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Why Jobs Went Direct to the Web

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February 07, 2007

Why Jobs Went Direct to the Web

Heather Green

Dave Winer has a very thoughtful post about how, with the direct publication online of his Thoughts on Music manifesto, Steve Jobs has found yet another pulpit. Winer also comments that this system is much better than the alternative one that Apple traditionally uses, I.E. doing an interview with the NYTimes, Time, or Newsweek.

I agree that going direct was right, but it was right this time because of what Jobs was trying to accomplish. And the other systems, the big beautiful splashy photo spreads, the message carefully controlled by releasing it only through one publication, is right for other goals that Jobs wants to accomplish. Above all else, Jobs understands how to use media, in all its forms, for his own goals.

I agree with BW's Arik Hesseldahl who writes that the goal in this case was to turn the tables on the record companies in the growing debate over DRM. From nearly the beginning, the record labels realized that the different formats used by companies to sell music was going to be a problem and nearly from the beginning they wanted Jobs to license FairPlay, the software that puts restricitions on how many times a song can be copied and keeps music bought at iTunes only playable on iPods.

The drumbeat against DRM has been building in Europe, among consumers, and even within the record industry.

Arik writes: "But before that effort could gain traction, Jobs has taken the upper hand, says Bob Cohn, who founded and later sold eMusic, the leading seller of non-DRM music, mostly from indie bands. Regardless of what direction the industry takes now, Apple can now claim the moral high ground. "He may be counting (on the idea) that the labels will still not give up on DRM," Cohn says. That lets him "play the hero to consumers." Or if the labels do drop DRM, then Apple can claim credit, rather than be blamed, says Cohn. "It's a PR ploy, and he'll come out ahead either way."

And what better way to claim that higher ground than to go directly to the Internet and the techies who, also from the beginning, have called for the demolition of DRM? How better to throw it in the face of the record industry? Now, if they were smart, they would answer in kind, although frankly, they would have a hard time.

Despite all the brouhaha and the clever use of media, there is one question I would have asked whether I wrote about this on my blog or in an article.

If the record labels agree to do away with DRM, does that mean that Apple will do away with FairPlay? And if it keeps FairPlay as a delivery format without the DRM component will people and the labels remain just as frustrated? I seem to run into two sets of frustrated people out there. There are the folks, my mom or cousin, who aren't ubertechies but who simply want to move their songs around or buy from other sites. And then there are the techies who understand what DRM means for the long run and not simply what it looks like today, and that's why they're frustrated.

11:10 AM

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"If the record labels agree to do away with DRM, does that mean that Apple will do away with FairPlay? And if it keeps FairPlay as a delivery format without the DRM component will people and the labels remain just as frustrated?"

FairPlay IS the DRM component, aka the Digital Rights Management (DRM) system from Apple.

Posted by: Hi! at February 10, 2007 09:05 PM

Right, thanks and I read the Wikipedia entry and it says the same thing that I understood, which is that encryption can be used for many things and that one of the things FairPlay's encryption technology does is "prevent iTunes customers from using the purchased music on any portable digital music player other than the Apple iPod." My only point is I am unsure from the language in that Manifesto whether by using some flavor of AAC or using FairPlay, Apple could have some format that would let it continue to lock songs to its devices, no matter how many times you might be able to copy it.

Posted by: Heather Green at February 12, 2007 09:16 AM

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