to get them to change their ways.
bq.Most every player device works at every one of these “stores” and it is pretty easy to keep all the songs, no matter where you got them, in a single folder or “jukebox” on your computer. But not the iPod. Most agree it is the best quality player on the market even if the cheapest one costs a few hundred dollars. The problem is that the iPod only works with either songs that you buy from the on-line Apple iTunes store or songs that you rip from your own CD’s. But those other music sites have lots of music that you can’t get at the iTunes store. So, if you have an iPod, you are out of luck. – “Hilary Rosen(Incompatible DRM)”: I would “argue(France and DRM)”: that the only reason we are even having this discussion is because of the facts that Apple and Microsoft’s DRM do not work together. And one other thing… a license to Microsoft’s Windows Media technologies – “Paul Thurrott(In Web Manifesto, Apple’s Jobs Calls for End to DRM)”: Is that PlaysForSure DRM or Zune DRM? They are “non-interoperable(The DRM of Zune)”:, after all. It seems unlikely that Microsoft would allow the iPod to play both when none of their players can.

Jobs on DRM and Music

bq.Today’s most popular iPod holds 1000 songs, and research tells us that the average iPod is nearly full. This means that only 22 out of 1000 songs, or under 3% of the music on the average iPod, is purchased from the iTunes store and protected with a DRM. The remaining 97% of the music is unprotected and playable on any player that can play the open formats. – “Steve Jobs(Thoughts on Music)”: I thought this was a really fascinating essay. There is just one thing.
bq.Among the artists who can be found at eMusic are Barenaked Ladies, Sarah McLachlan and Avril Lavigne, who are represented by Nettwerk Music Group, based in Vancouver, British Columbia. All Nettwerk releases are available at eMusic without copy protection. But when the same tracks are sold by the iTunes Music Store, Apple insists on attaching FairPlay copy protection that limits their use to only one portable player, the iPod. Terry McBride, Nettwerk’s chief executive, said that the artists initially required Apple to use copy protection, but that this was no longer the case. At this point, he said, copy protection serves only Apple’s interests. Josh Bernoff, a principal analyst at Forrester Research, agreed, saying copy protection “just locks people into Apple.” He said he had recently asked Apple when the company would remove copy protection and was told, “We see no need to do so.” – “Randall Stross(Want an iPhone? Beware the iHandcuffs)”: Unless Apple is contractually obligated to sell all their music with DRM, and this sentence, “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.” certainly makes it sound like they may be, I really think it is time to make DRM optional on an individual basis. I have an iTunes gift card that I received for Christmas that I would love to start using.

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.

Purpose of DRM

bq.DRM’s sole purpose is to maximize revenues by minimizing your rights so that they can sell them back to you. – “Ken Fisher(Privately, Hollywood admits DRM isn’t about piracy)”: This isn’t anything new.
bq.There is no right in the copyright law to make backup copies of motion pictures, so the whole argument that people should have the right to make backup copies of DVDs has no legal support whatsoever. It’s against consumers’ interests to permit devices that make backup copies because there is no way that a device can distinguish between a backup copy for personal use and making a copy for friends, family acquaintances or even selling on the street corner. – “Fritz Attaway(Backup Copies)”:
bq.Where did this backup copy thing come from? A digital thing lasts forever. No enterprise in the world gives you a backup copy of anything. You go buy a suit of clothes and you tear it and you come back and the guy says I’ll try to sew it up for you, but he doesn’t give you a backup pair of trousers. If you need a backup copy of a DVD you can go out and buy another one. – “Jack Valenti(Interview: Jack Valenti)”: But it doesn’t hurt that people get reminded of it from time to time.

MPAA Dreams

Different people have different ideas about what makes something “ideal.”
bq.Just because you buy a DVD to watch at home doesn’t give you the right to invite friends over to watch it too. That’s a violation of copyright and denies us the revenue that would be generated from DVD sales to your friends. Ideally we expect each viewer to have their own copy of the DVD, but we realize that isn’t always feasible. The registration fee is a fair compromise. – “Dan Glickman(MPAA Lobbying for Home Theater Regulations)”: I am surprised that they don’t expect each member of a family to have a copy. That is obviously an oversight on his part. But look what constitutes a home theater under this meature.
bq.The MPAA defines a home theater as any home with a television larger than 29″ with stereo sound and at least two comfortable chairs, couch, or futon. Anyone with a home theater would need to pay a $50 registration fee with the MPAA or face fines up to $500,000 per movie shown. – Scott Small Last week, my 27″ television and I wouldn’t have cared. But seeing as how I am awaiting delivery on “this unit(Panasonic TH-42PX60U 42″ Plasma HDTV )”:, it seems rather important right now. — My brother just pointed out the article is a “satire(MPAA Home Theater Regulation Satire Hits Too Close To Home)”: It sure “sounded real(MPAA satire is just too realistic)”:

Microsoft PlaysForSurelyNot

Remember this rumor?
bq.To attract current iPod users Microsoft is going to let you download for free any songs you’ve already bought from the iTunes Music Store. They’ll actually scan iTunes for purchased tracks and then automatically add those to your account. Microsoft will still have to pay the rights-holders for the songs, but they believe it’ll be worth it to acquire converts to their new player. – “Peter Rojas(Microsoft planning WiFi-enabled portable media player, working on MVNO for next year)”: Turned out, it was only a rumor. In fact, reality is quite a bit worse than we anticipated.
bq.Microsoft has said it will stop selling music from MSN music from 14 November, when Zune goes on sale in the US. But in a move that could alienate some customers, MSN-bought tracks will not be compatible with the new gadget. The move could also spell problems for the makers of MP3 players which are built to work with the MSN store. The problem has arisen because tracks from the MSN Music site are compatible with the specifications of the Plays For Sure initiative. This was intended to re-assure consumers as it guaranteed that music bought from services backing it would work with players that supported it. MSN Music, Napster, AOL Music Now and Urge all backed Plays For Sure as did many players from hardware makers such as Archos, Creative, Dell and Iriver. In a statement a Microsoft spokesperson said: “Since Zune is a separate offering that is not part of the Plays For Sure ecosystem, Zune content is not supported on Plays For Sure devices.” – “BBC(Zune problems for MSN customers)”: So not only are iTunes purchases not transferred to the Zune and not only are previous PlaysForSure purchases not playable on the Zune, but unwitting consumers could actually find that they have inadvertantly purchased music from the Zune Marketplace that is incompatible with their existing PlaysForSure collection and Music Player.
bq.Is Microsoft admitting, then, that PlaysForSure was a dud? All Mr. Erickson will say is, “PlaysForSure works for some people, but it’s not as easy as the Zune.” So now Microsoft is starting over. Never mind all the poor slobs who bought big PlaysForSure music collections. Never mind the PlaysForSure companies who now find themselves competing with their former leader. Their reward for buying into Microsoft’s original vision? A great big “So long, suckas!” It was bad enough when there were two incompatible copy-protection standards: iTunes and PlaysForSure. Now there will be three. – “David Pogue(Trying Out the Zune: IPod It’s Not)”: But will there be three? I had written about the “Zune incompatibility(The DRM of Zune)”: before, but back then I hadn’t anticipated Microsoft totally abandoning MSN Music. It seems that future of PlaysForSure is not not looking very bright. And I would really be surprised if Microsoft has offered an upgrade path to “Overdrive and NetLibrary(PlaysforSure @ Your Library)”: I think anyone with one of these plans is going to want to continue to pay close attention to this.