As Jobs has written in a post called “Thoughts on Music,” “if the four major licensing labels could license their music to Apple without requiring that it be DRM-protected, you could switch to a model where we would only sell DRM-free music on our iTunes Store. Every iPod would play this DRM-free music. “
Jobs’ comments come after consumers and some European countries have lobbied Apple to sever the close ties between music sold on iTunes and the iPod music player. Currently, songs sold through iTunes can only be played on iTunes, a common restriction for other digital music provider services.
The Norwegian government has set March 1 as the deadline for Apple to change its DRM policy. Previously, the company also came under scrutiny from France, where a law was about to be enacted requiring companies using DRM to open their technology to competition, and where a draft modification allowed the iTunes Store you could continue using your DRM system.
According to Ross Rubin, director of analysis at NPD Group, there may also have been other factors that have pushed Jobs and Apple to answer the DRM question. “With the iPhone on the way, some barriers are being raised. Apple is moving from a product that has a market size set in the tens of millions to a market that can be in the hundreds of millions or even 1 trillion annually.”
In his open letter, Jobs has said that the creation of a DRM system was a requirement established by the major record companies for them to allow the sale of their music online. Apple’s FairPlay technology allows users to play protected music on up to five computers and an unlimited number of iPods while only recording playlists of music purchased a maximum of seven times.
As Jobs writes, “Obtaining such rights from record companies was unprecedented at the time, and even today the same degree has not been reached by most other digital music services. However, a clause of Our agreement with the record companies is that if our DRM system is compromised and your music can be played on other devices that are not authorized, then we only have a short period of weeks to fix the problem or they will remove their entire music catalog from our iTunes store. “
The CEO of Apple has called DRM-free music “clearly the best alternative for consumers,” but the decision whether this happens depends on what the four major labels decide to do: Sony BMG, Warner, Universal and EMI. ; and they currently require DRM technology to be included with online music.
Jobs goes on to say, “Maybe those who are unhappy with the current situation should focus their energy on persuading record labels to sell their music without DRM.” Only two of the top four labels are directly represented in Europe, where DRM has been the most critical.
According to Jobs, “Convincing them to license their music to Apple without DRM will create a truly interoperable music market. Apple will sincerely embrace this decision.”