Commentary
4/2/2007
08:03 PM
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn
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Steve Jobs And EMI End DRM And Start Price Gouging

The deal announced today between Apple and EMI to sell unprotected digital songs on iTunes for $1.29 isn't a deal. It's a 30% piracy tax, substantially more than the 3% tax levied on blank digital audio recording media in the United States. Never mind that Jobs is right and DRM should go. Charging a third more under the pretense of higher fidelity and greater freedom is just a rip-off.



The deal announced today between Apple and EMI to sell unprotected digital songs on iTunes for $1.29 isn't a deal. It's a 30% piracy tax, substantially more than the 3% tax levied on blank digital audio recording media in the United States.

Never mind that Jobs is right and DRM should go. Charging a third more under the pretense of higher fidelity and greater freedom is just a rip-off.It's not clear how Apple will price its DRM-free albums. They're $9.99 with DRM. Apple may decide that DRM-free music will be available only on a per-song basis, but let's say the company offers complete albums for $12.99. As has been pointed out, EMI says DRM-free albums will be available for $9.99. That's reasonable.

Well, that album is probably available at Amazon.com for $9.99 or less, without DRM. Included in that price is an archival backup -- the CD itself. There's the cost of shipping, and a wait of a day or three, but orders over $25 ship for free. Or you may have already paid for Amazon Prime (free shipping all year for $70).

That's the best-case scenario. More likely, Many iTunes customers will avail themselves of the "simple, one-click option to easily upgrade their entire library of all previously purchased EMI content to the higher quality DRM-free format for 30 cents a song." They will end up paying twice for their music.

Perversely, Apple's piracy tax represents an incentive to share iTunes music, since DRM-free songs will include the price of any future debt to society incurred for copyright violations.

Don't get me wrong. Jobs and EMI deserve praise for taking this step. But I'll stick to ripping DRM-free CDs when I want music for my iPod, at least until the price is right.

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