Apple and DRM

I thought about making an uber linky post about all the various discussions about Steve Jobs and his essay about Apple and selling DRM free music if the record labels would allow it. The longer I wait, the less I care though. My thoughts can be summed up in two points:

1. It’s better to have Apple proposing DRM free music than to have them not but
2. It would be much better to have them just do it than talk about it.

Jobs said he’d sell music without DRM if the labels would allow it. So, allow labels to sell music without DRM. There’s got to be hundreds of thousands of songs in their catalog either without a label (ie, creator published) or from a label that would allow it. How about every song in the catalog that comes in through CD Baby is DRM free? You have this power, so just do it. If you want the big labels to follow suit, force their hands by allowing it for their competitors. I’ll bet that they stepped right up if Apple did this.

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Dave Slusher is a blogger, podcaster, computer programmer, author, science fiction fan and father. Member of the Podcast Hall of Fame class of 2022.

11 thoughts on “Apple and DRM”

  1. PJ Cabrera says:

    Dude! I think you’re right! Great post.

    And here I was wasting my time reading what everybody else had to say about it, when you had the wisest post to sum it all up.

  2. I pondered this myself, but to be honest I’m starting to agree with what Adam Curry said on Wednesday’s DSC. Apple want to become a record label, and have their own songs with no DRM.

  3. dave says:

    PJ, thanks.

    Andrew, I don’t think that statement makes sense. What role of a label would they want that they don’t already have? They are already essentially the distributor + retailer, and if you don’t have a parent label feeding in to them they are that too.

    The final analysis is that if they want to sell DRM free music but the labels are stopping them, sell it DRM free for everyone that won’t stop you. During the submission process, allow a checkbox that says “Sell this DRM free” and let it ride. No need to posture, just implement it. If they fail to implement it when they have full power to do so, that suggests it was only ever posturing.

  4. John Tracy says:

    I agree that DRM free music should have at least been an option already with Apple. At the same time, Apple isn’t really this DRM hating company like Steve and his reality distortion field would like everyone to believe. They have been going along with DRM because it keeps users locked into their software and hardware.

    Why the sudden move against DRM? They can see the backlash starting to happen, and they want to position themselves positively when the masses start revolting. This is nothing more than a smart business move. Apple is simply saying, don’t hate us, the RIAA makes us do this.

    DRM has proven itself to be useless. There isn’t a single file protection scheme in use that hasn’t been cracked. Steve Jobs is just walking in at the right time to look like the good guy, while in reality, if he can get rid of DRM, Apple will save money because they don’t have to continually update a system that will never work. Again, smart business move. That is all Steve Jobs is, a smart business man, and don’t ever confuse business with personal beliefs.

  5. dave says:

    John, I don’t disagree with what you say. Obviously it is not some sort of deep moral conviction held by Jobs or he’d have already done it. I don’t know that I require him to really believe this, as long as it gets done.

    Of course. when I spend my money to buy digital music I have never ever paid for DRM content. Magnatune, et al. So, I’m keeping my money where my morals are.

  6. John Tracy says:

    Of course you should spend your money where your morals are. If you didn’t vote with your dollar, the industry wouldn’t change. Maybe Apple can see this happening already and thus all the commotion about DRM by the head honcho!

    P.S.: Out of the few comments I have posted on your site, I don’t think I have every told you how much I love your show. Love to hear the new music [even if you did pronounce Sufjan wrong!:)], and I always find myself agreeing with your stance on various topics, well most of the time. Keep it up, and just remember I am just one more person that waits for the Clambake to download and listen to immediately. Keep it up!

  7. Ken Kennedy says:

    Dave, I’ve heard the rumor that CD Baby is indeed in negotiations with one or more distributors to do exactly that…release their entire catalog, with no DRM. Anyone really have any question as to who’s included on the list?

    Sounds awesome.

  8. dave says:

    John, thanks for the kind words. As a kid I used to mispronounce words all the time because I’d learn them from reading but not from hearing them spoken. Same deal here. I’ll try to keep it worth listening to for you.

    Ken, that is interesting. CD Baby sure does an awful lot of things right.

  9. Tilted Edge says:

    Jobs wants to get rid of DRM? Isn’t that like the pot calling the kettle black? Recently I heard someone in a podcast point out that indie artists are not allowed to release songs without DRM at on itunes even if they want to! I also heard a rumor that officials other than Jobs at Apple said even if the majors wanted to get rid of DRM, Apple would keep it. This is because they love users being married to their ipods! Lip service by Jobs that is all this is because he knows the major labels are not going to go along with it.

  10. Ricky Spero says:


    You’ve got an excellent point, and I’ve been wondering if Apple might pursue this avenue. Some possible reasons why Apple hasn’t (yet) done as you’ve suggested:

    1) SJ doesn’t *really* want to see DRM disappear, he just doesn’t want Apple to be blamed when it doesn’t.

    2) SJ will wait to see if they *have* to get more serious about making non-DRM sales an option, based on the legal situation in Europe

    3) SJ would like to do this, but doesn’t want to compromise the simplicity of iTunes. The geeks will scoff at this, but imagine trying to explain to your grandmother: “I couldn’t listen to X track that you purchased from iTunes, b/c it’s protected by DRM. But you can email me Y track, b/c it’s not.”

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