September 19, 2006
@ 07:56 PM

A number of recent events in the digital music space has made me start coming around to Cory Doctorow's way of thinking on DRM. Specifically, I've been debating on whether to get a Zune as my next digital music player once I'm done with my current music player. One of the issues that has come to mind is highlighted in Charles Miller's post entitled The greatest trick where he states

Meanwhile, once you’ve started buying music on iTunes, unless you start illegally breaking the DRM locks, your next DAP is going to have to be an iPod, and the one after, and the one after.

Remember when the iTunes Music Store was launched, and Apple’s public line on FairPlay was: “Yes, it’s DRM, but we fought so hard with the recording industry to make sure we can let you burn CDs and play music on multiple devices!”

The greatest trick Apple pulled was to build a market where lock-in is mandated, but convince the world that this was something they did reluctantly, at the behest of the villainous recording industry.

Like most iPod users, I don't have a ton of music that was purchased from the iTunes music store but I still don't want to end up losing that music once I switch devices. Thanks to proprietary DRM, a portion of my music library is forever tied to Apple's family of digital audio players.

On a related note, I just noticed that Napster is for sale which isn't a good sign. Before this is all over, it is likely that one or more online music services will disappear as a natural effect of competition in the marketplace. In this case, what happens to the music libraries of all the people who have purchased DRMed music from these services? When I buy a CD, I don't have to worry about losing my music if the record label goes out of business. Thanks to DRM, I now have to worry about the long term viability of the company's products before buying music. I now have to make music purchasing decisions based on whether I think iPod/iTunes or Zune/Zune Marketplace will be around in 5 years. That sucks.

I'm definitely not buying DRMed music anymore. Ripping from CDs is the way to go.


Tuesday, September 19, 2006 8:39:12 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Can't you crack the DRM on the iTunes music and convert them to plain-old-AAC-files? Isn't there a tool for this? I think it's totally ethical if you bought it in the first place.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006 8:46:55 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Indeed, these days I won't touch any form of music that has DRM. At times I find myself in the ridiculous situation of buying a CD, and then downloading a grey copy so I have a digital version that's compatible across devices. (Is that illegal? Record companies seem to claim both the distribution and downloading are illegal, but never say why).

Tuesday, September 19, 2006 9:24:26 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Sice itunes 6 you can't crack the DRM. However, it is trivial to burn it to CD and then rip it back without DRM. I agree that buying CDs is better (since it's a PITA to delete the DRM version after you burn/rip it; and they get mixed up in the library easily).
Tuesday, September 19, 2006 10:08:27 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
It's not a good idea to burn and rerip unless you are reripping to a lossless format (Apple lossless, FLAC, or whatever.) Otherwise, you're lowering the audio quality. On the other hand, burning a CD and putting it in your closet destroys any "vendor lock-in". If you do that, you don't "lose your music" regardless of what Apple does, and it obviously protects against things like your computer exploding, something unrelated to DRM.

I've bought 20 or so albums on iTunes and if Apple shut it's doors tomorrow and every iPod in existence exploded, I'd still be able to play what I bought as it's all sitting on plain old physical CDs in my closet.

Now if these songs were sold without burn rights (as some other music download services sometimes do) I wouldn't touch it with a 10-foot pole.

In some ways, I'm confused about the "I'll only buy physical CDs because of DRM!" argument. If you buy an album from iTunes and you burn it, you have a non-DRMed album of music, no different if you'd bought a physical CD from a music store.

Also, no offense, but one wonders if the Napster sale has something to do with what Microsoft is doing to "Plays for sure".

(BTW: It is illegal to download MP3s of things you bought from iTunes. However, it is not at all illegal to burn CDs from music you bought on iTunes, rerip it, and do whatever you want. (Record companies often claim stuff like this is illegal when it is very definitely not.))
Tuesday, September 19, 2006 10:20:57 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
At least iTunes customers look like they will be able to continue listening to their music. Can't say the same for PlaysForUnsure. *That* is what gives DRM a bad name. Apple has given us some degree of confidence that we should be OK for awhile. Microsoft has delivered the opposite.

The fact is, DRM works OK for most people.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006 10:36:40 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
>Ripping from CDs is the way to go.

