Posts Tagged ‘ DRM ’

Napster Mobile available to more than 13 million AT&T clients


Last year, Napster teamed up with US mobile provider AT&T to offer a mobile music download service. This service has now been expanded to more than 13 million AT&T mobile subscribers.

Napster Mobile lets music fans use their handsets to search, browse and download music from Napster’s collection of more than 6 million songs.  A full-length song can be downloaded at the cost of $ 1,99, which includes a copy that is automatically delivered to the customer’s PC.

The service is now available on more than 25 AT&T smartphones and handsets, including BlackBerry Bold, AT&T Quickfire, Pantech Matrix and Samsung Propel. The expansion was made possible by less restrictive digital rights management (DRM) requirements from the labels and Napster’s adoption of more flexible technology.

Universal Music tries DRM-free music distribution

In February, Apple’s frontman Steve Jobs gave arguments to stop DRM (‘Digital Rights Management’) for the download of music.

This week, Universal Music Group has announced a six-month trial to sell a part of its music catalog without DRM protection software. The DRM-free songs will be available through online music services such as Rhapsody and online stores like Amazon. Ironically, iTunes won’t be participating in the trial.

Read the press release here.

Universal Music tries DRM-free music distribution

Nokia and NME offer mobile music

We’ve discussed mobile music services before (see Towards a DRM-free music distribution? and Music downloads for your mobile). A couple more market players are now getting into the mobile music business.

It is expected that at the end of the month, Nokia will announce the autumn launch of their online music service, to coincide with the European launch of rival iPhone. The service will allow to download songs to computers for transfer to mobile phones and other portable music players.

Another new service is NME Mobile, an off-portal mobile music service offered by the famous music magazine New Musical Express (NME). Their mobile internet site will contain over a million premium download tracks. Miles Ross, IPC Media head of mobile, reacts: “Now, with NME Mobile, music fans will be able to get music, news and more on their handset. NME Mobile is the best mobile music service on the go.”

Towards a DRM-free music distribution?

In a recent publication Steve Jobs, the big boss at Apple, has given arguments to stop DRM (‘Digital Rights Management’) for the download of music. He is convinced this will lead to a significant rise of the online sale of music. The music industry badly needs the additional revenue from music downloads to compensate the decrease in revenue from CD sales. Will it be possible for them to keep their grip on music distribution still exclusive, or will they soon have to let go of all DRM security?

DRM, central in the strategy of the record companies
The large record companies have been struggling for years with the problem how to battle against the illegal copying and downloading of music. The past few years, the rise of the Internet and popular tools to copy CDs have caused the downfall of income for record companies. In Belgium IFPI, the association of record companies, reports a decrease between 2000 and 2005 of no less than 30%.
The development of DRM techniques initially seemed a blessing for the record companies. Through DRM music files are protected and can only be listened at by the person for whom the file was intended (and who necessarily also paid for it). Thanks to DRM, a legal music download business has developed. In Belgium this brought 4 million euro of income in 2006. This income is still only 5% of all music revenue.

iTunes Store

Executing DRM: complex and no interoperability
To prevent illegal copying, DRM systems have to make sure that only authorized appliances have the right to play the protected music. Therefore DRM systems use secret keys and complex cryptographic algorithms. However, no DRM system is 100% fully secure. Many hackers find a challenge in searching holes in such systems and then report them on the net.

Because of the intrinsic complexity and the need for a secret setup of the DRM systems, it is not easy to develop an ‘open standard’. The result is that every hardware producer has setup and maintains his own DRM system, and that these systems are not compatible with each other.

The world without DRM, a dream?
‘Imagine a world where every online store sells DRM-free music encoded in open licensable formats. In such a world, any player can play music purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is playable on all players.’ dreams Steve Jobs out loud in his open letter.

For the consumer, such a system only has advantages. To make this acceptable for the music industry, the business model will have to be further clarified.

Two possible scenarios appear. In the first, the price of a download purchase is lowered significantly, which takes away the incentive for illegal copying. In this scenario, downloading stays the most important distribution model. In a second scenario, the consumption of online or mobile music is only offered in streaming. The consumer has permanent access to the entire catalogue and pays a monthly fee to his ISP or mobile operator. Research has proven that consumers are willing to pay up to 6 EUR per month for such a service.

Both scenarios have significant pros and cons. No matter what, the music industry is confronted with the devastating choice to let go of the DRM model, that generates only limited revenues, and to try alternative ways.