Thursday, February 08, 2007

Apples are good for you?

Ok imagine that you are sitting on top of the market, selling 70% of the legal music downloads, some 2 million songs since launching in 2003 and also selling millions of iPod players and have the iPhone just about to get connected, why would you want to talk about dropping DRM? After all, some would argue your proprietary DRM inhibits the market and has helped catapult your business forward and restrict your competitive threat.

This week Steve Jobs, the boss of Apple, urged the world's largest record companies to begin selling songs online without security software. Although the industry had already started to think about this, the statement was somewhat a ‘bolt out of the blue’.

Many now believe that the only way to compete with the pirates is to take them on. Consumer rights groups in several European countries have also lodged complaints with Apple over the incompatibility of iTunes with other music players.

Mr Jobs stated that if DRM safeguards were dropped, Apple would be in a position to create a download system which would work with other devices, including Microsoft's Zune music player. The abolition of DRM would enable all MP3 users to access music from any online music store, including iTunes.

True the relaxation of DRM is a hard ball game and one where the result could go many ways, but what is becoming clear, is that the more you tie the music up in DRM, the more the consumer and pirates fight it and find ways round it.

Ok what does it mean for publishing? Well it could revolutionize the audio book market and really make that happen. It would certainly cause Audible to sit up and question their DRM position. The physical book can easily be copied today and although piracy is rife in some markets such as Asia does DRM actually make much difference other than often restricting the consumer from doing what they want to do?

This is not an easy situation nor is the outcome clear, nor the timescales but what is clear people are starting to think the previously unthinkable with respect DRM.