Apple Seeks End To Music Copy Restrictions
May 7, 2007 at 9:32 AM (PT)
The last time APPLE CEO STEVE JOBS took on major recording companies, he refused to budge on his 99-cent price for a song on ITUNES. As a new round of talks ramp up this month, however, JOBS has opened the door to higher prices, as long as music companies let APPLE INC. sell their songs without technology designed to stop unauthorized copying.
JOBS contends that would "tear down the walls" by allowing consumers to play music they buy at APPLE’s ITUNES store on any digital music player, not just the company’s IPODS. Although most of the major labels insist that safeguards are still needed to stave off online piracy and make other digital music business models work, one company has already struck a deal with APPLE.
Last month, EMI MUSIC GROUP agreed to let ITUNES sell tracks without the copy-protection technology known as digital-rights management. The DRM-free tracks cost 30 cents more than copy-restricted versions of EMI songs and feature enhanced sound quality.
APPLE and the recording companies declined official comment on their negotiations. Four years ago, the majors bought into JOBS’ one-price-fits-all vision and agreed to such licensing terms at a time when online music services were failing to attract significant interest from music fans. Since then, the popularity of APPLE’s IPODS has swelled and now dominate more than 70% of the digital music player market, by some estimates.
The recording industry has argued that copy protection software itself is not what makes some songs incompatible with some digital players, but the fact that there are different versions of the technology in use. The music companies have called on JOBS to license FAIRPLAY to makers of rival devices.
JOBS has countered that the best way to get rid of technological barriers is for record labels to strip the copy safeguards from their music. He defends keeping FAIRPLAY closed, saying that if it was widely available, it would become easier for hackers to figure out how to bypass it.