France is the enemy

I usually like the NYT articles since they are usually well informed and give a good overview on a subject. But this article got me wondering...

Apart from the doubtful humour about a foreign country and their citizens (What has possessed the French?) the article is just a plead for Apple's cause, no less. Apparently the author considers that Apple is the only online music retail store worth considering. And that it needs to be protected as such. If that's not a defense for a de-facto monopoly I don't know what it is.

The author completely ignores the fact that worry most people about the iTMS and DRM in general: locking content in a proprietary solution. When you buy on the iTMS you can only use the content on your computer or your iPod. The iPod doesn't support any other form of DRM and the Apple DRM is not available to license. So if you have $200 worth of content from Apple and for some reason your computer crashes you lose all of it. And if you want to listen to your music on a device on another device you can't. And that's precisely what the french law proposes to get rid of. Make sure that the user has control on the content he bought, not the companies that make hardware and softwares.

penalize companies that harm consumers, not the ones that succeed by building better products.

Better products doesn't mean they don't harm consumers. In the long run locking yourself in a technology and having no technical means to get rid of it (legitimately as the law puts it) is a hidden suicide... I'm still waiting for a class action against Apple by users pissed that they can't use their content elsewhere than the Apple world. Then we'll see who is harming consumers (with a monopoly enforced by digital lockers).

Apple largely created the online market for legal music.

I think there were many other DRM solutions before Apple presented theirs.

Second, iTunes has lots of music. Largely because of the innovative iTunes FairPlay copy protection and digital rights management software, Apple persuaded major record labels to let them sell much of their best content online. The combination of simplicity and variety proved a huge winner.

There have been reports about the recent attemps by record labels wanting to change the price policy of the iTMS. The idea was to have new content more expensive and older content cheaper. That sounds totally fair. But Steve Jobs and its marketing decided that the unique price was better. It's funny that the technology provider (because of its market position) think they can impose how content owner should sell their stuff... The result is that there won't be a deal renewal, but the content will remain on the iTMS. The difference is that content owner could pull out their catalog at any time, turning the iTMS into a useless technology and the iPod owners in despair. The huge success of the iTMS will turn into a catastrophy... So in short I don't think the picture of labels being happy with an all in one solution (where they have no voice) is a realistic picture.

If the French gave away the codes, Apple would lose much of its rationale for improving iTunes. Right now, after the royalty payment to the label (around 65 cents) and the processing fee to the credit card company (as high as 23 cents), not to mention other costs, Apple's margin on 99-cent music is thin. Yet it continues to add free features to iTunes because it helps sell iPods.

At least it's clear to everyone what the FairPlay is about: sell iPods. That's the very reason why Apple make their best not to open it to any partner (just look at the flop of the iTunes phones).

Now would opening (doesn't mean breaking) Fairplay would boost the iTMS: yes. Would it boost music sells: yes. Would it boost iPod sales: likely if you can convert WMA DRM to Fairplay. So what is wrong about opening it ?

Apple argues that sharing the codes could make the pirates' job easy enough to wipe out the legal market.

That's considering licensing technology is a public publishing. AFAIK Microsoft Janus (DRM) is licensed to many companies and there's no tool online to crack it. This argument is just FUD created by Apple and spread by "journalists".

Agitators might claim that this is the very goal of the French bill: why else would it also reduce the maximum fine for consumers caught illegally downloading music from 300,000 euros (about $371,000) to just 38 euros (less than $47)?

It's funny how the journalist considers paying 300,000€ for downloading a track online is OK. The 38€ fine is per download. Only when a law is fair it can be respected.

Usually, rich countries don't meddle with others' intellectual property because they fear retaliation. So why don't the French fear retaliation now?

Retaliation against France. Now we have big words to defend Apple against France (one of its biggest market in Europe)... In short the author is saying: don't mess with a USAn company or we'll retaliate on other markets. I guess he/she must have a lot of Apple stocks to go so bold on an industrial (and actually a cultural) choice.

One reason may be that they have concluded France will never really compete. If the Internet will always have an American accent, why not go after it? Sometimes, the red flag of revolution is surprisingly hard to distinguish from the white flag of surrender.

There were 2 options in the law: global license which would be a tax on download or DRM interoperrability. Both are considered good routes to make the digital economy fair and flourish. So I see innovation possibilities where the author see surrender to a monopoly.

Before declaring pre-emptive war on iTunes, however, perhaps the French would do best to remember a lesson from 1789. Sometimes the very people calling for revolution are the ones who end up losing their heads.

So far I haven't heard any voice in France against the proposed law to defend iPod. All the voices are crying that there will be less space for private copy. So the author is just fantasazing and maybe he thinks Bush will attack the french (once more) to defend Apple. That will make the french even more proud...

No comments: