Who would have known that that the death of DRM would come in the form of a press release? While MP3 stores are nothing new, with iTunes moving to a 100% DRM free catalog by the 31st of March this now cements a de facto standard of DRM free music in the marketplace. As a side effect it's now a near certainty that AAC will become the successor of MP3.
The Day the Music Died The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) [...] has also been warning anyone who would listen that they should not “purchase” encrypted music from these services, since if these services go under then all that “purchased” music will no longer… what’s the word… “play”. But mostly people ignored them (and me), because, you know, Microsoft was at the center of it all, and nobody ever got fired for “buying” from Microsoft.
Bob Lefsetz has been sharing his opinions on the music industry for years. In last night's newsletter, he announces, "Let the games begin!" - and indeed, let them. Universal Music has declined to re-sign to a long term deal with Apple, essentially leaving them open to exclusive deals with other services. The fact that Doug Morris (chairman of UMG) and Zach Horowitz (President of Universal's parent company, Vivendi) have been gearing up to loosen the stranglehold that iTunes has on online distribution is not exactly news. They've used similar tactics against Microsoft's Zune and YouTube. But with the release of the iPhone and following his well-timed decision to openly "share his thoughts" on DRM, not to mention his landmark deal with (perennial "armpit of the industry") EMI to sell their music DRM-free and at a higher cost - the real question is: is Steve Jobs ready to play hardball?
iTunes Plus has been released. Following EMI's announcement that it would begin offering its entire catalog DRM-free (and a barely-averted torpedoing of that plan), Apple has released an update to iTunes that offers DRM-free, 256kps AAC songs for $1.29. Entire albums are the same price as their DRM-laden counterparts. Those who have purchased EMI music can upgrade their files for $.30/song, $.60/album, or 30% of the album price. Currently only EMI is on-board, but Apple is perfectly happy to bring other labels into the DRM-free universe.
Thoughts on Music "...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." — Steve Jobs
FairPlay is turned about. "DVD" Jon Lech Johansen, of DeCSS fame, has reverse engineered Apple's FairPlay DRM technology, which has thus far prevented 3rd-party digital music players from playing music purchased from the iTunes Store. RealNetworks did something similar in 2004, but Johansen is licensing it to whomever wants it.
Similar to the US Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Council of Norway, or Forbrukerrådet (PDF) strives "to achieve a balance of power between the consumer and the provider of products or services." This week, the council filed a formal complaint, citing several violations of Norwegian law in the fluid terms of service attached to iTunes music file downloads.
Jon Johansen of DeCSS fame has made a program that strips iTunes ACC files of DRM. Here is what he has to say about it. Maybe I will give iTunes a try after all.