Jobs’ proclamation raises an interesting question. Once DRM is dead and buried what happens to all of the music that’s been sold in DRM protected formats?
Apple has sold a couple billion FairPlay encoded songs through iTunes, and outlets like Napster have sold untold numbers of PlaysForSure encoded songs. While those songs will continue to play on the current generation of hardware, there’s no guarantee that manufacturers will continue to support discarded DRM formats in the future.
What happens to the poor saps who’ve actually paid $0.99 each for all those billions of iTunes songs? It’s like their music libraries are ticking time-bombs waiting to expire. Just hope the Boston Police don’t hear about this.
Consumers who invested heavily in iTunes can always continue to buy iPods since it’s likely that Apple will continue to support the FairPlay format even after they discontinue selling DRM protected music (although there are no guarantees). But who wants to be stuck with a DRM protected music library in an era of unprotected music? You might as well own 8-track tapes.
While Jobs’ acknowledges that DRM is bad for consumers, he’s show no indication of having a plan for helping consumers once DRM is finally eliminated. If Jobs is serious about killing off DRM, he should also have a transition plan to support consumers who’ve built substantial music libraries that are locked down by Apple’s proprietary format.
Apple should commit to doing one of two things if/when they finally get the go ahead to sell unprotected music from the major labels:
- Allow their customers to download unprotected versions of all of the music they’ve already purchased from iTunes, or
- Provide software that will strip the DRM off of encoded iTunes songs without compromising the audio quality.
While nothing is certain, it does appear that the days of DRM protected music may finally be coming to an end. In the meantime, there is absolutely no reason for anyone to continue purchasing iTunes or any other proprietary music format until all of this is sorted out.