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Drm Free: Has Apple Really Admitted Defeat?

Apple Computers are sometimes regarded as a company that thrives on innovation. The iPod personal music player has become the dominant product used by consumers to listen to music on the go. In 2007, the company announced that, in conjunction with EMI, all of the EMI recordings on their site would become available at a much higher-quality format without restrictions on how many devices to which the music may be copied or any other music restrictions. This begs the question of whether Apple has given in to the inevitability that music will be distributed digitally outside the interests of the labels or whether they've innovated in a way that addresses consumer concerns.

Music restrictions and digital rights have long been sore spots for consumers. From the consumer's point of view, they purchased the song or album and there is no real difference between making a copy to put on their personal computer and making an audio tape of an album they could play in their car in the past. Digital rights, since the advent of the personal computer, have seemed to consumers to be a means by which the music distributers have endeavored to offer less and less for the consumer's dollar.

The music distributers, of course, have good reason to be concerned about DRM free music. Pirated downloads, in 2007, outnumbered legitimate downloads by a ratio of 20 to 1. For the distributors, the Internet oftentimes means that the majority of their product's popularity generates for them no revenue. Apple has bucked the trend taken up by most music distributers in allowing their customers DRM free music while most of the music industry has made efforts to punish pirate sites, users who download illegally and the ISP's that provide service. In general, the latter actions have been a public relations loss for the companies.

Music restrictions have several drawbacks that are innate to the technology on which they are stored. For starters, digital technology advances at an incredible pace. This year's top of the line laptop is generally next year's paperweight. Where a CD or record could be kept for years and listened to on any player capable of reading the format, an MP3 or ACC file with music restrictions built in could easily become useless once the media on which it is stored becomes out of date. With consumers becoming less amicable to the idea of luxury spending, buying the same music more than once is something to which they are likely to harbor a very negative feeling. Apple has not so much admitted defeat, they've addressed a concern.

While some digital rights management devices certainly work in the favor of the company and the artists, they suffer from being fairly easily "hacked" in many cases and from being, in many regards, an attempt to keep a rapidly changing industry subject to the same rules as it was in the past. Fighting against the changes brought to the music industry by being ever-more restrictive with rights has, largely, proven to be as effective as sweeping waves from the shore. The 20 to 1 pirate to legitimate download ratio is illustrative of this.

Apple, along with EMI, may have admitted defeat on an old strategy but have certainly not given in to pirates. The products they're offering are of much higher quality than what was previously offered and the DRM free nature of the music distribution goes a long way toward making consumers feel that their money is better spent. In a tightening market, value is certain to entice.