Apple’s Stance on DRM Is Rotten to the Core

    December 14, 2006

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates invited a slew of influential Web 2.0 bloggers to a one-hour, anything goes summit meeting this afternoon. While a bevy of topics were discussed, one item that rose to the forefront of discussion was the controversial topic of Digital Rights Management (DRM).

Well, it looks like Bill Gates has come to the same conclusion that digital audio enthusiasts the world over have been proclaiming for some time:

DRM is a terrible, flawed system that ultimately punishes the consumer.

Mike Arrington over at TechCruch, along with other prominent bloggers, had the opportunity to talk to Mr. Gates for an hour today about several key issues, including DRM.

Gates said that no one is satisfied with the current state of DRM, which “causes too much pain for legitmate buyers” while trying to distinguish between legal and illegal uses. He says no one has done it right, yet. There are “huge problems” with DRM, he says, and “we need more flexible models, such as the ability to “buy an artist out for life” (not sure what he means). He also criticized DRM schemes that try to install intelligence in each copy so that it is device specific.

His short term advice: “People should just buy a cd and rip it. You are legal then.”

He ended by saying “DRM is not where it should be, but you won’t get me to say that there should be usage models and different payment models for usage. At the end of the day, incentive systems do make a difference, but we don’t have it right with incentives or interoperability.”

My repeated attempts to contact Apple concerning their DRM practices, and the much debated iTunes sales figures, have so far gone unanswered.

The folks at Apple had better wake up, though… and soon. The comfortable dominance that iTunes has enjoyed in the digital audio marketplace may be coming to an abrupt end.

Margaret Kane at CNET makes a telling observation, “While everyone was busy squabbling about which direction iTunes sales are heading, DRM-free music store eMusic was reaching its own milestone: selling its 100 millionth song.”

Grant Robertson also chimes in with a question I’m dying to hear the answer to, “So, uh, Mr. Major Label executive guy; How many million DRM free tracks does eMusic have to sell before you join the party? No, really.. how many?”

“It’s too convenient ignoring the fact that DRM sucks for us – music lovers and fans – and Apple, love ’em or hate ’em, currently is the major contributor to this broken DRM strategy. By buying DRM-laced music we are fueling the beast,” comments another blogger.

Do you want me to keep going? Seriously, I could pull enough quotes from media outlets and the blogosphere documenting the awful practice of DRM to make War and Peace seem like a novella.

So, as an intrepid journalist, I will continue efforting Apple for some sort of honest dialogue in response to the ever-growing consumer backlash revolving around Digital Rights Management.

I won’t be holding my breath for a response, though.

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Joe is a staff writer for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest ebusiness news.