the DRM drama, act VII

by fledgling otaku on January 4, 2008

Cause:

In legal documents in its federal case against Jeffrey Howell, a Scottsdale, Ariz., man who kept a collection of about 2,000 music recordings on his personal computer, the industry maintains that it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer.

The industry’s lawyer in the case, Ira Schwartz, argues in a brief filed earlier this month that the MP3 files Howell made on his computer from legally bought CDs are “unauthorized copies” of copyrighted recordings.

Backlash:

In 2007, 83.9 million albums were sold, down 21.4 million from last year. A 20 percent drop in sales is more than a blip; it’s serious trouble.

The industry has been under pressure for years, of course. Back in August, we took a detailed look at trends in the movie, music, and video game businesses and noted that RIAA companies have seen sales drop by 11.6 percent between 2002 and 2006, even as movies hold steady and games are showing sales increases.

Effect:

the Warner Music Group said on Thursday that it would sell songs and albums without anticopying software through Amazon’s fledgling digital music service. […] Warner is the third of the four major music corporations to reconsider its use of so-called digital rights management software, known by its initials as D.R.M., and offer its catalog in the unrestricted MP3 format. […] EMI Group broke ranks with the other major labels and agreed to sell unprotected music through iTunes in April.

Now, some music executives are privately backing the idea of dropping the software from music sold through virtually every service except iTunes, in order to strengthen Apple’s rivals and potentially diminish Mr. Jobs’s advantage. The major labels have been upset with Apple’s inflexibility on music pricing, among other issues.

Warner’s move comes roughly four months after the industry’s biggest company, Universal Music Group, part of Vivendi, said it would sell music without restrictions through an array of services, including digital stores run by Wal-Mart, Real Networks and Amazon, but not iTunes.

Denial:

Apple and Fox have indeed (finally) agreed on an iTunes movie deal, and while details are admittedly scant at the moment, chances are Stevie J. will get to the nitty gritty come Macworld. What we do know, however, is that the alleged partnership will enable iTunes users to rent new Fox DVD releases and keep them around “for a limited time,” though pricing figures weren’t speculated upon. Additionally, it sounds like Fox will be spreading its digital file inclusion from select titles to all flicks, giving DVD purchasers a FairPlay protected file that can easily be transferred (read: without third-party transcoding software) to a computer and / or iPod for later viewing.

Apple is betting on the wrong horse here. I’m coming around to the view that Steve Jobs’ famous anti-DRM letter was just a negotiating tactic and didn’t represent any genuine pro-fair-use sentiment.

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