Movement for online music consumers takes first steps
Music files and music videos from EMI Music are now available for download on iTunes at higher quality and without digital rights management software.
On April 2, Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs announced EMI Music files now appear on iTunes without the digital rights management software. DRM prevents files downloaded from a distributor, such as iTunes, from being played on anything but that distributor’s products.
“EMI and iTunes are once again teaming up to move the digital music industry forward by giving music fans higher quality audio that is virtually indistinguishable from the original recordings, with no usage restrictions on the music they love from their favorite artists,” Eric Nicoli, CEO of EMI Group, said in Apple’s press release on the issue.
This marks the beginning of a movement Jobs called for in an open letter he wrote on Apple’s Web site in February.
Jobs called for the end of DRM encoded music files in the letter for reasons of futility and inconvenience. Jobs wrote that the technology used to encode the files will inevitably be discovered and bypassed and Apple would have to continue to update their technology every time DRM security was breached. He also wrote that DRM software negatively affects iTunes music consumers.
“Imagine a world where every online store sells DRM-free music encoded in open licensable format,” Jobs wrote in his open letter. “In such a world, any player can play music purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is playable on all players. This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat.”
Jobs mentioned in his letter that four major music companies are in charge of 70 percent of the world’s music distribution and most of the music sold on iTunes.
EMI is one of those companies; the other three are Sony BMG, Warner Music Group and Universal Music Group. So far, EMI is the only company of the four agreeing to distribute its music without DRM software.
Charles Ballas, a sophomore linguistics major and musician, said DRM software acts as a way for record companies to exploit current music technology. He said digital music is the most versatile of music mediums since any music file can be burnt to a CD, listened to on a computer or downloaded to a personal music player.
He said the versatility digital music offers increases its distribution possibilities.
“It’s a step backwards,” Ballas said about limiting the playability of digital music.
The deal with EMI also includes the option to buy EMI music at higher quality, or to upgrade previously downloaded EMI music to higher quality. The higher quality music will be encoded at 256 kilobytes per second (kbps), which is twice the quality of the current iTunes norm of 128 kbps. It comes at a small cost: $1.29 for each newly downloaded song, and 30 cents to upgrade older files. Upgraded files will not include DRM software.
With EMI on board, Jobs still has the other three major distributors to woo in his effort to end DRM software.
“Convincing (major record labels) to license their music to Apple and others DRM-free will create a truly interoperable music marketplace. Apple would wholeheartedly embrace this,” Jobs wrote in the closing of his open letter.
Contact Campus Press staff writer Jon Swihart at email@example.com