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Apple computers

A call to end DRM restrictions on legally purchased music comes from unlikely source: the CEO of Apple

Sunday, February 11, 2007 by: M.T. Whitney
Tags: Apple computers, DRM, file sharing


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(NewsTarget) An open letter posted Tuesday on Apple, Inc.'s web site from CEO Steve Jobs called for music purchased online to be freed from Digital Rights Management file encryption.

Jobs said that music companies require the use of DRM in music purchased online for any online store that sells music downloads, but Apple would embrace the removal of DRM "in a heartbeat," allowing users to use the music they download any way they like, which is currently not the case.

His company, Apple, is the creator of iTunes, an online music store that allows users to buy DRM-encrypted songs. Unless you use a DRM stripper to modify the files, the songs you buy in iTunes can only be used on five computers and with Apple's proprietary iPod player. They can not be played on a CD player.

Sony and Microsoft have different but also proprietary systems of DRM that require the use of their music players.

In the letter, Jobs said that the other two options he foresees are that proprietary rights management systems will continue to be in place meaning nothing will change or that Apple might license its DRM encryption software, FairPlay, to other companies. Jobs dismissed the latter idea because Apple would not be able to "guarantee to protect the music it licenses from the big four music companies," Jobs wrote.

Jobs questioned the use of DRM altogether, as most songs are collected other ways. Only 3 percent of the songs on the average iPod was purchased in the iTunes store, according to Apple's research. The rest came from copying the music from CDs, illegal downloads or other methods of getting songs.

Jobs also argued that, unlike DVDs, nearly all CDs physically purchased by consumers contain no DRM restrictions.

The few times that music companies tried to insert DRM software in CDs, a wide consumer backlash followed. The most notable incident was in 2005 when Sony found it had to recall more than 50 different albums that contained DRM software as consumers balked at the fact the CD they purchased wouldn't play in a normal CD player. At the end of January 2007, the Japanese media giant settled with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission over violations of federal law, and agreed to reimburse customers up to $150 in damages each.

Critic of DRMs and consumer health advocate Mike Adams said that the restrictions go too far.

"DRM has turned consumers into criminals," he said. "By using police state tactics and criminalizing their best customers, music companies and the Recording Industry Association of America have declared war on the very people who actually buy their music. They've lost credibility, customer and goodwill. They can regain that goodwill today by abandoning DRM technology and restoring freedom to music consumers."

Online civil liberties groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation also criticize the use of DRM. In Europe, some court systems have sought to stop the use of DRM, challenging it as anti-competitive by limiting songs bought online to certain proprietary music players.

In the past, hacking attempts to break through Apple's FairPlay system have had limited success: the once-popular DRM-stripping program JHymn, which converts music bought on iTunes and converts them to freely distributable MP3s, was defeated by new software changes to iTunes by Apple. JHymn's current equivalent is myFairTunes6, which is compatible with the latest version of iTunes.

Along with the EFF, one group leading charge against DRM is the Free Software Foundation, which set up an international day of protest against DRM on October 3, 2006.

Jobs, with Steve Wozniak, is a co-founder of Apple Computer now Apple, Inc. as of January 2007 a consumer electronics company started 30 years ago.

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