Can the RIAA even read?

February 9, 2007

Many of you probably already know about Steve Job’s essay on music and DRM copy protection that he published on Apple’s website earlier this week (if not you can find it readily here). He talks at length about DRM and copy protection, and how it’s not interoperable and other issues as well as the reasons behind why it’s done. He also recommends that the companies get rid of DRM as it would be better for the consumers and everyone involved. Here are some excerpts:

“The third alternative is to abolish DRMs entirely. Imagine a world where every online store sells DRM-free music encoded in open licensable formats. In such a world, any player can play music purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is playable on all players. This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat. If the big four music companies would license Apple their music without the requirement that it be protected with a DRM, we would switch to selling only DRM-free music on our iTunes store. Every iPod ever made will play this DRM-free music.”

“Why would the big four music companies agree to let Apple and others distribute their music without using DRM systems to protect it? The simplest answer is because DRMs haven’t worked, and may never work, to halt music piracy. Though the big four music companies require that all their music sold online be protected with DRMs, these same music companies continue to sell billions of CDs a year which contain completely unprotected music. That’s right! No DRM system was ever developed for the CD, so all the music distributed on CDs can be easily uploaded to the Internet, then (illegally) downloaded and played on any computer or player.”

“Convincing them to license their music to Apple and others DRM-free will create a truly interoperable music marketplace. Apple will embrace this wholeheartedly.”

Seems obvious and straightforward enough, right? If you read the entire article he makes some very good points about how futile copy protection is (with numbers to support it) and how sharing the DRM protection among other major companies would be a terrible idea that would be problematic and ruin the whole point.

Now this is the kicker. Here is the RIAA’s response to Job’s article:

“Apple’s offer to license Fairplay to other technology companies is a welcome breakthrough and would be a real victory for fans, artists and labels. There have been many services seeking a license to the Apple DRM. This would enable the interoperability that we have been urging for a very long time.”

Did they miss the premise of the entire article? Did they miss the arguments and comments that licensing fairplay would be a complete and disastrous mess? It appears so.

Even if they had overlooked the bulk of article calling for all DRM protection to be removed, there is nothing Jobs said that would suggest Apple plans to license their DRM – quite the opposite in fact. Jobs lists it as an option and then immediately discusses why it’s not a viable one.

I am becoming increasingly convinced that the RIAA is living in some alternate closet dimension of their own creation. It seems that working for the RIAA requires a degree of self-delusion that could put even spin doctors like Bill O’Reilly to shame…


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