Could this be the end of DRM music?

Columns & Opinion, MP3 players

Will Head writes…

Looks like Steve Jobs musing on digital rights management could have made the music labels see sense and release audio downloads without copy protection.

Amazon is hot on Apple’s heals, doing a deal with the suddenly reasonable EMI to sell its music tracks without DRM restrictions.

Now all we need to do is get the other labels on board and then we can quietly forgot we ever had to deal with this pesky DRM nonsense at all.

Selling music without copy protection is, of course, nothing new – the labels have been doing it for years with CDs, tapes and vinyl. Any attempts to try and retrofit copy protection to CDs just caused problems for consumers – like Celine Dion discs getting stuck inside iMacs.

And the reality is that DRM protected tracks have done little to stem the vast quantities of music available on peer-to-peer networks.

While DRM might help keep you honsest, the biggest problem is that it locks the track to a particular player or computer. So if you bought all your tracks from iTunes, then you’re pretty much stuck with an iPod to listen to them on. It’s a bit like buying a CD from HMV and only being able to listen to it on an HMV branded CD player.

There’s the additional problem of what happens a few years down the line and the device that holds all your precious tracks packs up and dies. If the company you bought them from is still in business, then they might let you download them all again – but then they might not. With no other backup, that could potentially means losing thousands of pounds worth of music. What if the company isn’t trading anymore? Who’s going to help rescue your digital back catalogue then?

Of course, without DRM these problems go away, so the sooner the other labels jump on board, the better it will be for everyone.

Will Head
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