Apple & EMI Ditch DRM

Apple and EMI Records have announced that they will begin selling tracks on iTunes without DRM — in other words, files that can play on other players than the iPod.

This is a smart move on the part of both. DRM was always a pointless endeavor — people who wanted to download music could still do so, and the only people effected by DRM were the average consumer. By getting rid of it, the overall rates of piracy won’t change, but consumers will benefit more. (In fact, it’s quite possible that releasing tracks free of DRM may reduce piracy by providing a better alternative.)

DRM is simply anti-consumer. Dedicated pirates will always find a way to “liberate” content, and the technological arms race between media companies and pirates will always end up on the side of pirates. Even if the media companies found a way to control everything, the consumers would reject it — witness what happened with Circuit City’s deeply foolish DIVX pay-per-view discs. Consumers don’t want to be treated like criminals and just want to enjoy their media when and where they want it.

Apple’s DRM has always been the least annoying of all of them, but it’s still nice to have the ability to buy a track from iTunes and play it on a Linux machine or another device that doesn’t support Apple’s DRM. One could always burn a CD with the track and re-rip it, but that caused a loss in quality and made things more difficult than they needed to be. By realizing that consumers want unfettered music, Apple and EMI get to be industry leaders that will hopefully persuade other content creators to also open their media up and allow people to have more market choices.