EMI to stick with DRM

In the aftermath of Steve Job’s open letter advocating the death of digital rights management schemes, we heard rumors that the EMI Group—one of the world’s big four record labels—was in talks with Apple, Microsoft, RealNetworks, and Yahoo over the prospect of selling DRM-free music. However, The Register now reports that EMI has broken off its talks with those companies and opted to stick with DRM. The label is apparently in no financial position to test the DRM-free waters, and it reportedly asked for “large upfront payments” from the aforementioned companies in order to guarantee revenue from DRM-free music sales. The Register says EMI needs to make cuts of £110 million ($215.4 million) this year alone and that it may even be gobbled up by one of its competitors before long. Last week, EMI confirmed that it has been approached by the Warner Group regarding a potential buyout, although no formal offer has been made.

Comments closed
    • Mithent
    • 13 years ago

    I really want to ask someone in the music industry why they think that DRM makes any sense. Considering they sell all these DRM-free CDs that you can freely rip and share on P2P networks, anyone who wants to pirate music can easily do so. All it stops piracy-wise is friends who’s bought from DRM-based stores sharing their music with each other, and is that really that important? Especially since they might then become frustrated with the DRM and try to find other copies on P2P networks.

    If all music ever sold was under DRM, as is the case with DVDs, then at least there’s some logic. The protection might be breakable on DVDs, but it’s uniformly applied – they don’t sell you some unprotected DVDs from one store, and protected ones from another.

    • PetMiceRnice
    • 13 years ago

    Well, it’s their loss then. My purchases of music are considerably less than what they were even five years ago and much of it stems from a lack of willingness on the part of record labels to get with the times and also to lower prices.

    • Mr. Bamboo Head
    • 13 years ago

    i cant say i’d buy music just because its drm free. but i sure as hell wont buy it if it is [edit] drm protected [/edit]

    • StashTheVampede
    • 13 years ago

    Why sell a song once, when you can sell the same song a dozen times?

    • Buub
    • 13 years ago

    To be honest, if they all posted free versions of all their songs at 96 or 128kbps, so you could download and listen to them without any interference whatsoever, then sold the lossless or very-high-bitrate non-DRM versions, I’ll bet they would get a LOT of people listening to music they hadn’t bothered to listen to before, and hence would sell a lot more music.

    What these companies are afraid of is that someone will buy the lossless version (or encode it) and post it up, then everyone will start downloading that one.

    I think blastdoor is right about the non-trivial effort/cost preventing most people from doing this. But in addition, if it was available from the official site for a reasonable cost, unendumbered, I would personally prefer to have the original “official” version. Who knows what the quality will be of some random download off some random site. A lossless straight from the studio is guaranteed to be better than everyone else’s second-hand encoding.

      • BobbinThreadbare
      • 13 years ago

      Lossless non-DRM version are already available. They’re called CDs.

        • derFunkenstein
        • 13 years ago

        CD’s are quite the opposite of lossless.

        All digital music is the opposite of lossess. that doens’t mean it sounds bad, though.

          • ludi
          • 13 years ago

          Straining out a gnat and swallowing the camel. Every medium in existence is technically “lossy” by that definition, since no analog medium can perfectly store a reproduction, either.

    • blastdoor
    • 13 years ago

    A thought just occured to me. I don’t know if this is original or not (probably not, given how much people think about these things).

    But music piracy is kind of like overclocking a CPU. If you overclock a CPU, you can save quite a bit of money– you’re essentially getting for “free” what Intel/AMD charge others several hundred dollars to experience (a faster CPU). So, why don’t most people do this? Because it involves non-trivial time costs. People who can afford to buy expensive CPUs have better things to do with their time than overclocking. Similarly, people who can afford to buy music have better things to do with their time than sifting through pirated music, trying to filter out the cr@p and find what they want.

    Do Intel and AMD sue overclockers? No. In fact, they even encourage them to a limited extent, because they know the overclockers are enthusiasts who will provide free advertising for them. They also know that overclocking will never catch on in a big way, because it does require too much effort.

