Strong opinions, weakly held

Larry Lessig challenges Steve Jobs

If Steve Jobs is really serious about wanting to get rid of DRM and not just hoping to sway European regulators to blame someone other than Apple for the vertical integration of music downloads, he should take Larry Lessig’s suggestion:

But then here’s a simple next step: There are artists on iTunes whose creative work is Creative Commons licensed. Colin Mutchler is one. When his stuff first went into iTunes, he requested the DRM be turned off. The request was refused. But if no-DRM is Apple’s preferred policy, then let them begin here.

Ed Felten’s response to the Jobs letter is also interesting. I agree that Jobs is framing the debate. Jobs knows the record labels aren’t ready to drop DRM entirely, and he wants to convince people that as long as the record labels won’t give in, Apple has no intention of licensing their FairPlay DRM to anybody. I don’t object to that framing too much, in that I have no interest in “open” DRM. I don’t buy DRM-protected music.

Update: Jon Gruber’s analysis is worth a look.


  1. Is there a way to email you directly?

  2. This whole Apple/Europe/RIAA thing is kinda interesting. I firmly believe that the reason Europe is going after Apple has to do with the RIAA lobbying them to go after Apple, after failing to get Steve Jobs to open up iTunes to competitors, and remove Apple’s stranglehold on the only truly successful DRM-based store to date (the end goal, of course, being to wrest control of the music away from Apple).

    I’m surprised that the RIAA doesn’t comprehend that the only reason for Apple to even have the iTunes store is to sell more iPods. My guess is, Apple’s profits from the iTunes store is insignificant compared to the profits from their hardware sales, so they’d probably just close down the iTunes store if they had to open it to other players (which would be an interesting raspberry at the RIAA).

    The funny thing is, the RIAA has no one to blame but itself for being in this situation. I still have the Fortune magazine article talking about how the RIAA only agreed to sell their music via iTunes, after Steve agreed to their demands for DRM. I don’t think Steve originally wanted DRM on the music, but he must have been rubbing his hands with glee once the iTunes store started taking off, and the DRM gave Apple a boost in iPod sales, not to mention a captive consumer market.

    Case in point: I currently have an iPod shuffle, and I’ve been curious about other non-Apple players (esp. the SanDisk Sansa). But, given the relatively high cost of good media players like the Sansa, Zen and GigaBeat (compared to traditional CD players, $150 for a media player isn’t cheap), and my small but growing investment in iTunes music, I’ve been reluctant to do so. I wonder how many other people are in the same situation. I’ve tried tearing myself away from my iTunes addiction, I even tried eMusic and Yahoo’s subscription-based store, but their user experience still cannot match up to Apple’s combination of excellent UI and superior selection.

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