So now Apple's Steve Jobs says there should be no built-in prohibition to listening to downloaded music on any music player. It's the record labels - with their DRM - which prevent that, he says. The record labels counter: Why doesn't Mr. Jobs share the Apple/iTunes source code (which Apple misleadingly calls FairPlay) so that downloads can be played on different players?
They are both playing a game at my expense. The Washington Post's Technology writer, Rob Pegoraro, blogged about this recently.
I don't steal music. I pay for it - whether I download it, rip it from a CD I own, or transfer it from one of the records in my collection. (Back in the day, I had the disease. I own in excess of 5,000 LP records - and some 45s and 78s.)
So why am I being penalized as if I might steal?
DRM - Digital Rights Management - is sort of an anti-theft or anti-piracy software encoded into music tracks you download from iTunes or RealMusic or their ilk. Think of it like this. You purchase a book but are only allowed to read that book in one room in your house. After four or five reads, the book will self-destruct. And if you move to a new house? The book is worthless.
Here's more about DRM from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
eMusic is the service through which I legally purchase most of my downloaded music. Even though it is no longer independently owned, it is a growing resource for non-DRM music. Most of the major labels don't license their music here. So the choices are independent classical and rock, and a good array of jazz. As the Wikipedia entry on eMusic states:
The record labels working with eMusic don't worry about file sharing of their music because eMusic users tend to be older, sophisticated music fans, less likely to engage in file sharing. College students either couldn't or wouldn't pay for music online, so eMusic is more targeted at avid music fans. Gene Rumsey, general manager of Concord Music Group, says eMusic fans are not the typical college-age file sharers. They are more rabid fans who he believes are less likely to engage in online song swapping. Serious music fans would also appreciate that musicians are actually paid for every download.There is a way - a legal method - to convert iTunes downloads (or RealMusic downloads or other DRM downloads) to the mp3 format. It's involved and inane, but it removes all Digital Rights restrictions. Click here or here. Basically, you record your mp3s onto a CD and then back onto your hard drive as mp3s.
Many of us, with lack of precision, use the term mp3 as a generic marker for all digital audio formats, much as Kleenex has come to mean tissue, or Xerox, to make a copy. And, just as those two are trademark protected, the mp3 format itself is patent protected.