    If the record companies dropped DRM (but kept piracy an illegal, backdoor activity), then most people who can afford to would choose to buy the DRM-free music from Apple and others rather than pirate, because the cost in terms of their time is lower. People who can’t afford to buy music will pirate, but that’s no loss, because they wouldn’t have bought it anyway.

    Will the record companies figure this out? Probably not anytime soon. MBAs just don’t have the ability to figure this stuff out. There are always exceptions, but in general, they are a narrow-minded bunch.

      • Forge
      • 13 years ago

      The problem is that record companies are greedy beyond words.

      Why sell DRM-free music at a reasonable cost when you can sell DRM-riddled crap for four times the price?

      Piracy is financially viable UNTIL the record labels sell tracks for less than the time involved in pirating them costs. Apple’s .99$ a track and 9.99$ an album is close, but I’d say still a trifle high. I know I’d gleefully buy legit music at that price if it was DRM-free, though.

        • Buub
        • 13 years ago

        Which is maybe why they are having declining interest in their products.

      • MrJP
      • 13 years ago

      Where your analogy breaks down is that there’s nothing illegal about overclocking (unless you try to resell an overclocked system as something it isn’t), whereas music piracy is theft. People don’t steal music because they can’t afford to buy it – they steal it because they can get away with it and they lack a conscience. If you can afford to buy the computer you need to illegally share music, then you can afford to buy the music.

      Having said all that, the industry approach with DRM is clearly not working, and the first major label which wakes up to this and appreciates that honest consumers don’t like to be treated as potential criminals will I’m sure see an increase in sales.

        • blastdoor
        • 13 years ago

        Overclocking is only legal because Intel hasn’t made it illegal. They could change their chipset licensing agreements to make it practically impossible to overclock. The point is that they have the good sense to recognize that this does them very little good.

        Regarding greed — I guess it depends on how you define this term. The most useful definition that I can think of is something along the lines of “unenlightened self interest”. In other words, a very narrow, short term focus on what appears to be in one’s self interest, but isn’t really in one’s self interest in the long run. If that’s what you mean by greed, then I agree with you — the record companies are completely unenlightened with respect to their own self-interest.

        Edit — I posted the “greed” part in response to the wrong post, but hopefully everyone will survive…

          • BobbinThreadbare
          • 13 years ago

          Another reason Intel doesn’t make overclocking illegal is that computer chips are a commodity product. If Intel is too restrictive just go buy an AMD.

          However, music is not. If you like a band you forced to buy it from the label they are signed with.

          Also, all the record labels are in collision so there isn’t really any competition.

        • ew
        • 13 years ago

        I don’t want to sound like a broken record but piracy is not theft. It is copyright infringement.

        • adisor19
        • 13 years ago

        No. Music piracy is NOT theaft. Theft by deffinition is when you LOSE something. For example, a thief comes in and steals your computer. You don’t have the computer in your possesion anymore. Musci piracy is copyright infringement. Somebody copid your song and is listening to it, but low and behold, YOU STILL HAVE THE SONG AND ARE STILL LISTENING TO IT. See the difference ?

        Adi

          • murfn
          • 13 years ago

          If somebody broke into Intel’s/AMD’s offices and duplicated a blueprint of a new CPU, would that be stealing or just espionage (without the stealing part), or perhaps just breaking and entering?

            • Decelerate
            • 13 years ago

            Industrial espionage and patent(s) violation.

            • murfn
            • 13 years ago

            It is a patent violation only if you use something in the blueprint that is patented. And since you broke in it could be B&E. It is industrial espionage only if the blueprint is used by a commercial competitor. What about stealing?

      • Vrock
      • 13 years ago

      Difference is that when you buy a CPU, you actually own the CPU. You can pretty much do what you like with it, and the manufacturer says that’s cool but don’t expect any warranty support. When you buy music, you’re only purchasing a license. One is tangible property you own, the other is not.

