Ten months after Warner Music head Edgar Bronfman said that Apple’s Steve Jobs suggestion that dropping DRM copy protection from digital music was “completely without logic or merit,” Bronfman reversed direction last Thursday by licensing its catalog, DRM free, to the Amazon MP3 music store. Warner joins EMI and Universal in offering higher quality (256 kbps), DRM free mp3s through Amazon’s online store, leaving Sony as the odd man out in the major label circle.
On the surface it would appear that the majors are simply responding to consumer demand and giving music fans what they want. But the fact is, the majors hate the digital monopoly that Steve Jobs has with iPod/iTunes. They understand that the only way to increase their margins on digital music and regain some of the control that Apple has taken from them is to reach the billions of iPods floating around. Their endgame is almost certainly to get customers in the habit of purchasing mp3 files from a place other than iTunes (which currently accounts for 70% of all digital music sold).
DRM (digital rights management) is technology that copyright holders place on a digital file to restrict its usage. It’s a flawed, user-unfriendly tactic, and it will go away. But while it exists, I will continue to do my online music buying with DRM-free retailers emusic and Amazon.