So DRMs are dying. Gee, how surprising.
More and more music vendors are giving them up or at least seriously considering the possibility (EMI, VirginMusic, Yahoo, the FNAC here in France). All those years to realize a basic principle of marketing : convenience of service sells. DRMs are the digital equivalent to a public swimming pool owner laying shards of broken glass all around it and forcing the customers to purchase special protecting shoes to access the pool in order to limit fradulent bathing.
Actually they are also the only way the market can “create” scarcity where there is inherently none, because the market as we know it doesn’t work well on abundance yet, but that’s a whole other subject.
Also, regarding the fact that Apple would be the main proponent of DRMs, this isn’t the case. ITunes has DRMs only because it was the only way music majors would grant it access to their catalogue, but Jobs is quite aware of the futility of the whole thing. Quoted from this interview in Rolling Stone magazine :
When we first went to talk to these record companies — you know, it was a while ago. It took us 18 months. And at first we said: None of this technology that you’re talking about’s gonna work. We have Ph.D.’s here, that know the stuff cold, and we don’t believe it’s possible to protect digital content
So itunes DRMs scheme is basically Jobs saying to the majors “yeah yeah, we’re protecting these songs”, in the same way a developer tells his PHB “yeah yeah, we’re <buzzword>-compliant” (which really means “I’m giving you this biscuit so you stop nagging me about things you don’t understand, now go away”). But notice that Apple pretty much never raised a finger against the DRM-unlocking programs which are circulating for itunes, and it’s always been pretty trivial to work around (just burn the song to an audio CD and rip it). I wouldn’t be surprised that itunes will drop DRMs as soon as the music majors stop imposing them.
[add. jan. 23rd 2007 : the MIDEM is confirming the trend]
[add. feb. 7th 2007 : more in this other post]