Steve Jobs’ explanation of Apple’s approach to DRM is a pretty appealing one. Basically he says the four major record companies, Universal, Sony BMG, Warner and EMI, are responsible for the prevalence of digital rights management technology applied to music purchased from stores like the iTunes Store and music stores that use Microsoft’s DRM technology like the Musica and Pick ‘n Play stores. This is not news, really, because I think it is pretty much common knowledge that the record companies have been behind the application of DRM technology to music available for download. What is worth noting is that considerably more music is sold on CD and which vulnerable to piracy than music available for sale online. This argument takes the wind out of the rationale for DRM on music downloads.
Jobs’ call for DRM-free music has attracted a fair amount of support from the likes of Yahoo! (which has indicated that most of its catalogue will be DRM-free by the end of the year), Monster Cable and the Coral Consortium. Of course the music industry is opposed to dropping DRM and there was even strong criticism from a Zune executive.
I think the writing is on the wall for DRM. It may not happen this year but the time will come when the music industry will be forced to find an alternative because the amount of DRM-free music available for legal download will increase over time and may well become more popular than more restricted music in time. As always, the market will make its choice and the industry will follow.