iTunes, without the ball and chain

Apple Fanboys had their orgiastic expo-tacular today, where new products are typically unveiled by His Steveness. Steve was absent today, part of the ongoing effort to confirm the internet rumors that he died in March of last year.

Nothing big was announced: a new laptop, upgrades to popular software suites iLife and iWork, pretty much what was expected. The big surprise for me was the announcement that iTunes would be going DRM-free. For those of you who don’t take the time to memorize every TLA that you come across, DRM stands for Digital Rights Management. It’s the thing that prevents you from emailing a song to a friend, or playing it on another computer, or taking advantage of any of the awesome powers granted to us by the digital era. It’s the industry’s lock and key.

I haven’t bought anything on iTunes for about 12 months, and DRM is exactly why. I love everything else about the Apple model, but I can’t abide having my audio files locked away, preventing me from doing things that are well within my legal rights to do (like playback on any device I own). I switched to the Amazon MP3 store because they offered a universal file format (mp3), and no DRM lockdown.

In some ways, I think Apple was paying the penalty for being first to market. They made a deal with the devil to get major record labels to agree to release their catalogs to the iTunes music store, and the price was DRM lockdown. Once the model proved successful, other distributors (amazon, for example) were able to negotiate much more favorable terms for their own download sales. Steve Jobs said as much almost two years ago.

I’m glad to see Apple unchain their content. I hope this marks a step forward into a new model of distribution for all kinds of digital media, from video to software.

I dream of a wireless, portable, personal, and highly fungible digital future, where my data moves with me and works for me, without barrier or constraint.

8 thoughts on “iTunes, without the ball and chain

  1. Daniel Semsen

    A friend of mine just got a “sling”–which is some sort of futuristic device that can float all of the digital content of one’s Apple TV and/or iTunes library from one’s house to one’s phone or laptop…over the 3G network…

    I hate him.

  2. Zack

    Apple just announced it: $0.30 per track to remove the DRM. Not a ton of money to “own” the music you’ve paid for, but it’s an amount, nonetheless.

    I like paying people for their music. But until this horseshit gets sorted out, I’ll be over on BitTorrent.

  3. michael lee Post author

    I think that’s just for back catalog, Zack. My understanding was that under the new price structure, all new music would be DRM free.

    If that’s the case, and from now one paying $.69 or $1.29 buys you an unlocked 256k AAC file, do you think you’d use iTunes again?

  4. june

    I’ve wanted slingboxyness in my life for awhile now. (I’m just impressed with myself that I know what that is! Thanks NPR.) Glad to hear the news about iTunes.

  5. Zack

    Whoops, I was well aware of that, but didn’t make myself clear. 30 cents to un-DRM your already-purchased tracks.

    Yes, Mike. I’ll be using iTunes from now on. 256K without DRM rules.

    (Except for Dailies records. I’m stealing those always. And selling shitty bootleg versions on Hollywood & Highland)

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