Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs on Tuesday called on the four major record companies to start selling songs online without copy protection software to thwart piracy known as digital rights management (DRM).
Jobs said there appeared to be no benefit for the record companies
in continuing to sell more than 90 percent of their music without
DRM on compact discs, while selling the remaining small percentage
of their music encumbered with a DRM system.
"If such requirements were removed, the music industry might
experience an influx of new companies willing to invest in
innovative new stores and players. This can only be seen as a
positive by the music companies," he said in a statement posted to
his company's Web site.
Apple has been under pressure in Europe to make iTunes music
compatible with players other than the iPod. On January 25 Norway's
consumer ombudsman said Apple must open access to iTunes by October
1 or face legal action. The company has also faced some criticism
because songs bought on the iTunes music store play on the iPod and
not other digital music players.
"Perhaps those unhappy with the current situation should redirect
their energies toward persuading the music companies to sell their
music DRM-free," said Jobs about the European action.
Apple also is due to reopen talks with the four majors in early
March to discuss terms of their relationships with the iTunes Music
Store, Reuters reports citing a source familiar with the discussions.
The four majors -- Vivendi's Universal Music Group; Sony BMG Music
Entertainment; EMI Group ; and Warner Music Group -- all negotiated
one-year extensions with Apple last year, according to Reuters.
Apple's iTunes Music Store is currently the world's largest digital
music outlet, having sold around 2 billion songs since its launch
in 2003. It has more than 70 percent market share of all digital
music sales in the United States.
However, the songs sold on the service are protected by Apple's proprietary
FairPlay software, which prevents users from making multiple copies
for distribution. The software only works with Apple's iTunes
software and iPod digital media players.
Analysts suggested that Jobs might be trying to deflect
pressure from the European Union regarding the interoperability
question to the record labels.
Jobs said Apple had concluded that if it licenses FairPlay to other
companies it could no longer guarantee to protect the music it
licenses from the major record companies.
"Why would the big four music companies agree to let Apple and
others distribute their music without using DRM systems to protect
it?" Jobs wrote on the Apple Web site. "The simplest answer is
because DRMs haven't worked, and may never work, to halt music
Jobs estimated that only about 3 percent of the music on the
average iPod is purchased from the iTunes store and therefore
protected with a DRM. Because of that, "iPod users are clearly not
locked into the iTunes store to acquire their music," Jobs wrote.
Jobs also said that more than 20 billion songs were sold DRM-free
on CDs in 2006.
Music industry watchers, particularly at independent music
companies, have intensified calls in recent months for the majors
to sell their music without copy protection.