Steve Jobs Thoughts on Music

with 8 comments

This is amazing. Just fucking brilliant. The C.E.O. of the world’s largest legal online music distributor talks about how DRM doesn’t work in an eighteen-hundred word essay.

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.

Why would the big four music companies agree to let Apple and others distribute their music without using DRM systems to protect it? The simplest answer is because DRMs haven’t worked, and may never work, to halt music piracy. Though the big four music companies require that all their music sold online be protected with DRMs, these same music companies continue to sell billions of CDs a year which contain completely unprotected music. That’s right! No DRM system was ever developed for the CD, so all the music distributed on CDs can be easily uploaded to the Internet, then (illegally) downloaded and played on any computer or player.


Written by Kumaran Vijayan

February 6, 2007 at 3:05 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

8 Responses

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  1. He’s very correct (in the parts of the essay that I scanned).


    February 7, 2007 at 11:52 pm

  2. Steve Jobs says that DRM cannot effectively protect recorded music when it is transmitted digitally. He is right. The music industry’s many experiments with DRM have all met with effective technological countermeasures. Moreover, news of each successful hack quickly found its way to everyone who cared. There is no reason to believe that the results will be different next time, or ever.

    For his part, Mitch Bainwol, Chairman of the RIAA, insists that DRM is essential to the music industry’s survival in the digital age.

    The problem is that the Internet is fundamentally incompatible with the music industry’s traditional sales-based revenue model. Through the Internet, the market for sale of individual recordings can be saturated in a moment’s time and without payment of any royalties to songwriters, music publishers, recording artists or record labels. Neither law, nor technology, nor moral suasion will change this fact.

    Mr. Jobs suggests, and I agree, that DRM should be abandoned as a tool for the protection of recorded music. However, before Mr. Jobs can implement his DRM-free utopia, the music industry must have a viable alternative business model by which it can continue to thrive. Mr. Jobs has not suggested one. Mr. Bainwol denies that one is needed; intending, instead, to continue efforts to preserve the industry’s sales-based revenue model. In any event, in the absence of an alternative business model suited for digital transmissions of recorded music, Mr. Bainwol cannot even begin to discuss the possible elimination of DRM.

    I propose such an alternative in a White Paper which is available as a pdf at

    Mine is a comprehensive approach to rights licensing and rights management that does not depend on the efficacy of exclusionary DRM technology for its success. A solution that simultaneously protects the integrity of copyright, promotes technological innovation, facilitates the growth of all manner of licensed digital audio services (including P2P), and meets consumer demand. In the aggregate, music industry rights holders would do at least as well financially under my proposal than they do now under the system that my proposal would replace.

    With this alternative business model in hand (which includes a plan for its implementation), there can be no further justification for the music industry’s failure to respond constructively to the changed circumstances imposed on it by emergence of the global digital communications network.

    Bennett Lincoff

    February 17, 2007 at 6:44 am

  3. Hey Bennet. The link to your paper isn’t working for me. 🙂


    February 17, 2007 at 2:00 pm

  4. Yeah, that doesn’t work for me either.


    February 18, 2007 at 9:22 am

  5. It should.

    I added a www just in case it was your browser.


    February 18, 2007 at 3:52 pm

  6. dino

    February 18, 2007 at 4:15 pm


    You have been selecting the URL’s up to the period. That period, and the “pdf” that follows it, are essential to the URL.

    And anyways, I think this Bennett guy is a modern-day spamming lawyer. Not a reader. The pdf is long, too (28 pages). There’s probably a way to summarize it in a page (HINT HINT TO SPAMMING LAWYER).

    I’d be pleasantly surprised to hear from this guy again, but I have an idea that he’s just looking for reputation atm.


    February 20, 2007 at 12:33 am

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