On April 28, 2003 Apple revolutionized the music industry by creating the iTunes Music Store. For the first time consumers were able to purchase digital music that was immediately ready for download onto their iPod mp3 players. However, since the start songs downloaded from iTunes have protected by a digital rights management (DRM) scheme known as fair play. Soon after Apple opened their store several other companies opened competing stores, each with their own unique DRM scheme.
Most DRM schemes automatically assume that the consumer will try to illegally share music and enforce rules to prevent this. Apple restricts back up copies by only letting the song be copied to seven computers. They also restrict the file format to their proprietary ACC which makes iPods the only compatible device. Perhaps the most interesting restriction is that Apple reserves the right to change at any time what you can do with your music. They have already exercised this right by reducing the number of copies from ten to seven several years ago .
There are several competitors who have modeled their distribution after Apple. However, Napster 2.0 takes a very different stance on digital music distribution. They charge customers a monthly subscription fee and allow users to stream and download as much music as they want. However, if customers want to copy music to their mp3 player, or burn songs to a CD, they music pay extra. Napster also uses Microsoft's WMA format for their DRM scheme which makes Napster incompatible with the iPod. Both Apple and Napster are United States based companies and therefore must abide by our laws. However, a Russian website called allofmp3.com offers DRM free music....
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... technologies, but a huge potential for profit exists if they leveraged their vast amounts of data into an online music store. Smaller, independent music companies are currently reaching out to last.fm to discuss this very idea.
The future of digital music has many hurdles to overcome. Right now users are locked into a store and m3p player combination that allows the consumer no freedom of choice. While some record companies are exploring the concept of releasing DRM free music, the reality is that for the foreseeable future, DRM is here to stay. However, steps can be taken to open up DRM schemes and allow users the fair use rights that have been previously established by the United States government. Several companies are also exploring Web 2.0 concepts that could truly revolutionize the music industry and forever change how we listen to and discover new music.
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