Disclaimer: I work in Google's Policy Team, developing multistakeholder cooperations for internet governance & policy themes, hence I want to point out that all the opinions and ruminations on this blog are mine, not Google's.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

DRM or no DRM - that's the question

this morning a friend send me this:

> Mark my words. this is the day, when DRM died:
> http://www.apple.com/hotnews/thoughtsonmusic/
> Open letter from Steve Jobs about how much DRM sucks, and that media
> should be unprotected.
> well written too

which made me - after reading and agreeing that it seemed quite a move - forward the message to some friends and bang i got some brisk critical feedback which i post as comments to this entry.

I recommend you to read Steve Jobs before you read the comments.

My 2 cents:
1) Apple is a really really street smart company and yes they are 'manipulating' consumers just as (or maybe a bit better than) the other big MNCs.

2) As long as they are playing in my direction i wont write a rant about it

3) I own an iPod and i have very mixed feelings - sort of a hate-love relationship. I only once ran into DRM issues (buying for the first and last time from audible) which i duly solved myself ;-)

so my conclusion is:

I don’t agree with dAn à all consumers hate DRM and the industry will not succeed in pushing it out so it is dominant.

I do agree with Micha – it is just a marketing communication fad (cluetrain manifesto style) and apple likes their profit more than their customers. However apple is among the few companies that are already playing with and seriously valuing their customers.


Anonymous said...

Well then, ...I don't agree entirely,...but at least he seems to be having remained comparetively sane. However, he still sucks up to his, well Apple's image, being the nice one in the content DRM wars. Considering that Macs and pod products are actually overrated Fisher-Price experience centres for adults (nice quote I heard this week)and therefore actually sell better by the day, his itunes store will one day be one of the few channels through which the content industry will sell its products. Konventional media carriers suchs as CDs will have effectivly died out. Once this day has arrived, he himself will dictate the terms and conditions, and they will be dictated though the laws of DRM. Things will get worse, not better. And Jobby will be at the forefront of dividing up his market from the other evil-doers, Sony's ATRAC and Microsoft's WMA. More DRM is the result. Very soon with the help of Microsoft and, of course Apple the dodgy DRM methods will be not only controlled through software like iTunes and Windows Media Player, but through hardware. And we know what that means, right? Your workstation will be a giant Zune Player or iPod, your good old Soundblaster, the one without DRM control you bought in 2004 , is rejected by the OS because its driver is not digitally signed under Windows Vista or OSX...go buy and good beye.

To underline my claim that Jobs is in pursuit of DRM world domaination, here, as is Jobs' article, Vivendi formerly Vivendi Universal should be mentioned. The French media conglomerate is the worlds second-largest media group with activities in every corner of music, games and software.
Estimated net profit last year was 2,6 Billion Euros.In my humble opinion this terrible outfit is at the root of all problems concerning DRM, patent rights and content industries' criminalisation of end-users. The Corporation has brought the EU lobby for content and software industry to completely new heights and literally married its way into the European parliament. The lobby works iniated by this company in Europe are conducted so openly that it can just be considered as pure vulgar. The connection almost seems plausible. Janelly Fourtou, member of the European Parliament, French Conservative, actively promotes software and business method patents in Europe. So while this MEP campaigns for the implementation of the EU Enforcement Directive on the enforcement of intellectual property rights, her husband Jean-René Fourtou former top manager of Aventis (pharma), acts as the CEO of Vivendi Universal.
Later Jean-René became the head of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), an organisation with a very active patent arm (IP Commission)lobbying for expansion of a patent system and copyright laws worldwide. And it gets worse. Fourtou runs a private fund together with her husband, Jean-René Fourtou, who to remind you again is the CEO of Vivendi Universal, the media giant that is worldwide the biggest holder of intellectual property rights.
In November 2002, this fund acquired transferable bonds worth 14,5 million Euro, which shall be transferred into Vivendi Universal shares at preference conditions in 2005. The Fourtou children have, according to the Financial Times, acquired bonds for an additional 5 million Euro. The Fourtou couple has until now made a computational surplus of 10 million Euro; their children 3,4 million Euro. Well there might be a little clash of interests you might say. No because Mrs Fourtou claims in her Declaration of financial interests for The European Parliament: "Rien à déclarer". Those of you who want to see this with their own eyes, here you go:

