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If the major record labels were as concerned about nurturing consumers of legal downloads as they are with preventing illegal downloads, maybe they wouldn't

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Apple's Not the Bad Guy

And neither are the legal consumers of music downloads.

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If the major record labels were as concerned about nurturing consumers of legal downloads as they are with preventing illegal downloads, maybe they wouldn't be in the financial downward spiral they're in right now.

Every chance they get, the labels are trying to make it less appealing to purchase legal downloads. Steve Jobs, loving his gig as the most powerful person is the music business, re-ignited his cat fight with the four major record labels this week by posting an essay on the Apple web site titled "Thoughts on Music." In it, he responds to repeated calls from Warner, Universal, EMI and Sony BMG that Apple makes songs purchased through iTunes available to be played on mp3 players other than the iPod.

His response is that the major labels should abandon the required DRM (Digital Rights Management) software that is intended to prevent the tracks from being circulated illegally. In turn, tracks downloaded from iTunes could be played on any player. Industry trade group The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America), wasn't down, and suggested instead that Apple should just open up their tracks to other players.

This is the same industry that thinks Apple should share revenue from iPod sales with record labels, and has fought with Jobs at every turn to charge more per track than the current 99 cents. (Microsoft took the bait, and kicks cash to Universal when it sells a Zune, if that ever happens.)

Let's not forget that legally downloaded tracks accounted for only 10 percent of music sales in 2006. We're talking about a fraction of the industry. And instead of encouraging consumers to partake in legal downloads, the major labels treat them like criminals by forcing retailers like iTunes to encode the tracks with DRM software that restricts the use of the songs.

The majors should be courting the millions of illegal downloaders and shower their current customers with thanks, not treat them as an incident waiting to happen.

It's easy to download music illegally, so why make it hard to do legally?

 
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