Marching to the (Anti-DRM) Beat of Steve Jobs

Dennis Faas's picture

On April 2, EMI and Apple announced that EMI's entire music catalog will be available free of all digital rights management (DRM) protection on the iTunes store. While the buzz of the announcement has centered on the implications for the music industry, there is another facet of this situation worth discussing: Steve Jobs' orchestration of the shift to DRM-free music. (Source:

In February, Jobs released an open letter on the Apple website criticizing DRM protection systems. Jobs wrote:

"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." (Source:

At the time, many thought that Jobs' letter was meant to address several European governments that were threatening to break the chain between iTunes and the iPod. In hindsight, however, it looks like Jobs was stating his position in preparation for negotiations with record labels. (Source:

By writing the letter, Jobs initiated further consensus that DRM is not working with the present online music system. Further, his proactive approach to the issue makes it seem like the April 2 announcement was his idea, not EMI's. After all, the shift toward DRM-free music seems to boldly contrast Jobs' current -- and highly successful -- iTunes model. By initiating the shift to DRM-free music, Jobs retains his leader status on the digital music battlefield. (Source:

The move to DRM-free music is sure to change the online music industry. Are DRM-free movies next?

Jobs says no. "Video is pretty different than music right now because the video industry does not distribute 90 percent of their content DRM free; never has, and so I think they are in a pretty different situation and so I wouldn't hold the two in parallel at all," he said. (Source:

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