Steve Jobs made headlines in February when he came out against digital rights management (DRM), the copy protection schemes forced onto music tracks by the big record labels. Yes, Real-Networks CEO, Rob Glazer, and Yahoo! Musics Dave Goldberg have made similar statements, but Apple is the dominant player in digital music, and an open letter from Jobs means something else entirely. You can read his whole missive on Apples Web site, but the key point is this: “DRMs havent worked, and may never work, to halt music piracy.” Big words for a guy whos sold more than a billion DRM-protected songs.
DRM isnt necessarily a bad idea. If you believe that a song has any value at all, then it follows that artists should be paid for the work. Digital rights management is just a way of making sure that happens. Unfortunately, as currently designed, DRM doesnt prevent people from stealing music, and it makes life harder for consumers who want to play by the rules and purchase music legally.
Music unprotected by DRM is always available from other sources. Grabbing free music from P2P sharing services such as BearShare, BitTorrent, eMule, or LimeWire is simple. With a broadband cable connection, you can download a track in about 30 seconds and an entire album in less than 5 minutes. Sure, the RIAA can sue a handful of students each year and shut down a P2P network every six months, but this is just legal Whac-A-Mole. It doesnt solve the problem.