Apple/EMI Deal – What Does This Mean for DRM?

It’s a little hard for me to reconcile the disconnect between RIAA lawsuits and the proposed jacked-up online radio licensing fees with EMI’s recent deal with Apple to sell DRM-less music for a premium (130%) price.

Is it as simple as the Brits being more in tune (no pun intended) with online media? This is not a facetious question: it’s the Recording Industry Association of America that is persecuting college students, streaming “radio” and, reportedly, a signed-off-by-the label virual campaign for the forthcoming Nine Inch Nails album.

IFPI (an international trade group) says that only 10% of global music sales are made online. Of course, given how young the online music market is, that 10% could (should?) be considered quite a coup. And it’s a growing segment.

I “get” EMI’s push for a price difference as a short-term cash flow “please the investors” kind of act. I don’t think the “higher quality” file will matter for most of my listening (at work, on the bus, in the car). And I already know how to move my 99-cent iTunes store music to another player (if I used another one, which I don’t). Clearly, I’m not the market, although I applaud the spirit of the move.

The European Union is not happy with Apple’s DRM and the fact that the iTunes store works only with the iPod. Hello! It’s not like there is a universally accepted DRM “standard” that Apple is ignoring. Maybe the EU should be more vexed at the record industry’s refusal to help develop a DRM standard.

For the unaware (as I was before tracking down these numbers), here are the top four record companies (combined, 72% of global sales):

Disclaimer: I own Apple stock. And my S.O. works for Microsoft.

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