Songs of Praise: I've Finally Got Something Nice to Say about the Recording Industry
Hogge, Becky, New Statesman (1996)
It's embarrassing to admit this, but when I first heard EMI's announcement that it would begin to sell its music catalogue free of restrictive digital-rights management (DRM), I thought I was the victim of an April Fool's prank. EMI's latest move is no joke, however, and its shift away from this defective, anti-consumer technology is all for the good.
Regular readers will recall that Steve Jobs, head of Apple, threw down the gauntlet to the record business at the start of February when he urged the industry to give up DRM. His challenge echoed long-held concerns of the geek community: that DRM, though designed to keep legitimately bought downloads off peer-to-peer file-sharing systems, in fact only succeeds in punishing honest customers by making downloads far less flexible than music on CD.
Although it would be unfair to conclude that Jobs's intervention showed EMI the light, it was certainly a catalyst. On 2 April, EMI announced that Apple's iTunes would be the first online store to sell its catalogue DRM-free. The music would be made available in the so-called Advanced Audio Codec format, an improvement in sound quality that justified, so it seems, an increase in price of 20p per individual track (although no price hike on album purchases). Customers would also be permitted to "upgrade" their existing collection to AAC for 20p per track. An announcement of a partnership with Microsoft followed this past week. …