Challenging the trend toward digital rights management, former MP3.com chief and Linspire CEO Michael Robertson will re-enter the music world next week with MP3tunes, a service that promises music without DRM restrictions.
The announcement will be made next week at Linspires Desktop Summit, where a new VOIP (voice-over-IP) company, SwitchVox, also will be launched. Robertsons other venture, SIPphone, will introduce a $39 device designed to facilitate Internet calling, Robertson said.
“I think [DRM] is a problem; Ive made no bones about it,” he said in an interview Wednesday. “Im not a fan of DRM. I think it penalizes paying customers. If you can get music from file-sharing networks and pay nothing, and then get it from the record guys with a pair of handcuffs attached…I think its awful.”
Robertson built MP3.com into one of the premier Internet destinations for music in the late 1990s, as Napster was nearing its peak. In April 2000, however, a U.S. district court ruled that the service violated copyright law by allowing CDs to be downloaded.
Robertson sold MP3.com to Vivendi Universal, who later sold it to CNET Networks. Legal MP3 downloads withered until Apple Computer resuscitated the market with its iTunes service, which offers some restrictions on copying the song using DRM (digital rights management) techniques.
However, Robertsons MP3tunes will enter a world thats become more and more familiar with copy protection. On Tuesday, Microsoft announced that it had licensed Macrovisions copy-protection technology, and that the two companies had agreed to make the Macrovision analog copy protection and the Windows Media Player DRM interoperable.