Like many, I’m pretty skeptical about big network led efforts to bring their TV and other content online, but still kind of optimistic. So it was with interest that I read John Battelle’s post Hulu Is Up at Searchblog. His conclusion? “This is a big step.”

A response, in three screen captures:




Lessig for Congress?

In the past couple of weeks there has been an increasingly organized movement to draft renowned copyfighter Lawrence Lessig to run for Congress in the California 12th district. Lessig himself is considering it and says, “that decision will be made soon.” One of the more interesting aspects of his possible run is that Lessig recently committed to switching gears to deal with governance and corruption issues instead of focusing on copyright and related issues. It goes without saying that I and thousands like me would love the idea of a guy like Lessig in Congress. There are many fine Congresspeople, but still relatively few that have a real handle on some of the most important issues of the day.

Take action on copyright

It is widely rumoured that between now and Christmas, the Conservative government is going to introduce new Canadian DMCA-style copyright legislation. Michael Geist has written a useful list of actions Canadians can take to address this: The Canadian DMCA – What You Can Do.

The word went out yesterday

about a big Apple-related event at EMI Music this morning, and without more advance notice than that, we found out today that EMI Music will be selling DRM-free superior sound quality downloads across its entire digital repertoire, starting in May. I doubted that Apple would ever sell DRM-free music alongside regular, but it’s obvious now that the two-fer – no DRM and improved sound quality – sets a high enough bar for Apple to do this in ITMS. I suppose it’s important that the distinction be greater than just DRM/No-DRM (or price).

Roughly Drafted Magazine

published an interesting piece called How FairPlay Works: Apple’s iTunes DRM Dilemma at the end of February. It’s a must-read in the context of the very open Apple-DRM file. At the bottom of the article there are links to several other interesting pieces as well. Well worth your time.

Daring Fireball’s John Gruber

asks an important question: Would Apple Mix DRM and Non-DRM Music at the iTunes Store? and refers to longtime Mac developer Peter N Lewis, whose blog post about Why Apple Cannot Allow DRM-free Indie Music is a worthwhile read as well. Lewis covers ground that I covered in my initial post about Jobs’ letter and reaches the same conclusion that I did. However, I think Gruber makes (as usual) some very valid arguments, in particular pointing out that there are interface conventions available in iTunes that make it possible that ITMS could stock non-DRM songs alongside DRM songs without causing too much confusion.

Compare and contrast these views with Cory Doctorow’s analysis, presented in an article in Salon today. Doctorow (who is a friend of a friend and someone whose views I tend to agree with) doubts Jobs’ sincerity and simply doesn’t believe that the DRM hasn’t given Apple the lock-in as Jobs suggested. I disagree with Doctorow that Apple is an eager DRM advocate – I think the evidence is pretty clear that they were overly cautious at the beginning (and so were more pro-DRM in the past) and now they’re only very grudging supporters.

Great turn of phrase

from Cory Doctorow today. And correct, too:

There is no future in which bits will get harder to copy. Instead of spending billions on technologies that attack paying customers, the studios should be confronting that reality and figuring out how to make a living in a world where copying will get easier and easier. They’re like blacksmiths meeting to figure out how to protect the horseshoe racket by sabotaging railroads.

The railroad is coming. The tracks have been laid right through the studio gates. It’s time to get out of the horseshoe business.

On the DRM front,

Apple’s Steve Jobs published a remarkable open letter yesterday called simply, Thoughts on Music. The article comes at a time when a) Apple is under increasing pressure from European consumer groups to allow ITMS-purchased music to play on unauthorized devices (i.e., other than iPod); b) Microsoft has left its multi-manufacturer system in the dust with the launch of the Zune; and c) there have been reports that the majors themselves have been considering distributing non-protected music. So there’s lots of context in which to fit Jobs’ statement.

I have always thought that Apple’s commitment to DRM of any kind was executed with a pretty obvious wink-and-a-smile. If Apple had been more serious about it, there are all kinds of things that it could have done but didn’t do – things that the Zune has (stupidly) built in to the device that limit what people can do not only with Microsoft-purchased music but all music.

So now Jobs has come right out and said it – if the majors will change their licensing contracts with Apple, Apple would welcome the opportunity to sell unfettered music to its customers.

There has been a lot of commentary on this about the implications of this to the DRM story, but what I find most fascinating is that one of the chief implications of this is that Apple is saying that it believes that the iPod and iTunes and the integration of the two is so superior that it is willing to compete on no other basis. Even more: it’s saying that they already HAVE been competing on that basis (and not just through tying), and no matter who has entered the market, Apple has remained dominant.

This is a pretty remarkable thing, if you think about it. Apple is (and, according to its possibly self-serving numbers, always has) competed and won on interface and integration alone. This marks a new aggressiveness on Apple’s part, a new willingness to not only define but to move markets, and to compete on Apple core values.

What I wonder is how this translates to the PC world, particularly with Leopard (Mac OS X 10.5) right around the corner? After all, if the iPod can win on interface and integration alone, could not their still-flagship product? Will this new aggressiveness and confidence spill over to the (more complicated) PC side of things?

PS: I don’t think the European suits are even a small threat to Apple. Even if the consumer groups were to win, they can’t force Apple to unilaterally change their contracts with suppliers (the major labels), so the only result will likely be to force the closure of ITMS in the countries where they are successful.

PPS: I would be surprised if the very reason Apple has been so successful with the iPod is also the reason they will never implement non-DRM downloads alongside others that are encumbered by DRM. To Apple, and I tend to agree, the status of ITMS downloads should be and will remain an all or nothing game – All-DRM or not – to reduce the overall complexity of the system for users.

Musicians in Canada

have been responsible for some huge shifts in the advocacy landscape in Canada related to copyright, file sharing, DRM, and related issues in the past few months, and yesterday they moved the goalposts again with the creation of the Canadian Music Creators Coalition. Check out the names of CMCC members: it’s a who’s who of established and rising stars of the Canadian (and international) music scene including Sarah McLachlan, Dave Bidini, Andrew Cash, Sloan, and the Barenaked Ladies among many others. [via Michael Geist]

Michael Geist reports that

six important indie labels have formally withdrawn from their supposed Industry Association, the CRIA. As Geist’s title has it, this is like Removing the C from CRIA, as the remaining member companies are simply subsidiaries of global congolomerates.