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An Idea for the Record Companies

It's simple: for the month of March, allow iTunes songs to be sold without DRM. See whether your sales increase or decrease. People buying songs from iTunes are buying it despite the DRM (i.e. they're honest people, or they're too lazy to look for pirated music - either way, they're paying). The people who are refusing to buy DRM music might buy a bunch of songs.

I imagine the heads of the "big four" music companies sitting in a large office at the top of their ivory towers thinking "we just can't go without DRM - people will pirate like crazy!" This, again, despite the fact that CDs don't have DRM (for the most part). The music industry is using a hunch as a crutch, essentially - they likely have no real idea how the numbers would shake out, but they're dead certain it'd be "bad."

On a related note, why instead of limiting our rights with DRM, can't the songs we download simply be tagged with IDs unique to the purchaser? If songs with one person's ID shows up in someone else's hands, then clearly they've either given them the music or it was stolen. The RIAA could then sue people with actual proof, and honest people like myself and the millions of others who buy music would have nothing to worry about, but would instead enjoy un-DRMed music.

4 Responses to "An Idea for the Record Companies"

  1. Lets not forget, in the earliest days of the fairplay hack against iTunes playfair did not strip your actual iTunes ID from the songs, it just removed the DRM and left you with a simple de-drm'd AAC file, but still had your iTMS ID embedded inside it. A subsequent version of iTunes picked up non-encrypted iTunes songs that had that tag and refused to play them and also erased them from your iPod. After that occurred it became necessary to develop ways to strip all information that identified a particular song as previously-drm'd. So, the music companies really have already shot themselves in the foot with regards to tagged-but-open music.

    It's unfortunate, back when FairPlay was first cracked but before we had to strip the user tags, it was widely known "do not share this music -- apple can and probably will track you down if you do". This didn't lead to a rash of people figuring out how to strip the tags so they could share with impunity (in fact, the original fix for the itunes fix simply renamed the user ID tag, not removing it, until that generosity was AGAIN used against us).

    Sadly the music companies in their ivory towers do not understand that they are simply killing their own industry.

  2. The problem with tagging the songs and suing the people who distribute it is what happens when music is stolen? Laptops and ipods are easy to steal. Or what if you leave your ipod at work overnight and someone goes and takes a copy of all your music? I don't like DRM at all, but tagging songs and suing people who distribute them scares me.

  3. Owen said on February 13, 2007:

    I don't like DRM at all, but tagging songs and suing people who distribute them scares me.

    The suing comment was more a jab at the RIAA than anything else…

  4. Of course it would probably be trivial to strip the "tagged" information out of a purchased song, but that's beyond the point.

    The point is that selling unencumbered music would only help sales (those 7 people who use non-iPods could purchase from the iTS, or Napster could sell to iPod owners) and make absolutely no difference to the pirate community whatsoever.

    The Big 4 wont agree to selling music without DRM, because they dream of a world where they hold all the control to when, where, and how you listen to music. They dream of a world where it is ILLEGAL to do anything with your music other than listen to it on 1 specific device per purchase. They LOVE the idea of consumers being required to re-purchase every piece of music for every different device. (buy it once for your computer, again for your ipod, again for your cellphone (and once more to use it as a ringer) another time for your car, etc.)

    Regardless if selling DRM-less music would actually improve profits, make customers happy, and even convert some of the pirating fence-sitters, it doesn't offer the kind of exploitative control the industry craves.


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