EMI Interested in DRM-Free While Warner Says No Way to Steve Jobs

Online Music Tech News

The DRM battle continues! The latest news revolves around EMI being in talks with retailers to sell music DRM-free vs. Warner Music Group’s clear “No!” fired back at Steve Jobs (who recommended a DRM-free music world earlier this week). Here’s the scoop on each side:

According to the Wall Street Journal (subscription required), “One person familiar with the matter said that several major music companies have floated the idea of scrapping copy protections in recent months. However, none appears to have gone as far down the road as EMI, and others are clearly still opposed because they say that copy-protection software is critical to stop piracy.”

Though apparently, another mysterious “person familiar with the situation” is now claiming that talks have slowed down even if still in the works. Ironically enough, the list seems to include everyone but Apple. The companies involved in the pending deal are the following: RealNetworks, Yahoo!, News Corp.’s MySpace, and Napster. And I’ve read in a couple places the classic line: “the decision could come as soon as today.” But I’m not holding my breath…

On the other side, we have head honcho Edgar Bronfman of Warner Music replying to Steve Jobs DRM-free proposal by claiming the proposal is “without logic and merit.” And then he goes on to say, “The issue is obscured by asserting that DRM and interoperability is
the same thing. They are not. To suggest that they cannot co-exist is
simply incorrect.”

It’s as if he didn’t read what Jobs had to say:

“The second alternative is for Apple to license its FairPlay DRM technology to current and future competitors with the goal of achieving interoperability between different company’s players and music stores. On the surface, this seems like a good idea since it might offer customers increased choice now and in the future… However, when we look a bit deeper, problems begin to emerge. The most serious problem is that licensing a DRM involves disclosing some of its secrets to many people in many companies, and history tells us that inevitably these secrets will leak. The Internet has made such leaks far more damaging, since a single leak can be spread worldwide in less than a minute. Such leaks can rapidly result in software programs available as free downloads on the Internet which will disable the DRM protection so that formerly protected songs can be played on unauthorized players.”

So Bronfman’s reply makes an unsubstantiated bold claim; I’m curious as to his “logic.” Unfortunately, we just get the irrational press statement, no Jobs-like explanation. Perhaps there is a way to avoid the issue Jobs addresses, and we can all live in happy DRM-full-interoperability-ville. But I’d like to know how exactly, and why we haven’t done it yet if it’s “simply incorrect” to think it won’t work.

This is quite the hot topic being covered all over the place in the mainstream press: WSJ, NYTimes, Washington Post, Forbes, BBC with even the Economist picking a side: “Mr Jobs’s argument, in short, is transparently self-serving. It also happens to be right.”

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