Arstechnica published an article earlier this week titled “Why DRM’s best friend might just be Apple Inc.“. Every time someone points out that Apple is a supporter of DRM, the Mac faithful come out of the woodworks to promote the delusion that Apple does not really support DRM and that they’re simply forced to use DRM by the record labels and studios. This of course flies in the face of reality:

  • Apple is refusing to open up FairPlay to other companies.
  • Apple is applying FairPlay to files from record labels that do not require DRM.

From a NYTimes story today titled “Want an iPhone? Beware the iHandcuffs“:

Among the artists who can be found at eMusic are Barenaked Ladies, Sarah McLachlan and Avril Lavigne, who are represented by Nettwerk Music Group, based in Vancouver, British Columbia. All Nettwerk releases are available at eMusic without copy protection.

But when the same tracks are sold by the iTunes Music Store, Apple insists on attaching FairPlay copy protection that limits their use to only one portable player, the iPod. Terry McBride, Nettwerk’s chief executive, said that the artists initially required Apple to use copy protection, but that this was no longer the case. At this point, he said, copy protection serves only Apple’s interests .

Josh Bernoff, a principal analyst at Forrester Research, agreed, saying copy protection “just locks people into Apple.” He said he had recently asked Apple when the company would remove copy protection and was told, “We see no need to do so.”

Apple’s statement is a detailed treatise on the subject, compared with what I received when I asked the company last week whether it would offer tracks without copy protection if the publisher did not insist on it: the Apple spokesman took my query and never got back to me.

From a 2004 blog post by Fred von Lohmann at the EFF titled “FairPlay: Another Anticompetitive Use of DRM“:

On a panel a few weeks ago, I asked the head lawyer for Apple’s iTunes Music Store whether Apple would, if it could, drop the FairPlay DRM from tracks purchased at the Music Store. He said “no.” I was puzzled, because I assumed that the DRM obligation was imposed by the major labels on a grudging Apple.

When will the Mac faithful stop deluding themselves?

10 thoughts on “iHandcuffs”

  1. Hi Jon, I agree with you and refuse to use the itunes store. The fact that apple does not support DRM is laughable.

    but …

    just like apple don’t you also support DRM (http://apple.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/10/02/1845254)? sure, you will break the fairplay monopoly but not the ipod music sales monopoly because no monopoly exists, emusic for example sells mp3s that work fine on ipods.

    please do not get me wrong. I have the upmost respect for you and the reverse engineering work you have done in the past. I just am a bit confused as to why you entered the DRM market.

  2. While it’s true that I can find Sarah McLachlan on eMusic, I am unable to find any of her regular albums there. Why’s that?

    I don’t want to troll, really, I agree with you largely here, and I’m hoping that the rumors about Amazon entering the DRM-free mp3 market are true, but I’m not so sure that, all of a sudden, the record labels have decided to go DRM-free!

  3. anon: Your comments are completely unrelated to Jon’s post and are obviously just a question you’re wanting to ask him! 🙂 Jon’s post was merely pointing out that Apple like to portray themselves, and the Mac-Faithful like to pretend, that Apple is always looking out for the consumer… even when there’s concrete evidence to the opposite.

    I have a friend who is such a MacFaithful that someone could do a case study on him. I took my Zune around to show him, so he could make his own mind up, and he LITERALLY refused to look at it. It’s scary.

    I think it’s funny that Microsoft and Apple continue to pretend that Windows (ie. “PCs”) and Apple computers (“Macs”) are in competition with each other. It’s the biggest lie, and both companies seem happy to perpetuate it: It conveniently makes people forget that Microsoft just produce software, and somehow makes them think that PCs = Windows. It also, most dangerously, helps some people forget they’ve got a monopoly. For Apple it makes them look like the underdog to the company everyone loves to hate (“fighting the machine!”).

    Microsoft are the company that should have never existed, or at least, in their current state. Some idiot allowed them to keep control of their own software and a gateway to Hell was opened. Imagine this: DVD Player manufacturers have to buy the software from software Company X to put on THEIR machines – but software Company X still owns the software. Over time, Company X gains a market share (a majority of DVD Player manufacturers use their software for their machines), and they use this advantage to get DVD discs to use features that only their software supports. Soon only DVD discs that are made for Company X’s software are available…. And no-one else can ever produce other DVD Player software, because they’re all encoded to work with Company X’s software.

    That’s what has happened with PCs. Although MS have gotten much better, and have apparently started stepping up to the plate in terms of offering something their users actually need/want, they’re still incredibly bureaucratic and make stupid mistakes. They need a REAL competitor, not a fake one like Apple.

  4. Check amazon for new cds from bands with at least one album.

    Johnny Walker: haha, yes, I did want to ask him, but I figured he got enough email from important people to deal with without answering my questions 😉 It did seem appropriate when I posted it but I guess you are right, the post is not anti-DRM.

    Jon: Go ahead and delete my off topic comment, if you wish.

  5. Opps, I am **really** sorry, the first line of last comment I posted was not supposed to be posted…. I accidentally copied and pasted it.

  6. It is important that the motivations behind the use of DRM be frequently aired before the public. This is less about “fanboys” and more about a large demographic of people who will one day wake up and realize that they don’t own their music, and that they have been played by the company they loved.

    It isn’t just teenage boys rooting for iPods, it is middle-aged middle and working-class people who don’t realize that iTunes is anti-competitive.

  7. Amen Rob. Being rather young myself, I’m kind of astounded at the naïveté displayed by people who are more often than not my elders. Apple (any corporation, really) doesn’t want to look out for your interests. They want to make you think they’re looking out for your interests so that you’ll buy their products in the first place, and then slip you the anti-competitive lock-in pill at their first opportunity, in order to maximize the amount of money they squeeze from you. All the better if you don’t realize it (or somehow fall into the fanboy trap where you realize it but actively deny it).

    I personally love my Apple laptop and am planning on buying another one soon, but I’m not under any illusions about what I mean to them. Their shareholders come first. So far it’s worked out that they can please me and the shareholders at the same time, but that’s mainly because I won’t buy an iPod and don’t make very much use at all of iTMS.

  8. @Johnny Walker: I agree with everything you write. But: If Microsoft had not fooled IBM in those days, what we now know at the PC would have been the IBM PC, a minor and expensive variety among all the Apples, Apricots and Rainbows out there. Microsoft wrestling the PC from IBM opened a marked of inexpensive clone PC hardware, which was good. This again enabled the Windows OS near monopoly – not so good.

    What can a single consumer do in this clash of giants? We need a new ‘Microsoft’ to wrestle the iPod hardware from the claws of iTunes.

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