Now that Amazon’s Kindle ebook reader has actually launched, there is a lot more information available out on the web. And after reading a bunch of it, I am less excited than I was yesterday. Here are a few links that may be of interest if you’re curious about the Kindle:
I dunno. Crippled wireless, lousy document support, DRM, a $400 price tag, and it’s still ugly. The Kindle sounds less and less impressive with each article I read.
Here’s to hoping that version 2 is better!
Steve Jobs has finally made good on his promise to offer DRM-free music through iTunes. Apple is announcing today the availability of iTunes Plus:
Apple® today launched iTunes® Plus—DRM-free music tracks featuring high quality 256 kbps AAC encoding for audio quality virtually indistinguishable from the original recordings—for just $1.29 per song.
In addition, iTunes customers can now easily upgrade their library of previously purchased EMI content to iTunes Plus tracks for just 30 cents a song and $3.00 for most albums.
I think this is great news. The more retailers that offer DRM-free music the better! I am kind of confused by the pricing though.
Why are DRM-free tracks more expensive than DRM’d ones? They are higher quality encodings, sure, but so high than an extra 30 cents is warranted to cover the costs of storage and transfer? I don’t think so. Not when Amazon S3 sells bandwidth for 20 cents per GB.
I also find it kind of insulting that they named the store “iTunes Plus”. A more appropriate name would be “the iTunes you actually want” or something. Seriously.
On Wednesday I wrote that the writing is on the wall for DRM. Today over at ars technica, Ken Fisher agrees:
What makes it even more deplorable this time is that it’s now 2007, and the writing is on the wall: DRM is a failed idea, and a waste of time and money.
I don’t want to pick solely on DRM though. The Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) is just as much to blame for the whole HD-DVD key fiasco. Ken explains:
AACS LA isn’t claiming copyright protections for the key. Rather, the key could constitute a circumvention device, which makes it illegal per the DMCA. Until a court has ruled, it’s all speculation of course.
I think something has gone terribly wrong when the law makes the simple act of writing a number illegal. Bill Clinton did a lot of good things while in office, but signing the DMCA into law was not one of them (in my opinion).
The DMCA is not a real solution to the problems faced by copyright holders. DRM is essentially security through obscurity. In other words, it’s not at all secure, and once the secret has been revealed there’s no going back. Organizations like the MPAA and RIAA know this, so they look to the DMCA as a sort of fallback mechanism: “if the secret gets out, or is bypassed, we’ll just sue.”
Instead of using the DMCA to punish the potential circumvention of DRM, rights holders should be figuring out how to remove the need for DRM altogether (thus removing the desire to circumvent it). You know, like this.
Fix the business model, and the problems go away. Yes, I really do think it’s that simple.
Read: ars technica
Has DRM (digital rights management) ever accomplished anything positive? I find it really hard to believe that DRM has increased sales of music, movies, or any other protected content. In fact, I’d bet it has had the exact opposite effect. Just mentioning the acronym brings nothing but negative thoughts to mind.
I think it’s only a matter of time until DRM is gone. Steve Jobs doesn’t want DRM. EMI is willing to forget about DRM. And yesterday, thousands of online citizens proclaimed in a unified voice that they do not want DRM either. The writing is on the wall. The only question now is when DRM will disappear.
I can’t say it any better than Cory Doctorow:
AACS took years to develop, and it has been broken in weeks. The developers spent billions, the hackers spent pennies.
Instead of spending billions on technologies that attack paying customers, the studios should be confronting that reality and figuring out how to make a living in a world where copying will get easier and easier. They’re like blacksmiths meeting to figure out how to protect the horseshoe racket by sabotaging railroads.
The railroad is coming. The tracks have been laid right through the studio gates. It’s time to get out of the horseshoe business.
In the past, movie studios and record labels had to worry about content and distribution, but no longer. It’s clear now that distribution doesn’t need a helping hand. The sooner the studios and labels figure that out and stop wasting money on it, the better it’ll be for all of us.
I certainly hope so. EMI announced today that they will begin selling higher quality, DRM free music for $1.29 USD per download. I can’t stand MP3 files at less than 192 kbps, so they’ve got that solved – the files will be 256 kbps. And the price is pretty good – not great, but good. The only thing preventing me from dropping some cash right now is that only iTunes is selling the music so far. I can’t stand iTunes.
Eventually stores will be able to sell the music in either AAC, WMA, MP3, or “other unprotected formats of their choice.” Works for me! You can read much more analysis at TechMeme.
Did you know Napster had suggested this idea more than seven years ago? Don Dodge explains:
We suggested free file sharing of 56 kbps files that were good enough for “sampling” and probably analogous to AM radio quality sound. We would offer higher quality versions in 256 kbps format for sale at $1.00 per download. This way Napster could continue to offer free downloads of low quality files and sell high quality music.
We know how that turned out. In more ways than one, Napster was ahead of its time.
I never thought it would be Jobs, but in an open letter titled “Thoughts on Music”, the Apple head honcho seems to support getting rid of DRM altogether. Just over a week ago I mentioned that music should be free – no need for DRM if it is! Here’s what Mr. Jobs has to say:
The third alternative is to abolish DRMs entirely. 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.
Bring it on! I am so glad he has written this letter. If nothing else, it will simply increase the pressure on the labels to give in and realize that DRM is a stupid way to sell music.
When I read about this letter today, I had the same thought as Jason Calacanis did: Somewhere Cory Doctorow is smiling! Indeed it sounds like he is…kinda:
Well, this is pretty excellent news! Now, let’s see if Steve means it.
I hope he does. The way I see it, there’s only a few people that will be hurt by abolishing DRM – the product teams at Microsoft, Apple, and other companies who have put a lot of time and effort into creating the DRM technologies. No one likes to see their hard work end up being ignored. Though I suppose, if they truly like music, they’ll benefit from having no DRM too.
A very interesting law that attempts to prevent a digital music store monopoly was passed in France by the lower house of parliament today. I don’t know exactly how these things work, but I think the law still must be considered by the upper house too. In any case, it doesn’t look good for Apple:
French officials said the law is aimed at preventing any single media playing system–Apple’s iTunes or Microsoft’s Windows Media Player, for example–from building a grip on the digital online music retail market.
The new legislation will require that online music retailers such as iTunes provide the software codes that protect copyrighted material–known as digital rights management (DRM)–to allow the conversion from one format to another.
At first glance this might be bad news for Apple and good news for Microsoft. Think a little harder though, and you’ll realize this could potentially be very bad for everyone. I don’t know if opening up the DRM codes is very wise, because it wouild probably make them easier to crack. And if that happens, it won’t be the Napster utopia of years past. Instead, we could be stuck with physical media because the record labels are too afraid to sell content digitally. Bad news for everyone.
I found this comment in the article particularly interesting:
Consumers are prepared to pay twice as much for a song that can freely move between different devices, a recent study of the European Union project Indicare showed.
I find that hard to believe, given that something like 90% of the market is iPods. Do all of the iPod owners also own Windows Media devices? I don’t think so, which makes me wonder where this demand for freely moving songs comes from. It’s not like Apple is price gouging at iTunes (on the contrary, they are fighting against variable song prices).
Read: CNET News.com