Apple, EMI, DRM… Microsoft

Microsoft is now getting in on the action with DRM-free music subscriptions. Seattle Times reports that Microsoft is negotiating with EMI for a similar deal that Apple struck.

The price of “freedom”? Thirty-cents a song (note the article is wrong, it’s $1.29):

EMI’s songs will be sold on iTunes, the online store that complements Apple’s market dominating iPod, for $1.39 each without DRM. Songs with DRM cost 99 cents.

What does 30-cents buy? Doubled bit rate and certain rights that many argue are yours to begin with. It could also mean that music CDs will soon cost us more. More likely, though, will be a resurgence of some degree in P2P sharing. Why pay 25-30% more for something someone will “give” you freely? (I’m not condoning copyright violation, just stating the economic reason why any black market exists.)

The real meaning of the deal, though, isn’t what it means to consumers. It’s what it means to Apple and the music companies.

And that’s why I think Apple sucks, and why Steve Jobs shouldn’t be hailed as some conquering hero (beyond Apple shareholders anyway) for covering his ass and making money doing it. Apple’s recent anti-DRM position just doesn’t match up with their historical position of making these exclusive deals (which are anti-competitive), of implementing their proprietary “Fair Play” DRM measures, or of lining their pockets from the sale of DRM — and soon to be premium-priced non-DRM — content.

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