Steve Jobs issues an Apple papal bull

What do you call this decree from Steve Jobs? A manifesto? An essay? An edict? A judgement? I call it a long-overdue Apple papal bull.

In a minimalist presentation of 1,877 words, lacking his typical flare for graphics, Steve Jobs issues an essay on the topic of the cumbersome and easily hacked protection record labels require on music sold through Apple’s iTunes Store. Titled simply, “Thoughts on music,” the document is a big-pulpit, big-club swing at the big-four record labels calling on them to stop requiring DRM on music sold online when the same music sold on CDs carries no such protection.


“Why would the big four music companies 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. Though the big four music companies require that all their music sold online be protected with DRMs, these same music companies continue to sell billions of CDs a year which contain completely unprotected music. That’s right! No DRM system was ever developed for the CD, so all the music distributed on CDs can be easily uploaded to the Internet, then (illegally) downloaded and played on any computer or player.”

Jobs then suggests that European governments and consumers are barking up the wrong Apple tree when they protest that Apple is the culprit in the music-protection debate. He invites everyone to point their protests at the record companies.

“Convincing them to license their music to Apple and others DRM-free will create a truly interoperable music marketplace. Apple will embrace this wholeheartedly.

I think this is a great statement, but it would have impressed me if he had issued it in 2003 when the iTunes store launched. Any time is better than never, but Jobs loses some of the moral high-ground when doing this in reaction to governmental regulatory threats. While some on the blogosphere are ready to saint him, let’s pause: this is merely a logical business decision on Apple’s part. That aside, no DRM is a good thing.

Next suggestion: Drop DRM on those videos you sell on iTunes.

Observation: It’s odd Apple has no “blog-like” platform to issue such statements. Hey, but when you’re Steve Jobs, issuing some “thoughts” is enough, I guess.

Observation II: Mark Cuban is a better writer than Steve Jobs’ ghost on this.

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