Yesterday, Nokia announced a new initiative, Comes With Music, that will offer "free" music to purchasers of certain cellphones. It's the first outgrowth of Nokia's Ovi brand, which the company announced earlier this year. It also seems to be the first implementation of Universal's Total Music plan, in which device makers bundle a music subscription on new devices and add the cost to the price of the device, rather than forcing consumers to pay the monthly fee.
A rather sprawling article in Billboard today suggests that the MP3 format, which has been around since the 1990s, is finally reaching a tipping point among major labels, supplanting DRM-protected formats that the labels have favored.
The article focuses mostly on a planned Pepsi promotion that will offer MP3 downloads via the Amazon MP3 store. However, two other points stuck out to me as spelling imminent doom for DRM in music.
First, Sony is reportedly considering offering its catalog as MP3s, joining EMI and Universal Music Group. That would make Warner Music the last holdout among the Big Four. I'… Read more
Last week, The Wall Street Journal had a story about Arbitron's People Meter, a new portable device that helps the radio ratings measurement company determine the exact amount of time a user spends listening to particular radio stations. Radio stations insert an inaudible signal that only the device picks up, and testers are supposed to carry the devices at all times, so regardless of where they listen (work, home, car, grocery store), the People Meter knows. This is more accurate than the old way of asking radio listeners to record their habits in a paper diary--users tended not to … Read more
I first heard of Christian alt-rock band Switchfoot in late 2005, when Sony Music came under fire for including a copy-protection technology on some CDs.
The issue wasn't so much the copy-protection itself, but rather that the software installed itself surreptitiously, hid itself from view, and usurped user control of some OS functions (qualities that led security experts to call this software a "rootkit"). In theory, malicious software (viruses, spyware) could attach itself to this copy-protection software, making it extremely difficult to detect and remove the malicious software.
At any rate, Switchfoot's CD Nothing Is Sound (… Read more
Editors' note: This blog initially misspelled the name of a writer from Wired. The writer is Eliot Van Buskirk.
Watermarking has been in the news twice in the past week. First, Wired's Eliot Van Buskirk revealed that Universal will insert watermarks in the DRM-free files it's distributing through Rhapsody, Amazon.com and other online stores.
Then, Wednesday, Microsoft announced that it's licensing audio watermarking technology developed by its research division to a company called Activated Content. (Microsoft Research used to be devoted entirely to building technology that would later be incorporated into Microsoft products, but a couple … Read more
Lime Wire is best known as the latest in a long chain of software that makes it easy to find and download music for free, replacing Napster, Grokster, eDonkey, Kazaa, and all the other applications and networks that shut down or cracked down on the sharing of copyrighted material.
Lime Wire LLP, the company that makes the Lime Wire software application, has also been sued by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), but has so far refused to cave, saying that it only manufactures the software and has no control over how users choose to employ it. Moreover, it … Read more
Universal Music Group, the largest of the four big music labels, has become the second major to offer DRM-free MP3 downloads.
Unlike EMI, the Universal deal is only a five-month trial, and the company hasn't announced any such deal with Apple--not surprising, given the two companies' recent history. In fact, nobody should see this as an act of kindness on Universal's part. Rather, … Read more
SpiralFrog is a proposed online service that would let users download songs for free in exchange for viewing some sort of advertising. It got some press coverage last August when it announced an agreement to license the music catalog of Universal Music Group, the largest of the four major labels. Over the next few months, however, a missed launch date and executive shake-up led many to write it off as dead.
Yesterday, mobile phone giant Nokia announced it would license PlayReady, a new digital rights management (DRM) technology developed by Microsoft. This is the first win for PlayReady, and represents a pretty major shift for Microsoft.
Until about two years ago, Microsoft's DRM strategy was tied up with the Windows Media platform. Microsoft invested considerable research and development into improving Windows Media DRM. For example, in 2004, Microsoft rolled out a new version of Windows Media DRM that made it viable for content owners to allow music from subscription-based services to be transferred to portable devices. With Windows Media DRM 10, … Read more
[This entry has been revised: I didn't read the MediaNet release carefully enough...they are offering DRM-less MP3s, not WMA files. Apologies to anybody whom I misled. My bad.]
Back in May, EMI--one of the big four record labels--agreed to sell its songs through Apple's iTunes without digital rights management (DRM) protection.
Before this move, iTunes and the iPod were technically linked: if you bought a song from iTunes, you could only play it on an iPod (unless you burned it to CD then re-ripped it into an unprotected format). Offering DRM-less downloads severed this link, allowing … Read more