Thursday, January 8, 2009

DRM Dies Another Death

Finally Apple has announced that it will ditch DRM on all digital music sales. Effective immediately for the majority of tracks sold in the United States, songs can be downloaded in the unprotected AAC format. This is a significant development albeit fairly predictable given that other digital music stores such as Amazon, WalMart, Napster and Yahoo are already selling unprotected tracks.

Digital Rights Management, code added to a track which prevents users from burning unlimited CDs, required authorisation for playing songs on computers other than the one on which the track was purchased, created compatibility problems with mp3 players and essentially did more harm than good in getting people to transition from file sharing to legitimate music purchases, will be missed by no-one.

The shift is not without consequences however with variable pricing also being introduced to the iTunes store. There is likely to be some price increase with new songs available for $1.29 each rather than the flat $0.99 cent rate. Older tracks will now cost less, however it appears this was used as a trade off by the record labels to ensure an increase in profits.

For existing customers paying an additional $0.30 will enable them to replace songs they have already purchased with unprotected versions. In my opinion this is not only too expensive but really rather rude – DRM protected songs should never have been sold in the first place and should be replaced free of charge. When Yahoo removed protection from its catalogue existing customers were given vouchers to compensate for the transition to the unprotected format.

Questions remain as to whether DRM will be removed in other countries as well. In Australia, at the moment, the only major digital music store without DRM is eMusic which does not sell any tracks from major label artists. Amazon remains unavailable to Australian customers and a quick check of the iTunes Australia store this morning did not reveal any changes. As with most things digital and legal Australia may have to wait some time before it has its chance to enjoy music without these constraints.

Further Reading
Wall Street Journal, Apple Changes Tune on Music Pricing (7 January 2009) <> at 8 January 2009

Digital Music News, Finally: iTunes Store Goes DRM-Free, 99-Cents Going Variable (7 January 2009) <> at 8 January 2009

TechDirt, As Rumored, Apple Gives Record Labels Variable iTunes Pricing In Exchange For Ditching DRM (6 January 2009) <> at 7 January 2009

ArsTechnica, Apple, labels both win with DRM-free iTunes, tiered pricing (6 January 2009) <> at 7 January 2009

ZeroPaid, iTunes Going DRM-Free (6 January 2009) <> at 7 January 2009

The Register, DRM now dead, as Amazon snags Sony (11 January 20080 <> at 20 January 2008

Digital Music News, Warner Music Ditches DRM on Amazon, Stock Struggles Above $6 (28 December 2007) <> at 11 January 2007

Digital Music News, It's Official: Sony BMG Delivers MP3s to Amazon (10 January 2008) <> at 20 January 2008

ArsTechnica, Wal-Mart joins MSN and Yahoo, leaves DRM servers online (10 October 2008) <> at 12 October 2008

TechDirt, Surprise, Surprise: WalMart Changes Its Mind, Keeps DRM Servers Running (For Now) (10 October 2008) <> at 12 October 2008

EFF Deeplinks, And Walmart Makes Three: Another Music Service Plans to Shut Down DRM Support (28 September 2008) <> at 5 October 2008

Digital Music News, Wal-Mart Moves On; Ditches Support on DRM Downloads (30 September 2008) <> at 5 October 2008

TechDirt, Wal-Mart Ditches DRM... And Lots Of Major Label Music With It (8 April 2008) <> at 13 April 2008

Digital Music News, Wal-Mart Reaffirms Commitment to MP3s; Standoff Continues (7 April 2008) <> at 8 April 2008

Digital Music News, Yahoo Music Makes Good; Offers DRM-Free Replacements, Refunds (31 July 2008) <> at 7 August 2008

SiliconValley/Associated Press, Yahoo offers coupons for songs that stop working when it shuts download service (30 July 2008) <> at 6 August 2008

TechDirt, Yahoo Offers Refunds Or DRM-Free Music In Exchange For Shutting Down DRM Servers (29 July 2008) <> at 31 July 2008

CNet News, EFF: Yahoo Music should compensate customers (24 July 2008) <> at 28 July 2008

EFF Deeplinks, Here We Go Again: Yahoo! Music Throws Away the DRM Keys (24 July 2008) <> at 28 July 2008

Digital Music News, About Those Yahoo Music Unlimited Downloads You Bought... (25 July 2008) <> at 28 July 2008

TechDirt, Did Yahoo Not Pay Attention To What Happened When Microsoft Pulled The Plug On Its DRM Server? (24 July 2008) <> at 28 July 2008

ArsTechnica, DRM still sucks: Yahoo Music going dark, taking keys with it (24 July 2008) <> at 25 July 2008

ZeroPaid, Rhapsody Opens DRM Free Music Store (1 July 2008) <> at 4 July 2008

TechDirt, Microsoft Keeps DRM Servers Alive For Now; Won't Screw Over Own Customers For A Few More Years (19 June 2008) <> at 26 June 2008

Digital Music News, Microsoft: We'll Support Your Downloads After All (17 June 2008) <> at 20 June 2008

ArsTechnica, DRM sucks redux: Microsoft to nuke MSN Music DRM keys (22 April 2008) <> at 27 April 2008

Digital Music News, MSN Music: The DRM Aftertaste Really Lasts... (24 April 2008) <> at 26 April 2008

Digital Music News, Microsoft's Final 'Up Yours' To Those Who Bought Into Its DRM Story (23 April 2008) <> at 26 April 2008

ZeroPaid, Napster Comes Full Circle, Launches DRM-Free mp3 Store (22 May 2008) <> at 5 June 2008

Digital Music News, Napster Gets It Done: MP3s For Everyone (19 May 2008) <> at 21 May 2008, Napster Goes DRM-Free (20 May 2008) <> at 21 May 2008

TechDirt, Collapse of Music DRM Continues; DRM Customers Still Screwed (20 May 2008) <> at 21 May 2008

Technologizer, 25 Arguments for the Elimination of Copy Protection (13 October 2008) <> at 20 October 2008

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