Napster Steps To The Digital Music Compatibility Plate

    April 7, 2005

A congressional subcommittee hearing, spearheaded by Texas representative Lamar Smith, concerning mandates for digital music interoperability began yesterday, with a noticeable absence: Apple.

The major issue concerning Congress is whether or not there should be government mandates enforcing digital music compatibility across the board.

This particularly affects Apple’s iTunes, the digital music industry leader who uses digital rights management (DRM) technology called FairPlay, which stops iTunes-purchased songs from being played on Microsoft music players.

Because Apple declined Congress’ invitation, Napster CTO William Pence provided the defense of the digital music industry. While Napster does support interoperability, they do not believe the government should intervene by issuing mandates. According to

Pence told the subcommittee that the music industry will eventually promote interoperability itself without the need for government intervention.

“It is my belief, and the essential point of my participation today, that marketplace forces will continue to drive innovation in the DRM arena with attendant consumer benefits – new ways to enjoy digital music at a variety of different price points – while also gradually ‘solving’ the interoperability problem,” he said.

Representative Smith, who was not pleased by Apple’s absence, stated:

“This interoperability issue is of concern to me since consumers who bought legal copies of music from Real could not play them on an iPod. I suppose this is a good thing for Apple but perhaps not for consumers.

“Apple was invited to testify today but they chose not to appear. Generally speaking, companies with 75 per cent market share of any business, in this case the digital download market, need to step up to the plate when it comes to testifying on policy issues that impact their industry. Failure to do so is a mistake.”

Pence summed up the position of those against government mandates by saying:

“It does not seem prudent for government to pick a winner in the continuing… marketplace battle between Apple’s FairPlay DRM and its competitors.”

When considering the government’s position, keep in mind Lamar Smith also sponsored a bill that would allow music companies to overwhelm the computers of those who are considered illegal downloaders.

Chris Richardson is a search engine writer and editor for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest search news.