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DRMing up support for Steve's music shop

Letters A frantic surge of email in defense of Apple's online music service appeared yesterday. Here's a selection of letters from the week.

I have 1.3 days of music burned into iTunes3; all from my own collection, none "stolen"... but I am thinking twice about using the AAPL service.

DRM seems inescapable, but Steve's terms have to be a little sweeter I think.

Weldon Monsport

The problem isn't Apple, many of you say. Apple is simply doing the RIAA's dirty work for them:

Ideally we'll get to 15 cent downloads for whimsical impulses and trial listens and $6 CDs. Personally I think that's where the record companies could optimize their revenue.

These things are incremental, and there's no reason they can't open the streaming to purchased music in the next rev once they calm the fears of the record folks. To slap the RIAA in the face with streaming at the moment they've opened their catalogs to you is pretty harsh - it's good to pull the punch just a bit. It's the decent thing to do...

Free music isn't fair, but it's currently justifiable as retribution against a belligerent recording industry.

I've also finally figured out over these last couple days what I want out of online music - cheaper CDs.

I don't like downloading music. Didn't like it free, and don't like it for a fee. I like holding the CD, looking at the art, seeing the paint on the disc. A transfer of bits just feels like reading a secondhand paperback - fine if it's a trash novel, but not the way you want to build a library of classics.

The problem isn't Apple, the problem is the record companies insisting on $.60 a song when all they have to do is sit and count.

Greg Best

But many reckon we haven't cut Apple a break:

"Rex Raymond"
Date: Fri May 2, 2003 12:44:58 PM US/Pacific
Subject: RE: Sugared water Apple censors Miles Davis

Quit whining.

From: Zapski
Date: Thu May 1, 2003 7:05:57 PM US/Pacific
Subject: Oh smeg off

Insert rant here.

That's about as meaningful and accurate as your reviews have been of late.



Thank you. Fortunately there others who make the case slightly more articulately.

A student writes:

It's quite plain to see that you are not very clued up when it comes to commenting on Apple's Music service. It is a true breakthrough, and although DRM is included, it is done in a truly sane manner.

So stop whining, just because you're not such a big fan of Apple/have a bug-bear about ANY DRM when it actually turns out that things aren't so bad.

-Peter Laurens

Be careful Peter - you must stop sharing music or you will be in trouble. Although you may be in the UK, they are going after our youth, now.

Give the service a chance to grow, many of you in the Thursday flood say:

The catalog is definitely short, no surprise there, the labels have pretty much demonstrated their insane fear of electronic distribution by third parties already, and I hardly expected them to jump in with both feet.

I certainly wasn't ecstatic about the restrictions but the terms aren't really that onerous for my habits, I mostly burn to CD for my walkman or car, and since there's no restriction on that, I'm fine with it. As far as losing purchased music due to some failure or other, I really don't see the point at all, if I haven't properly backed up, I'm not going to complain to Apple that I've lost my porn stash and all my invoices, why would I complain about the song files?

Cory D Cyr
('FMU fanatic)

I think the quotes from disgruntled Apple Music store users were a bit over the top.

Such as: "I'm all for Apple's great new music idea," says Don, "But I'm afraid Apple made it easy for us to have to 'repurchase' all our music if the shit hits the fan. I feel they should be responsible for giving us a way to redownload without having to repay".

Most Apple users, I like to believe, take small incidents with a little more equanimity. Like myself:

I've spent a mere 15 hours over the last week trying to convince my iMac that "Yes, darling, that's a fucking mouse-down, so select something from the drop-down menu, you fucking white and plexi turd before I take you over to Tiburon and shove you straight up Steve Job's ass".

With that sort of adamantine reliability, why Don act so worried? He's undoubtedly a pirate. I'm of a mind to stick the RIAA on him.

Pat Collins

If you want to remove the copy protection, just burn the song onto a CD in iTunes then reimport it using the same. Shazzam, new mp3s (or AAC files if you like), with no copy protection and minimal loss of quality. The workaround is there using the same Apple app that hosts the music store, for anyone who can be bothered to look for it.

The article also gave the impression that the Music Store launch has fallen a bit flat. Given that so far this venture is limited to people who own Macs running OS X, who live in the US, who want to buy music so much they downloaded iTunes 4 (8mb), and who had even heard of the service, I'd say 275,000 tracks sold in the first 18 hours is nothing short of phenomenal when compared to previous on-line retail efforts.

Nathan Harris

But it's not that simple. Apple DRM locks your music:

Here's an idea. I think it points out the absurdity of the whole DRM situation.

We know that you can take an AAC file from Apple's music store, transcode it to a WAV file, and then re-encode that WAV file to whatever you want - MP3, Ogg Vorbis, unprotected AAC, etc. - using whatever software you want.

