Egos, vanity and debate causing EMI to dump DRM

Only slightly more confusing than Anna Nicole Smith’s life, how to begin to unravel the debate surrounding dropping DRM currently underway in the music industry? DRM was debated this year at Midem and the discussion continued in the media after the event had finished.

So, on to recent events.  Apple’s FairPlay DRM system was dubbed ‘illegal’ by the Norwegian consumer ombudsman in late January. French and German consumer groups are voicing demands for Apple to drop its DRM.

Meanwhile, US CD sales so far this year are reported to be down by over 10% and point to a faster drop than expected globally through the year. I guess only time will tell on that one.

Warner Music just posted a significant drop in its quarterly profit (but bear in mind the seasonality of music) and EMI is currently re-orging after reporting a profits drop recently.

So now on to some of the characters. At EMI Barney Wragg was recently appointed Global Head of Digital and with some new top brass and major down-sizing he still needs to show he’s the exec for the job, thus a flurry of PR on recent deals EMI has done. In the climate of desperation EMI is currently feeling leftfield deals such as the one reported on Reuters about dropping DRM (on catalog) in exchange for cash are not so improbable.

So Steve Jobs is well aware of what is going on with the consumer groups in Norway, France and Germany and he hates to be seen as not pro-consumer. It is also no stretch to imagine he got wind of the various approaches to online music retailers being made by EMI. So, Jobs decides to post his thoughts on music DRM on the Apple web site and thinks he can kill two birds with one stone:

  • Turn the ire of the European consumer groups onto the major music labels aiming to sidestep in government or legislative action (and consequently bad PR) that may be directed at Apple
  • Position himself neatly in history as the man who caused the majors to finally abandon DRM

A very well timed post from Jobs that mostly got taken and reported at face value by Apple lovers like the BBC. Written simply and littered with slight inaccuracies it even prompted the RIAA to speak out, the IFPI’s Jon Kennedy and Warner Music (who probably hate to feel like they are being led down a path by Jobs). Only BoingBoing asked the question whether we would see Jobs embracing distributing Pixar movies without DRM…

Anyway, Jupiter’s Mark Mulligan blogs that “I actually think this is more about European politics than anything else”. Well, I think it is in part about that. But in addition to that we see shrewd PR-mover Jobs taking advantage of EMI’s desperation in order  to cast himself in the role of history maker in catalysing the dumping of DRM.

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One Comment on “Egos, vanity and debate causing EMI to dump DRM”


  1. Nice post, I especially liked this observation:
    “Only BoingBoing asked the question whether we would see Jobs embracing distributing Pixar movies without DRM…”


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