        • blastdoor
        • 13 years ago

        That distinction isn’t really so clear. A CPU has software (of a sort) embedded within it. Interfacing with the CPU is a complex process, surrounded by patents and licensing restrictions. Sure, I guess you could buy a CPU, reverse engineer the process for attaching it to a motherboard, write your own BIOS, and proceed to overclock. Good luck with that.

        But for most people, overclocking cannot happen without support from a motherboard manufacturer, and a motherboard manufacturer can only provide that support if Intel permits it (because Intel grants licenses for the process to interface with its CPUs).

        For all intents and purposes, Intel has as much legal capacity to stop overclocking as the RIAA has to stop music piracy. In practical terms, Intel has much more control than the RIAA, because Intel doesn’t need to stop consumers, it only needs to stop motherboard manufacturers, and that’s a lot easier.

        yet Intel doesn’t stop this, even though, by using RIAA logic, Intel is “losing” millions (well, I guess the RIAA would say billions) of dollars from people overclocking. Why doesn’t Intel stop it?

          • murfn
          • 13 years ago

          The legal system is there to create a livable climate. Copyright laws are a development designed to protect the livelihood of those whose economic activity results in intangible goods. It is not a philosophical issue. As somebody who does not generate ideas for a living you may deem such laws as useless for your security. That means you are not qualified to decide whether they are just or not, and your accent is not required. Know however, that if you are infringing on somebody elses copyright you are breaking the law. And those laws are there for a very good reason.

            • ludi
            • 13 years ago

            As often as not, that ‘very good reason’ is “Some soul-less corporation like Disney, which first got filthy rich by creatively retelling public-domain stories, lobied Congress for a change in the law in order to prevent its own works from entering the public domain within the expected lifetime of the average human.”

            Or there’s the one where a mix of corporate pressure and a misguided congress creates the DMCA, creating legalities that grossly impinge upon traditional interpretations of fair use.

            The fact that people are generally cynical about copyright laws is a natural consequence of shenanigans like this. The legal system may well be there to create a liveable climate, but it is also capturable by special interests who wish to dictate climate change on their own terms.

            • murfn
            • 13 years ago

            The legal system is not perfect. But the last thing the legal system needs is for you to actively undermine it.

            • ludi
            • 13 years ago

            No, that’s not the last thing it needs, because any of my efforts to undermine it would be pretty small. The “last thing” is somewhere farther down the hallway.

            What I /[

            • murfn
            • 13 years ago

            I don’t have anything against the debate. Undermining the legal system under the guise of seeking justice is wrong. Pirating is perpetrated by those wishing to get something for free that they would otherwise pay for. Less pirating will lead to less DRM, because consumers do not like DRM. More pirating means more DRM.

            • blastdoor
            • 13 years ago

            “As somebody who does not generate ideas for a living”

            And how do you claim to know what I do for a living? Interesting leap there.

            Actually, I’m not sure how your post relates to anything I said. I think you must have imagined that I posted on a different subject, imagined what my career was, and then posted a reply to the imaginary post from the imaginary poster. Maybe I should just step out of the way now and allow you to continue your discussion.

            • murfn
            • 13 years ago

            You are participating and adding to a philosophical debate relating to copyright law. My answer IMO is relevant to the whole thread. It is not a philosophical issue and the law is not like the study of mathematics. Intel’s legal team do not work aimlessly at trying to make their marketing strategy consistent with that of the RIAA. If they believe a particular practice is hurting their business they would do something about it. Overclocking is not a threat to them. So they would not consider whether they should attempt to ban it.

    • rika13
    • 13 years ago

    i doubt warner will be allowed to buy them out, the recording industry is well-organized and this would blatantly violate anti-trust laws

    • orthogonal
    • 13 years ago

    What’s ironic is that they’re probably losing money due to the costs of development and maintenance of DRM which is easily stripped by anyone who wants too. They would be making MORE money by simply not including it in the first place. I guess they can’t see the forest through the trees.

    • Buub
    • 13 years ago

    No surprise… business as usual.

    • derFunkenstein
    • 13 years ago

    What a bunch of stupid stupids. I mean, honestly, do they think people buy music BECAUSE it has DRM? That’s the only way sales would drop.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This