Jake Smith is a TuneCore customer support representative and editor of the TuneCore Newsletter
After 6 years, iTunes has announced that they will begin selling their entire catalog without DRM protection. This raises a number of questions, and it is important to start discussing now what these changes could mean for all of us in the music industry.
DRM, or "Digital Rights Management", is proprietary code encoded in certain types of files to control where and how they can be used. If you've ever purchased a song on iTunes before and tried to play it on a different computer, a message will come up saying that the computer is not authorized to play the file. iTunes currently allows 5 computers to be authorized for any one iTunes account. DRM protection reaches much further than just iTunes and digital music. Movies, computer software, and video games often incorporate some types of digital rights protection. For example, DRM stops (or attempts to stop) you from ripping DVD movies to you computer or by requiring you to enter a serial number before using a new program you've installed.
From the stand point of the music consumer, there is really no downside to iTunes removing DRM protection. In addition to being able to move music more freely from computer to computer, music purchased in the iTunes store will no longer be limited to the iTunes library or iPods. Files will be compatible with Windows Media Player, non-Apple based MP3 players, video game consoles and more. From the label/artist stand point, the loss of DRM may seem good or bad depending on your personal philosophy. Does it help your career in the long run by making it easier for fans to share, or is it simply less money coming to you for your hard work?
Realizing that the decision to drop DRM protection would be a controversial decision, and in an effort keep ahead of the rapidly growing Amazon store, iTunes announced they would sweeten the deal for labels by finally allowing labels to set price tiers for individual tracks. We are waiting on iTunes to give us more specific information about this and we will make the details known as we receive them.
If you're looking for a more in depth look at these changes, I'd recommend this article from the staff of Macworld (http://www.macworld.com/article/138000/2009/01/drm_faq.html). Some highlights include:
- iTunes DRM free files vs. Amazon MP3, which has always been DRM Free
- What happens to music purchased before the DRM change?
- Will the change affect TV Shows and Movies?
Reports say that this change will be taking place by June. What do you think about this? Was the DRM drop inevitable or is iTunes biting the hand that feeds it? Let us know your thoughts.