Jobs on DRM: The Elephant in the Room

Today Steve Jobs posted a blog-style message on the Apple website about iTunes and DRM. It was a highly polished, well written piece. Many people have written about it: some have speculated about whether or not Jobs has enough clout to make it happen; others have pointed out that this is really a way for Apple to position itself against European arguments against iTunes/iPod lock-in; others have questioned how sincere Jobs really is in asking the labels to change without really making any changes on its own unilaterally. Personally, I think all these people have good points, but despite all that I think the statement was a good move for Apple and the industry. I hope Jobs continues to discus things in the open instead of retreating back into the Infinite Loop bunker.

That said, I find it interesting that no one is pointing out what Jobs didn’t say anything about: DRM and video. Last time I checked, Apple also sold TV shows, music videos, and films on iTunes Music Store, and they are all protected by FairPlay DRM. Why didn’t Jobs make the same courageous stand against DRM on video? Unfortunately, the answer isn’t very pretty: Apple doesn’t have anywhere near the same clout in the movie and TV business that it has in music, and has only signed film deals with two of the major studios as a result. Taking a stand against DRM for movies would anger the same people he is trying to make deals with. So much for courageous principles – the people who think his message was mostly about positioning in Europe are spot on.

[Update 2-6-2007] I just realized that I kind of cribbed the title from my post from Tim Bray, who posted an article that used it as a subhead only two weeks ago. Credit where credit is due… I’ve also added a digg link as an experiment, and corrected a few typos.

digg_url = ‘http://blogs.adobe.com/shebanation/2007/02/jobs_drm_elephant.html’;

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~ by Andrew Shebanow on 06Feb07.

4 Responses to “Jobs on DRM: The Elephant in the Room”

  1. The message was bound to be about managing perception in Europe and elsewhere. You might also have brought up Jobs’ earlier “the record companies might force us to raise prices” efforts. But one of the critical distinctions between the music and movie industries with regards to DRM is its relative pervasiveness.

    DRM efforts for music delivered via physical-media have been hit and miss (not to mention ham-fisted). However trivial it is to overcome the DRM on DVDs it tends to, well, be there.

  2. “Taking a stand against DRM for movies would anger the same people he is trying to make deals with. So much for courageous principles – the people who think his message was mostly about positioning in Europe are spot on.”

    You are myopic and wrong about this–and a hypocrite to boot looking at your own reasoning which you ignore.
    First, you built the case for why Jobs cannot say anything yet by recounting Apple history and clout with the music industry and yet you ignore tha fact that when Apple did gain the power, they are now trying to change the music industry’s DRM policy. But in some bizarre twist of amnesia, you forget that history and expect Jobs to try to wield power of the video industry which you admit he doesn’t have. Then, because he won’t commit suicide in his negotiations with the film industry, you assume he never will and cast him as a self-serving poser. That’ quite a leap considering only Jobs has the courage to even say something: I have not heard such talk from Microsoft’s or Adobe’s executives ever. And if Apple gains enough power, past behavior indicates he might do the same for video DRM. But you won’t give him the benefit of the doubt and instead hunt and stretch for meaner motives in his actions.

    But frankly, I expect such behavior from an Adobe employee. One wonders if this anti-Apple bias has something to do with losing the high-end video market to Final Cut. Yes I’ll bet it has, your attitude is perfectly understandable in a small-minded and mean sort of way. Sad to think you actually had a chance ot help the cause instead of attack the leader of it..

    [Andrew says] Wow, my first flame! I have three things to say in response: 1) you are entitled to your opinion, and so am I. 2) my opnions are my own, and not those of Adobe. 3) I’m not anti-Apple in the slightest: I’m a former Apple employee, I use Macs as my main machines at work and at home, and I have owned a number of iPods. But being an avid Apple user doesn’t mean I give them a free pass when they do something that smells funny to me.

  3. Wow. The guy (Jobs) just can’t seem to do anything to make people happy. My understanding of his lack of movie studios on iTunes is because he want’s to keep the price down on movies ( good for consumers) but studios wants consumers to pay a higher price. Jobs should look like a hero, no? Should he agree to a foolish deal like WalMart? A download of a movie at the same price as a DVD but AWFUL quality? Big deal, WalMart has all 6 studios, but the quality is awful, no one will participate in that in any respectable numbers.
    It’s silly or ignorant of you to separate music from movie/tv/video. Did you do any research to see which movie companies also own the music? Warner Bros? Sony?
    Universal?
    Since music makes up 95+% of what’s on peoples ipods, it makes sense to address the music, since those companies also control the video/movie choices.
    It’s amazing how people with a vendetta against a company (Apple) or CEO (Jobs)
    can twist what ISN”T said into a negative, cheap shot.
    Yea, everyone has an opinion, but at least sound intelligent when making it.
    Amazing what people will blog to get hits.

    [Andrew says] See my response on the previous comment. I do not have a vendetta against Apple or Jobs. Thanks for commenting, though.

  4. I thought you said nice things about Apple and Jobs, and let’s face it, there would have to be some reason for a CEO to come out and say what he said besides an attempt at being magnanimous. I think Jobs has looked at the research on music sales and think people are holding back, and he (and his team) wonders if iTunes sales will jump if the DRM stuff went away. My daughters Mac crashed and burned and it was a major hassle getting her iShuffle set up to work with my new laptop dues to the DRM approach.

    About Video – I happen to think that since the video market has a rental business to contend with, you simply can’t compare the two (video and music) – no one rents a music CD like you rent a DVD movie – so the business case is quite different.

    About the your first flame – Hey, like most flamers, mr. res ipsa loquitur (Latin for “The thing speaks for itself”.) is stupid pooh pooh head. LOL.

    Love to read you blog and PLEASE keep sharing your thoughts!

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