And the record companies' plans come to fruition. ;)
Tuesday, September 19, 2006 11:17:06 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
"In some ways, I'm confused about the "I'll only buy physical CDs because of DRM!" argument. If you buy an album from iTunes and you burn it, you have a non-DRMed album of music, no different if you'd bought a physical CD from a music store."

Well two things;

1) Many music stores only provide downloadable music in bitrates that I would consider less than preferable. (I'm a big fan of allofmp3, not because of its price but because of the flexible options regarding formats and bitrates).

2) Why on earth would I support a service that requires me to burn, re-rip and retag music just to get a version I can use across different devices? Aside from going against the grain, it's just as easy, and almost as cheap, to order the CD from Amazon and rip it with a service that will download the tags and album art from the internet.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006 3:07:25 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
"Buying" DRMed music is indeed lame, as you never actually own it beyond the sufferance of the real owner. Note how Apple can retroactively change the terms on the license of the music you "own", for instance. But subscription services (which obviously depend on DRM) are very nice, and less vulnerable to lock-in.

Obviously, though, you still have a certain amount of lock-in. If you buy a Zune, subscribe to the Zune service, and really like it, it's going to be a pain to switch to a Sansa -- you'll have to cancel your Zune subscription, download a Rhapsody client, re-download all your tracks from them, and hope you like the service as well.

It's too bad nobody can come out with a standardized, license-able form of DRM, one that would make it easy to switch between services and devices, guaranteeing that your music would Play For Sure in a vast intercompatible ecosystem. You'd think that'd be the sort of platform-building, standards-with-royalties market that Microsoft would be a natural for...

Wednesday, September 20, 2006 3:09:39 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
"It's not a good idea to burn and rerip unless you are reripping to a lossless format (Apple lossless, FLAC, or whatever.) Otherwise, you're lowering the audio quality."

If you're buying 128kbps music, don't even pretend like you care about audio quality. Whatever hypothetical difference there is between 128kbps AAC and 128kbps AAC transcoded to 320kbps MP3, it pales in comparison to the difference between 128kbps AAC and the uncompressed/losslessly compressed CD original.
Thursday, September 21, 2006 5:23:24 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
>> Ripping from CDs is the way to go.

this assumes, of course, that this will remain possible. after watching a friend struggle with some foo fighters and killers CD's that were copy protected, i'm not sure i'd want to rely on that.

long live
Saturday, September 23, 2006 12:32:07 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Andrew: I can buy an album from iTunes, click one button, and have a burned CD that works in a generic CD player in less than twenty minutes. How is that "just as easy" as buying one from Amazon and waiting two or more days for it to ship?

And that, I think, is the answer to your (2). Because I can have it faster and it's cheaper.

But anyway, the point isn't that physical CDs aren't superior in some ways. The point is that there isn't really any "vendor lock-in" if you can burn to a CD. Using iTunes, I can remove the DRM. That's not "vendor lock-in". That's "vendor is going to make you click a button to leave".

Speaking as someone who replaced his entire vinyl collection with CDs, the difficulty of moving to any post-iTunes music format is likely to be much lower than any format change in the past.

Personally, I don't see much future in subscription services...from what I've seen, there's very little consumer demand for them. People don't really want to rent their music. Most of the interest comes from the production side, fueled by fears that we're entering the very last format change and that there will be no more reselling of what the consumer bought last year.

Stephen O'Grady: Linux and cdparanoia is the way to go. I've never had a problem ripping things, even things that claimed to be "copy protected".
Saturday, September 23, 2006 3:21:10 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
i am a member of, have bought many albums from and have found many music sites offering creative commons-licensed music from lesser known bands.

but if i want to own music from the top 10, i first try to buy physical cds provided they don't contain DRM/copy protection (i don't want no steeeenkin' rootkit, thank you). if only cp cds are available, i turn to itunes and burn a cd at once.

i know there are ways to rip every copy protected cd out there, but i don't want to give the music industry a chance to sue me after getting money. and they would sue, be sure of that. they know very well that copy protection is worthless from a technical standpoint... it only exists for a political reason: they successfully lobbied for us/european laws forbidding the circumvention of copy protection. so if you buy a copy protected cd and rip it to your music player, you are in a grey area the music industry calls piracy.

what i find strange is that today, often physical cds are cheaper than itune's 9.99 € (i'm in europe) even though the labels have higher costs to manufacture and deliver physical cds.
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