February 13th, 2007 • 4:04 pm
Much has already been written about Steve Jobs’ ground-breaking “Thoughts on Music” essay posted on Apple’s web site in early February. (I say “ground-breaking” not in relation to the actual contents of the piece, but because it’s quite remarkable for such a person to publish such an essay in such a context.)
I don’t really have much to add to the debate on the core issues here. But I must say that I find the RIAA’s response to Steve Jobs’ essay profoundly shocking.
That response is (tellingly?) not available, as far as I can tell, on the RIAA’s own web site, but has been widely reported by various media outlets, including the engadget web site. In a nutshell, here’s what the RIAA says:
Apple’s offer to license FairPlay to other technology companies is a welcome breakthrough and would be a real victory for fans, artists and labels
What I find profoundly shocking is that any intelligent life form on this planet could actually read Steve Jobs’ essay and understand it as an “offer to license FairPlay.” I mean, what are these guys smoking?
Steve Jobs does discuss licensing FairPlay as one of the “alternatives for the future,” but ends his examination of that particular alternative by saying:
Apple has concluded that if it licenses FairPlay to others, it can no longer guarantee to protect the music it licenses from the big four music companies.
And not being able to guarantee protection of the music it licenses from the big four music companies means quite clearly, as Steve Jobs explains elsewhere in his essay, that the big four would pull the plug:
… a key provision of our agreements with the music companies is that if our DRM system is compromised and their music becomes playable on unauthorized devices, we have only a small number of weeks to fix the problem or they can withdraw their entire music catalog from our iTunes store.
In other words, you really have to have a very feeble mind to draw from this that Apple is seriously considering offering to license FairPlay. We are talking about elementary logic here.
After such a response from the RIAA, how can anyone ever take them seriously again? How can anyone seriously believe that they have any real role to play in the future of music distribution? I mean, these are guys who apparently cannot even put 2 and 2 together!
It’s not that this changes my opinion of the RIAA in any way. I gave up on them a very long time ago. But I still find it quite shocking (1) that the RIAA has actually released such a statement and (2) that nobody in the mainstream media apparently has the guts to take them to task on this and raise the fundamental issue, not just of the RIAA’s ability to “provide timely and accurate information on the issues affecting the recording industry and the creative artists we represent that are of interest to the public and the media,” as they say on their own web site, but of their actual sanity.
If that’s the kind of people that Steve Jobs has to deal with, then it’s no wonder that the iTunes Store, for all its success, is still such a disappointment for people actually looking for legitimate on-line sources of music.