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The Rapid Demise & Eminent Death of Music DRM


Digital Rights Management (or DRM) has been a controversial subject against which I have pontificated for years, starting with the whole Napster thing in 2000. Ironically, in that article, I slammed Edgar Bronfman Jr. who is quoted prominently in this new Businessweek article about Sony BMG being “The last major label (to) throw in the towel on digital rights management…” Thanks for the link to this article goes to the TechCrunch postmortem, “Ding, Dong, The Music DRM Witch is Dead.”

I have to admit that the death of DRM is coming even more quickly than I expected, but we can all be glad that she is dying (and, I guess, that Bronfman is waking up).

If you really want to understand this subject, I highly recommend Free Culture: The Nature and Future of Creativity by the wise and articulate Lawrence Lessig.

Set Cell Phones Free

The FCC’s upcoming ruling on wireless bandwidth has raised the issues about cell phones and why that bandwidth is so tightly controlled by the giant cell phone companies (like Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, etc.) The Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg explains very clearly why this is VERY WRONG in his column, “Free My Phone” and I believe it is worthy of your consideration. At the very least, it’s fascinating that no less than a senior writer for the Wall Street Journal compares these telco giants to “Soviet ministries.”

Mossberg says that the approach to controlling hardware and software that these companies have taken (or have been allowed to take) “severely limits consumer choice, stifles innovation, crushes entrepreneurship, and has made the U.S. the laughingstock of the mobile-technology world…”

Bottom line, our cellular bandwidth subscription should not tie us to specific hardware and software any more than our internet provider subscription should tie us to a particular kind of computer, operating system or sub-set of applications. Of course, we should pay for bandwidth. It costs money to build networks. But there’s no reason that that should give the providers the right to tie our hands (within reason) regarding how we choose to use that bandwidth (with any kind of device we choose and any kind of software we choose) just like with the web.

Why does the American government keep letting the big companies get away with this stuff?? (rhetorical question)

Apple’s Steve Jobs Reopens Free Digital Rights Conversation

Ever since the early days of the Internet and the original Napster MP3 download craze, the issue of digital rights management (DRM) and the security of the intellectual property rights of artists vs the new environment of sharing and collaboration offered by the Internet has been a controversial subject.

For example, I wrote a kind of inflamatory piece in Videography in the year 2000 called “Napster Gets It, Universal Doesn’t” where I called the Universal CEO “Bozo Bronfman” and referenced a classic Flash movie “Napster Bad” which made fun of the band Metallica for being money grubbers.

Bottom line, the bad guys were the record companies, and now (fast forward to 2007), they are among Steve Jobs and Apple’s best friends.

So the latest is that Mr. Jobs, always on the move, and in the face of the huge financial benefits that Apple gains by owning the platform that delivers by far the most “legal” (read digital rights protected) downloads… and in the face of mostly European gripes about Apple’s DRM and its proprietary system (which is not unlike Microsoft’s, Sony’s etc.), Mr. Jobs has now written a lucid web post encouraging record companies to open up their digital rights.

In other words, he’s once again pointing the finger (accurately) at the record companies as the reason that there is a digital rights lock down in the first place; and he’s recommending that the best way forward is for these same record companies to get out of the way, for the benefit of everyone, especially consumers but including the record companies and the tech companies as well.

DailyTech explains in more detail why “Apple’s leader believes that a DRM-free world would be the best one for consumers.”

If you’re interested in this subject (and, frankly, I think that everyone should be), I highly recommend Stanford Law professor and digital rights activist Lawrence Lessig‘s exceptionally well-written, researched and insightful book, Free Culture.

(Addendum: Bronfman responded to Jobs and it still looks like he’s a bozo.)