The distribution of Digital Rights Management Free ("DRM-Free") music has been the subject of much debate, and high hopes over the last few months. Many, including me, believe requiring the inclusion of DRM protections on music downloads hinders online music sales, is built on faulty logic, and ultimately, ends up hurting the music industry.
In February, Apple’s CEO, Steve Jobs, in a detailed essay explained his position and openly called for DRM-FREE music to be made available by the labels. Inspired by his speech, Metue also ran an article on the seeming paradox in the industry; specifically the contradiction between offering 90% of music DRM free (CD’s) and 10% restricted (Online Music).
In early April, two months later, EMI, one of the "Big Four" Record companies, answered Mr. Jobs call and broke ranks to announce that it would allow higher quality DRM-Free songs to be sold side by side with the already encoded songs on iTunes. (EMI, which is currently in the process of going private, has also since announced a similar deal with Amazon for their upcoming music store.)
Now almost June, another two months later after EMI’s announcement, Apple news website MACNN, has run an article citing sources familiar with negotiations, that a launch of EMI’s catalog of DRM Free music is finally ready and imminent. According to the post, the time lapse since the announcement was necessary to encode and host the entire catalog so that it could be launched completely, in its entirety, rather than gradually. The article also states that it was only last week that the contracts were finalize.
Given the significance of DRM Free music to Apple, and its leader’s open position on it, I wouldn’t expect a quiet roll out so I’m betting against something this week. DRM-Free music is too important to Apple. The launch of DRM-Free iTunes is bound to come with some fanfare. Whether that launch will be married to a much anticipated announcement that the Beatles song catalog (which is managed by EMI) is finally coming to iTunes, or co-joined with the launch of the iPhone later in June, or bundled with both the phone and the Beatles, I don’t know.
I’m on record earlier this month speculating that the Beatles will be playing in the background, and on iTunes, for the launch of the iPhone. I am still sticking to that bet. It’s the kind of spectacular announcement ringmaster Jobs and the rest of the Apple circus like to reveal to the world. Only now, if the Macnn article is correct, I wouldn’t be surprised if DRM-Free music is launched, alongside, or nearby, the rest of the highly anticipated Apple reveals. With 3 big news releases at once, there could be a big party in Cupertino: lots of phone calls on a new phone, the Beatles music cranked up to high volume, and a lot of songs for download without restriction.
If it happens, I wouldn’t mind an invite…or an iPhone to try out. Just a thought.