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Blog // Thoughts
February 7, 2007

Steve Jobs – Thoughts On Music

In a very bold move, Steve Jobs has posted a bold and telling plan for the future of music distribution. If you are a musician or a music fan, it really is a must read. Jobs is calling for the dismantling of the DRM (digital rights management) controls that have in place since the iTunes […]

In a very bold move, Steve Jobs has posted a bold and telling plan for the future of music distribution. If you are a musician or a music fan, it really is a must read.

Jobs is calling for the dismantling of the DRM (digital rights management) controls that have in place since the iTunes store opened. His piece highlights the massive control the big four have on the worldwide distribution of music and how some of the criticisms aimed at Apple’s iTunes store and iPod technology result from the deals required to make electronic distribution of music possible.

Whilst Job’s arguments are sound and good for the music business, I have one small gripe. He conflates music with distributable recordings of music. It is important for musicians and composers to maintain the conceptual separation between the music itself and the recording or product and the music itself.

The iTunes store does not sell music, it sells recordings of music. iPods don’t carry music, they carry recordings of music. Without that distinction discussions about music, from copyright through to the nature of music and art, become fraught and unclear.

[tags] Steve Jobs, Apple, iPod, iTunes, Copyright [/tags]

Joe 17 years ago

Mr. Jobs posting would have carried more weight if he had taken some of the same principals in his statement and applied them to the Apple iPhone product.

In its present form the iPhone is available from one cell phone service provider.

If the iPhone was made available to any and all cell phone service providers it would have actually moved one step closer to being a product to truly reinvent the telecommunications sector.

Instead it is just another phone with the same-old-same-old exclusive distribution.

Borrowing and changing some of his comments today…

“ Imagine a world where every cell phone provider sells iPhones. In such a world, any customer would be able to purchase the iPhone from any cell phone service provider, and any cell phone service provider can sell the customer their particular service plan. “

Sadly…. this is not the case….

Mr. Jobs may want the masses to buy into that aura of the rebel company leader to hip for the stale old ways of the business world, but based on some of the details of the iPhones licensing requirements Verizon would have had to abide by it’s clear that it’s all about the money and of course the control that matter…

Don’t be fooled…. The DMR free suggestion is a veiled attempt to deflect some of the growing criticism of Apple’s “ vertical monopoly “ arguments they are facing in Europe…

It’s all about the $… it’s all about the control…

Toni 17 years ago

I believe this is something SJ has wanted to talk about for a long time, but was prevented due to corporate policy and alliances. However you have a good case in point with Apple technology generally, where there has always been very strict control on hardware rights and IP. I suspect he sees the IP of music and IP of hardware as being of very different natures and values.

Personally as a musician, I believe music should not be subject to the kind of IPR that it has been, but this is easy for me to say as I’ve never wanted to make it my career.

Fernando Gros 17 years ago

Joe thanks for your comment. I don’t agree that music is in the same category as cell phone contracts.

Joe 17 years ago

I guess I just feel the underlying principals of protection / ownership / constraints – with respect to the products and services Apple offer is the same be it the iPOD or the iPHONE.

Having no DRM means SJ can have his product play any artist music regardless of, any particular music label requirements and without Apple having to worry about keeping up the iTunes song protection scheme. This would eliminate Apples risk as well as reduce their cost devoted to maintaining such protection.

As I stated in my initial posting elimination SJ talk of eliminating DRM would also allow Apple to fend of the mounting vertical monopoly they are is facing in Europe.

SJ wants consumers to see the record companies as the bad guys who have forced him into the iTunes protection / ownership / constraint scheme, but Apple is just as protective of their products as was pointed out in some of the Verizon details… Apple wanted too much control over how the device would be distributed, serviced… etc…

A bold move would have been if SJ had introduced the iPHONE product as a network agnostic device. It would have given more weight and strengthened SJ DRM free argument…

“ see my iPHONE product is free from provider protection / ownership / constraints why can’t my iPOD be the same when it comes to the big record companies and DRM ? “

Fernando Gros 17 years ago

Joe – I agree Apple are now targeting DRM for commercial reasons. DRM is bad for the music business.

But abandoning DRM is not about abaning all protections on music. I’m against DRM but I’m still in favour of copyright in principle and creative commons in practice. When we purchase a copy of music, we do not own it outight for any purpose we see fit, there still are protections, even with DRM. We license music, we don’t own it.

I would have liked the iPhone to be network non-specific as a market preference. Here in Hong Kong we can buy most new model phones network free for decent prices. The whole sign up for two years deal is a real palavar.

But having said that I just don’t see a hardware product like the iPhone, whose performance is parasitic on a suitable network, to be the same as music – different animal.

Moreover, I think Apple do have a commerical interest in ensuring the functionality of their product. For example, with the AppleTV, they face a backlash outside the US, due to the lack of movies and TV shows through the iTunes store (heck here in HK we don’t even have an iTunes store). That sort of situation is bad for the brand and a feature crippled iPhone is the same.

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