Waiter, there's music in my DRM

Microsoft has soft-launched its music downloading service. Naturally, lots of people are comparing it to the iTunes music store and evaluating their relative merits.

Frankly, it’s like comparing Pepsi and Coke when what you really want is a nice refreshing glass of water. They’re both tainted with junk that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Digital Rights Management is such a great phrase. It’s right up there up with “friendly fire” and “downsizing”.

Microsoft and Real are complaining about Apple’s refusal to open up their DRM for other services. Yet, they themselves have their own proprietary DRM.

So those are my choices: DRM from Apple, DRM from Microsoft, DRM from Real…

Meanwhile, I remain thirsty for music.

If these services simply sold MP3s, all this endless bickering could end right now. Could you imagine what it would be like if digital cameras used proprietary image formats? “To view these photographs you must use the following Operating System”… it would be crazy. But that’s exactly what’s happening with music.

This is a ridiculous situation. I can’t even download an album for charity because it’s encoded in a closed format that’s incompatible with the Operating System I choose to use. On the one hand, this album is supposed to appeal to my better nature because it will save lives. On the other hand, there is an assumption that rather than just listen to the music, I’ll want to illegally copy and distribute it.

What really gets to me is that fact that these DRM technologies aren’t going to stop any serious pirates. If I download a song from the iTunes music store, I can burn it to CD and then re-rip at as an MP3. I could then distribute it to all my friends… if I were a criminal. But, and here’s the important point, I. Am. Not. A. Criminal.

I’m a music fan.

Not only that, I’m a music fan with disposable income and I would absolutely love to download music online. I would prefer it to buying CDs. But as long as I’m being treated like a criminal, I will not download files that have been gummed up with DRM.

I’m not some sort of freakish fringe element. I’m right in the market demographic for Apple’s iTunes. I listen to all my music digitally. I own an iPod. I don’t feel the need to have my music on a physical device like a CD. But I want my music to be permanent. Just because I own an iPod today doesn’t mean I won’t own a different device in the future.

I want my MP3s. I currently have a few options for getting them:

Buy from the iTunes music store, burn to CD, rip as MP3s.

Buy a CD, rip as MP3s, use CD as coaster.

Fire up Acquisition, download MP3s.

If music services are serious about stopping piracy, they need to meet music fans like myself halfway. I want to give these services my money. All I ask in return is to be treated as a customer, not a potential thief.

Wouldn’t it be great if Microsoft were to truly break the mold and actually pay attention to what Cory Doctorow told them? I would gladly give them my money and crank up the bass.

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