[2007.2.10][Leaders]Digital music : Music wants to be free

Digital music

Music wants to be free
数字音乐: 音乐要走向自由

Feb 8th 2007
From The Economist print edition

Everyone will benefit if digital music is sold without copy-protection

IT IS not often that the company that dominates an industry, and is thus most wedded to the status quo, calls for the rules that govern the business to be changed. But that is what happened this week when Steve Jobs, the boss of Apple—which dominates digital music with its iPod music-player and iTunes music-store—published an essay on his firm’s website under the unassuming title “Thoughts on Music”.
  一家处于行业霸主地位的公司通常是最想保持现状的,所以我们很少见到一位行业霸主呼吁改变行业规则。但以iPod数字音乐播放器称霸数字音乐领域的苹果电脑上周就这么做了--苹果总裁斯蒂夫.钱伯斯( Steve Jobs)上周在公司网站上发表了一篇名字平实的文章,叫《关于音乐的一些思考》。

At issue is digital rights management (DRM)—the technology guarding downloaded music against theft. Since there is no common DRM standard, songs purchased for one type of music player may not work on another. Apple’s DRM system, called FairPlay, is the most widespread.
  问题的焦点是数字版权管理(DRM, Digital Rights Management),即网上下载音乐的反盗版技术。由于现在并无一个共同的数字版权管理标准,所以为这种音乐播放器购买的歌曲可能在另一种播放器上就听不了。苹果的数字版权管理系统叫FairPlay ,应用最为广泛。

European regulators have been gunning for Apple. They regard its refusal to license FairPlay as monopolistic. Since music from the iTunes store cannot be played on non-iPod music-players (at least not without a lot of fiddling), any iTunes buyer will be deterred from switching to a rival device. Last year, French lawmakers drafted a bill compelling Apple to open up FairPlay to rivals.

In the past, Apple has supported DRM on the grounds that it kept the pirates at bay. It described the French bill as “state-sponsored piracy”. But this week Mr Jobs gave an alternative explanation for defending DRM: the record companies’ demands. They agreed to make their music available to iTunes only if Apple agreed to protect it using DRM; indeed, they can still withdraw it if the DRM system is compromised. Apple cannot license FairPlay to others, says Mr Jobs, because it would depend on them to produce security fixes promptly. So, he suggests, why not do away with DRM and sell music unprotected? “This is clearly the best alternative for consumers,” he declares, “and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat.”
  苹果一直力挺数字版权管理,称其能将盗版者拒之门外。苹果还说法国的那项法案是“国家支持的盗版行为”。但本周钱伯斯先生给出一支持数字版权管理的另一个理由:这也是唱片公司的要求。只有苹果保证用数字版权管理保护音乐后,唱片公司才同意提供音乐给iTunes销售。注意,如果苹果向监管者妥协,开放FairPlay ,唱片公司仍然可以收回那些音乐。钱伯斯说,苹果不能把FairPlay授权给其它公司,因为那样做就马上要依靠其它人来制做安全补丁了。那么,他建议,为什么不抛开数字版权管理,出卖不受保护的音乐呢?“对消费者而言,这显然是最佳的选择,”他声称,“苹果也将全心全意欢迎。”

Why the sudden change of heart? Mr Jobs is presumably keen to get Europe’s regulators off his back. Rather than complaining to Apple about its use of DRM, he suggests, “those unhappy with the current situation should redirect their energies towards persuading the music companies to sell their music DRM-free.” Two and a half of the four big record companies, he helpfully points out, are European-owned.

Rhythm and dues

But, politics aside, getting rid of DRM would probably be good for Apple. It can afford to embrace open competition in music players and online stores. Consumers would gravitate to the best player and the best store, and at the moment that means Apple’s. Mr Jobs is unfazed by rivals to the iPod: he notes that, since only 3% of the music in a typical iTunes library is protected, most of it can already be used on other players today. So Apple’s dominance evidently depends far more on branding and ease of use than on DRM-related “lock-in”.
  然而撇开政治不谈,抛弃数字版权管理对苹果也可能是有好处的。在音乐播放器与在线音乐商店领域,苹果完全有能力与对手自由竞争。到时最棒的播放器与在线商店会吸引消费者,而最棒的正是苹果所有的。钱伯斯完全不把iPod 的竞争者放在心上,他说,一个典型的iTunes音乐库中大概只有3%的音乐是受保护的,大多数音乐早已能在其它播放器上播放。所以苹果在数字音乐领域的统治地位显然不是依赖于与数字版权管理有关的“锁定效应”,而应当归功于其品牌效应与易用性。

It would probably be good for everybody else, too. Consumers would benefit because all music and all devices would become compatible. Record companies worry about piracy; but most of the music they sell is still on CDs—a far bigger source of piracy than the internet—and they would benefit from higher sales that greater compatibility would bring. Lots of small labels already sell DRM-free music, and some of the giants are trying it out. Which may be another reason for Mr Jobs’s change of heart: having seen which way the wind is blowing, he wants to be regarded not as a defender of DRM, but as a consumer champion who helped bring it down.


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