Jobs Denounces DRM while BBC Embraces it?

Well … we are living in interesting times. Apple’s Steve Jobs has released an Open Letter (published on apple.com) effectively championing the idea of a DRM-free world. Why? Because DRM systems “haven’t worked.” I completely agree. In fact, DRM is a dangerous delusion. Jobs may see the writing on the wall with the release of Microsoft Zune. Who knows why he has chosen this moment in time to express these thoughts.

Meanwhile, here in the UK, the BBC are doing their own soul searching around DRM. The BBC Trust, which is a kind of watch-dog organization that sits on top of BBC, has launched an online “consultation” regarding its use of DRM in the on-demand services it plans to launch shortly over the Internet (branded iPlayer). They want to know how long users of this server should be able to save content on their PCs for later playback. They also want to know how important it is to be able to support multiple OSs. The current plan is for the player to support only … you guessed it … Windows DRM format (currently not available on Macs let alone Linux). As a Mac user (despite what the Guardian says, they just work better) I was appalled when I heard this, but even if you’re a PC user, think about this: I can go buy a Tivo or get a Sky+ box and download shows and save them for as long as I want. Furthermore, I can download most television shows without DRM protection over the Internet for free. My view, which I made my thoughts quite clear in my response to their “consultation”: do not DRM encode the content at all. Forget about trying to limit the way people can use the content once they’ve downloaded it. It comes down to this: the BBC is publicly funded and if they are launching a major content-over-Internet push (which I applaud) then they need to make that content available to anyone in the UK – not just Windows PC owners and (in my opinion) they need to release it without DRM encoding of any kind.

If you live in the UK, I strongly urge you to participate in this consultation and make your voice heard by the BBC Trust.

It was interesting to then read today that Jobs, who has been so instrumental in making DRM part of our everyday lives, is now coming out in favor of a DRM-free world. Maybe he’s suffering some remorse from having opened the DRM box. DRM is a kind of regressive technology adds a level of complexity on top of systems and usage which adds no value while simultaneously holding back innovation. Unfortunately, it’s not at all clear to me that DRM can be stuffed back into its box, despite Jobs’s admirable change of heart. Will 2007 be the year that DRM died?

Anything can happen.

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One comment on “Jobs Denounces DRM while BBC Embraces it?
  1. Scott Hughes says:

    I don’t think it’s Jobs that is responsible for the DRM the envelopes the iTunes Store. It’s pretty obvious that there is no way the Music Companies would have allowed Apple access to their catalogue with DRM and it’s a wonder that it’s as loose as it is when you look at previous efforts (remember the Sony attempt where it could only exist as one file at a time, to play it on your portable you had to ‘check it out’ from your computer!). It also seems obvious that they are are that while great for publicity the iTunes Store isn’t that relevant to general purchasing habits. Yes it’s great for the occasional track but most people will buy the CD.

    My favourite Music Company DRM story is the fact that some tracks from ‘the Big Four’ won’t even work with the Zune’s Social music sharing, obviously 3 plays for free is just too radical

    Despite that I do think that, for Music we are seeing the start of the end of DRM, people are seeing that it is harming sales and starting to irritate people and it’s the Music Companies that are saying this. But, I don’t see DRM disappearing for video content. I think that it has it’s place and I think this is down to the way that we consume these differently. I listen to music constantly so when I buy a track I want it forever. Video on the other hand I’m prepared to rent, occasionally buy but I don’t tend to watch stuff forever.

    Because of this I think we will see DRM in the iTunes Store for the foreseeable future and we will get our BBC content DRMed. If the BBC do go DRM based I really do hope that it is not MS based, it just has to be Open Platform based. The BBC is a public service company and that service should be open to all. One point that is worth adding to the mix, the BBC normally restricts content to the UK only (we are the ones that pay the licence fee after all!) I wonder how this will be handled.

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