The resulting WAV file sounds as good as the original AAC, obviously. [1]

The WAV->FormatX re-encoded file suffers from some loss of quality, yes, but the consumer can decide whether that's acceptable.

So why doesn't Apple start selling the AAC->WAV transcoded WAV files? Or better yet, re-encode these to high-bitrate MP3 and Ogg Vorbis and unprotected AAC (to keep the re-encoding as pristine as possible)?

Save the customer a step, give everybody using non-Apple products what they want, sell a *lot* more music.

No harm done to the music industry, since they've already bought into this system (whether they realize it or not).

Is it just me, or is this not *painfully* obvious?

I find it absurd that the RIAA has agreed to a DRM system where you can create a WAV file that is unprotected and sounds as good as the protected AAC. What the hell is the point of DRM, then? Just give me the unprotected AAC file and save me the hassle!

The hassle won't stop legions of filetraders from doing this on a massive scale. The success of Napster and Kazaa has proven that. I'm a willing-to-pay customer, so why penalize me?

Drew Hess

[1] this assumes that Apple hasn't "sabotaged" the protected AAC->WAV decoding process to introduce noise and artificially degrade the quality.

That's certainly one to watch. Chris Marshall makes a similar point, and adds, "I, too, believe that Fleetwood Mac sold their soul when they traded P.G. for B.W."

Without doing some serious investigation into this particular service I can't really say where the balance was struck on this one, though at first blush it appears much more equitable than the entertainment pigopolist's idea of DRM (buy one copy for the car, one for the home stereo, one for your boom box, one for the walkman, etc.; hmmm...sounds a lot like software licenses, doesn't it?).

Regardless, DRM is probably as inevitable as file swapping. I think the real action now is in the legal, political and social arenas where the way this stuff gets used will be determined.

Chris Kaminski

On the other hand, nothing is inevitable, we must point out. Others point out more flaws in the Apple DRM:

Isn't the point of having an Apple Account stored on Apple's servers with which to purchase music from iTunes 4 so that they can track your purchases and know what songs you've bought?

Apple's statement that if you lose your songs you'll have to purchase them again is pure ridiculousness. You can only have up to three computers authorized to play your music (the KB article coyly doesn't mention whether it's three at once, or three ever, which is a very important distinction), so the worst that could happen if they let you re-download music that they know you've already purchased is that you could download them onto three different computers that are, oh wait, authorized to play the music anyways.

Is Apple getting stingy and charging for bandwith, here?

Keep up the good fight against CPRM, by the way. I salute your efforts.

Jeff Mitchell

P800 owner Tim Biller asks an important question:

If Apple is censoring Miles Davis' Bitches Brew what will they make of Wayne County and the Electric Chairs (mysteriously missing from most FM playlists) "If You Don't Want To Fuck Me Baby, Baby Fuck Off" track?

One of my personal Desert Island Discs, but not heard much on UK radio.

Censoring a word like bitches is possibly understandable. Try doing a search for a track like 'Cock the hammer' by Cypress Hill!

I would have thought an American company wouldn't have a problem with a gun reference.


Thanks Woody, but look out - with your name, you may be next.

Nick Birch asks, "Just a thought: might the ...B***ches Brew... edit be to stop a content sensitive firewall preventing the download?"

Maybe. But it would have to be an incredibly stupid firewall. Or an incredibly clever Puritan firewall which would find new ports to watch, and look for rude words there.

I like the McDonalds quick-fix of the music world metaphor... Nothing replaces that live music performance

Rob Hague

And another music lover writes:

As someone wedded to vinyl, I'm unlikely to be using the iTunes Music Service even if it does appear on these shores, but I do think its worth pointing out that Apple have alaways used software to drive Hardware sales. OK so 3rd party mp3 player owners may be a little pissed off they can't use their players with the iTunes music service, well perhaps they will buy iPods next time. First time mp3 player buyers are more likely to buy iPods as a result. Once again Apple is driving hardware sales with proprietary software, which is pretty much their business model.

One might hope, though, that Apple produces a solid state based 'Baby iPod', say an un-expandable 128Mb player. A player for the rest of us who can't afford iPods just yet. We can but dream.

Ed Lynch-Bell

On a related subject, a word on the antics of a friend of Al Gore, who is a friend of Steve Jobs, Ms. Hilary Rosen:

RE: RIAA's Rosen 'writing Iraq copyright laws'

Writing copyright law, or any law for that matter, requires knowledge of the people who will be living by it, or so one would think. Hilary barely understands the people in her native US of A.

This *is* a late April fool's Day joke, isn't it. It is too ludicrous to be believable.

Joe McGuire

In fact, this story first appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Greg Palast tells us.

"Hilary Rosen was talking to Grover Nordquist [President of Americans for Tax Reform] at a social discussion, and she says 'I'm writing the copyright law', and Nordquist says 'And I'm writing the tax law'".

Just thought you should know. ®

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