In 2003 Apple Computer Inc. was in talks with Vivendi Universal to buy Universal Music Group, the world's largest record company, for as much as $6 billion. A pairing that would alter the architecture of the music business.
Defying conventional wisdom, Jobs apparently was betting that music would finally be on the verge of becoming a very profitable presence on the Internet. How right he was. The discussions broadened considerably, with Jobs attending a series of meetings with Vivendi chief Jean-Rene Fourtou and other top executives in New York and Los Angeles. Jobs began weighing the possibility of buying the entire music division and hired investment bank Morgan Stanley to conduct due diligence. The deal broke, Vivendi approched Microsoft and Jobs claimed he was only interested in accessing music for Apple's new music service, not in buying the whole record company. And who would have made the decision on DRM then? Who is still making them now?

Then finally, in 2004 the European Parliament passed the Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Directive, an anti-piracy law covering media and other copyrighted goods across the entire EU.The new law has had an early amendment to restrict civil lawsuits to commercial counterfeiters and pirates such as those selling copied football shirts, CDs and videos. In it’s original form publishers could pursue individuals through the courts for downloading music and other media in good faith, rather like the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Again the cash register rings. This now allows the Fourtou family to earn a lot of Euros by suing people, either on the grounds of patents or copyright.

Later that year the trouble started. Where? You guessed it. In France.
VirginMega, powered by Amazon - a joint venture between Virgin France and local media company Lagardère filed a complaint with the French government's competition watchdog on Apples' DRM. VirginMega uses Windows' own audio and DRM technology - it's online music service is supplied by Loudeye's European subsidiary, OD2 - which isn't supported by the iPod. Since Apple won't build WMA compatibility into the iPod, Virgin wants Apple to license FairPlay so it can incorporate the technology into the tracks it sells, making them iPod-compatible. What happened then? The attempt to force Apple to license its DRM technology failed. The competition watchdog dismissed the complaint, which alleged Apple's refusal to license FairPlay ran contrary to French anti-trust law. You can’t separate Vivendi-Universal from this issue, as they are one of the main force in pushing this legislation through, no matter how you turn it. I will not go into this in detail now because it is yet another sewer of french hypocrisy. Read about the details of this somewhere else...

And just to undereline their tactics again. In May 2006, an investigation led by New York attorney general Eliot Spitzer concluded with a determination that Universal bribed radio stations to play songs from Ashlee Simpson, Brian McKnight, Big Tymers, Lindsay Lohan and other performers working for Universal labels. The company paid $12 million to the state in settlement. The list of dirty tricks is endless..

So yes, Jobs might be thinking that he can reform the situtation, fine, and that DRM and copyright theft will get more complicated, fine too. But where does this go? He will have to have the interests of Apple and its shareholders at heart, not his own beliefs. Ultimately, the decisions are in the hands of the content providers such as Vivendi and its corrupt MEPs in the European Union. There won't be a revolution, just another neo-capitalistic monopoly.

Capitalism's genius lies in the freedom it affords capitalists to try out new ideas, even if many of them turn out to be bad ones.( Quote form Mr.
Carney, an editorial page writer for The Wall Street Journal Europe in an article about Vivendi and its CEO)



Anonymous said...

hmmm.... sounds more like steve jobs blaming the music industry for the billions of dollars apple earnes through itunes ;-)... "i wish everything could be for free, but unfortunately everybody has to buy our music and can only play the music on our itunes....and our ipod....and on our iphone... " ;-)

mark my words, the day the iphone will come to the stores will be the day when APPLE takes over the digital world entirely and DRM will be known as ARM (Apple Rights Management) ;-))...but still better than MS-RM ;-)

so long, DIE!, WINDOWS, DIE!