Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Get off iTunes' back!

Steve Jobs responded to critics of iTunes/iPod DRM, and he's right.

Steve Jobs has written an open letter to the critics who bemoan the DRM system of iTunes, and I have to say he is spot on with his reasoning and presentation. It is non-confrontational and follows a clear line of thought, detailing the history ("How did we get here?") as well as what possible future courses he sees. I've seen lots of people with apparently nothing better to do than criticize Apple for the DRM, completely ignoring these facts:
  • Without agreeing to strong DRM Apple would never have gotten the record lables (the real bad guys in this situation) to license their music to be sold online. In other words, the alternative was to have no commercial, legal solution to meet the market demand.
  • Under iTunes' system the consumer is given a lot more freedom to do things with the music than the labels originally demanded. In other words, Apple did a pretty good job of negotiating to slant the power more towards consumers than the labels would like. For example,it is trivial to burn DRMed music to a CD and then rip it back again, if you really want un-protected files from your music, and only the most audiophile of listeners can hear the quality difference.
  • The only alternatives are either illegal and, even by my own liberal view of rights ownership, immoral, or just as proprietary as iTunes. Sony and Micro$oft, the only significant competitors, have the same restrictions as iTunes.

The critics, for the most part, conveniently avoid these facts, none of which are disputable. They just want something to complain about.

I am by no means a "Mac person" (don't own one and have barely ever used one), but I applaud Jobs' response for its level-headedness, honesty, and direct approach. I am really tired of hearing those who just want to gripe and want the world without paying for it criticizing the company and system that has revolutionized the music industry. The digital distribution revolution is even more important than the CD "revolution" was, because it is not just a better quality package of the same old model - this is completely new and empowers consumers in ways that were only possible via illegal and immoral behavior before. We have Apple to thank for sparking that and for remaining aggressive and the market leader. As Jobs' letter says, people and governments should spend their energies trying to change the archaic, stone-age attitudes of the record labels who insist on treating their customers as criminals while not slowing down the real criminals at all.

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