A letter from Steve Jobs on DRM: let's get rid of it

iTunes, as we well know, is the world's largest online music distribution system; the iPod, of course, is the best selling line of portable audio players; and the pair are at the center of a very heated conversation, one finding numerous European nations sizing up laws to abolish practices that put DRM at the center of Apple's digital media business model. So Steve did what any good citizen would do: he wrote a letter. In it he reviews the three possible roads ahead for DRM: what we're doing now (using it), what happens if Apple licenses FairPlay (not much good), and what happens if DRM vanishes entirely ("clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat."). It's pretty easy to tell where Steve stands on the matter:

"Why would the big four music companies [ever] agree to let Apple and others distribute their music without using DRM systems to protect it? The simplest answer is because DRMs haven't worked, and may never work, to halt music piracy. ... Much of the concern over DRM systems has arisen in European countries. Perhaps those unhappy with the current situation should redirect their energies towards persuading the music companies to sell their music DRM-free. ... Convincing them to license their music to Apple and others DRM-free will create a truly interoperable music marketplace. Apple will embrace this wholeheartedly."

Well, that's nice to know -- but is it enough for the head of Apple, possibly the single most important company in digital media right now, to just decry DRM and point the finger when under legal pressure from Europe? Steve, listen, we're glad someone such as yourself has come out and said what needed to be said, written the anti-DRM manifesto, as it were. But don't just leave it to the consumer to pressure the record industry, you need to lead the way -- that's why we wrote Microsoft that open letter. You and Bill have more power over this ecosystem than any two people in the world, and the big four knows it. Perhaps The Mac and The PC need to rally the troops (i.e. us) and lead this charge together.

[Thanks, Pete]