Sunday, December 27, 2009

Apple Doesn't Get It

I was gifted a Droid for Christmas this year, and thus far its everything I hoped it would be. Along with a being a (kick-ass) smart phone, the Droid also plays music. So Christmas day I begin transferring my music from my Macbook Pro to my Droid. Already there's a problem - iTunes won't recognize my phone, even after its been mounted. No problem, there's a program ready-made to fix this short sightedness on Apple's part. In under five minutes I'm set up and I begin transferring my music to my Droid. There's another problem. A few albums are refusing to be transferred to the phone because they're "protected" albums I downloaded from the iTunes store. Many of these albums happen to be by some of my favorite artists: Brandi Carlile, Ray Lamontagne, Lil Wayne, Amos Lee. I can't transfer them over because they are Protected AAC files -- as opposed to mp3s -- that can only be played on iTunes, iPods, or iPhones.

What's up Apple? Everything you've ever made for me has been great. My Macbook is my life; I've bought and loved iPods (I just ordered an iPod shuffle for my workouts); and I've even been accused of being a mac evangelist, of walking the world proselytizing on the purity and awesomeness of Apple products (Guilty). But now, I'm buying music from you and you're going to tell me on which devises I'm "authorized" to play music that I purchased. Excuse my coarseness here, but fuck off.

Apple uses a system called Fairplay to encrypt all media purchased from iTunes in the campaign to create a haggard facade of defense against piracy. Of course this created an outcry amongst users who want to be able to play their purchased music on other devices, besides iPods or iPhones. Apple penned a response whimsically titled, "Thoughts on Music"; which seems more like the vague title of a college freshman's reflective essay on the music of Bob Marley, rather than a serious response to a controversial policy that seems to force users into staying with Apple products. Apple's argument? Well everyone else is doing it!

Music purchased from Microsoft’s Zune store will only play on Zune players; music purchased from Sony’s Connect store will only play on Sony’s players; and music purchased from Apple’s iTunes store will only play on iPods. This is the current state of affairs in the industry, and customers are being well served with a continuing stream of innovative products and a wide variety of choices.

Furthermore, Apple acknowledges that this looks bad; that only allowing iTunes music to only be played on Apple products seems like Apple is unfairly locking in its customer. Apples wants us to consider the numbers:

Through the end of 2006, customers purchased a total of 90 million iPods and 2 billion songs from the iTunes store. On average, that’s 22 songs purchased from the iTunes store for each iPod ever sold.Today’s most popular iPod holds 1000 songs, and research tells us that the average iPod is nearly full. This means that only 22 out of 1000 songs, or under 3% of the music on the average iPod, is purchased from the iTunes store and protected with a DRM... It’s hard to believe that just 3% of the music on the average iPod is enough to lock users into buying only iPods in the future.

Right, it's hard to believe. But this argument is as stupid as it is lazy. I don't steal music. I buy the music of my favorite artists because I want them to make money and keep writing and performing. Sometimes I buy that music online, because often its cheaper and easier. But now that I realize I don't actually own the music that I download from iTunes -- own the music as I would own the music on a CD, music which I'm free to play in any device I choose -- I simply won't buy from iTunes anymore. Problem solved. But not for everyone else and certainly not for the music industry. It would be a lot simpler for me to simply steal the music, download it off of a torrent site for free, and then put it on any device I choose.

I won't. But plenty of other people will because it makes more sense. What incentive is the music industry really giving anybody to buy their music if the music comes with such idiotic strings attached? It's simple: if you're product is inferior, people will go else where -- in many cases just they will steal the music and feel good about it. Music with DRM is inferior to music without. If you make music DRM free, readily available, and at a fair price then more people will buy it. This wouldn't eliminate piracy. But it would certainly give people less reason to be so justified in their theft.

Apple I'd like to own the music I buy from you. Get rid of DRM. Until then I won't buy anymore music from you.


Jstone said...

Here here sir!
Thank you for the link to unencrypt my itunes music. I used to burn them to CD then rip them to MP3 as a shortcut but with my burner no longer processing CDs (only CDs, not DVDs for some reason) I have been without Tanglefoot and teh Happy Bullets for too long!

DRM does as much to promote piracy as it does to prevent it. Just think, there is a quick and easy way to get around this DRM right? You just linked to it. There always will be, and the fact that I have to jump through a hoop to get what I want only makes me (and others) bitter. Now that I have an "unprotected" copy of my music, aren't I more likely, as a disgruntled customer, to "share" it "illegally" over the internet? Yes. I am and I think the majority of people who are "pirates" are proof.
Now I'm not saying there should be no protection whatsoever. Artists and labels and whoever else is in the mix deserve some assurance that their intellectual property is protected, but the current DRM system is not the solution. I don't have one myself, but I'm willing to financially support anyone who does.

Max Nova said...

Amazon & emusic are the way to go, though emusic has quite literally sold out.

Matt Lindeboom said...

Amazon is my choice now. I looked at eMusic, but I don't think I buy enough music per month to justify a monthly rate.

How has it sold out, by the way Max?

Stephen said...

The real problem is the fact that the iTunes store doesn't have an option to trade in your droid for an iphone.

Max Nova said...

Well orginally eMusic was a super sweet deal - I got 75 songs for $20, but if I bought the full year plan it was discounted 20% when meant 75 for less than the price of an import cd. And for selection they had (and have) most worthwhile independent labels.

Then they signed a deal with Sony and immediately everything (not just Sony releases) got more expensive. For $20.79 you now get only 50 tracks, plus albums are now mostly = to 12 tracks. ie back in the day a 6 track jazz album was a deal, not it is not. This goes both ways (ie a 20 track album is now also 12 tracks) but I like weird stuff that's often only 5 of 6 or 8 tracks on an album.

It was a public relations fuckup of epic measure. The people keeping you in business do not want to buy old Sony releases. Anyone who wants old Springsteen albums already bought them years ago.

Daniel said...

Just bought a droid and i have the same issue-tons of music i haven't put on there yet that i want to (thanks for the links!)

only now do i realize just how elitist apple is with their technology. really aggravating.

Matt Lindeboom said...

@Daniel - I'm glad the links could help. I was having a conversation with Damo (via Droid no less), and he made a good point that Google's open source strategy is the future. It's the only thing that seems sustainable in the face of tighter controls having the opposite effects of what they're intended to do.

B.Graham said...

google is the hippie movement of computers.

Damo said...

The person who turned me onto the Droid is an IT professional whom I had turned onto MacBook months ago. He was OBSESSED with his Mac until he picked up the Droid.

He's hardly even opened the lappy since getting the Droid. Why? Cuz he can now do his entire job from his phone. There is almost no reason to go into the office anymore, and that's with apps that perform functions that used to require software investments of hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

Now I still very much need my laptop for extensive browsing, document/email drafting, and other such madness, and I still love my MacBook. Such an amazingly well-made machine.

But open-source mobile hardware/software is the future... and the now. Apple needs to open up a bit or Google is just gonna trample right over them.