As most of you know, I'm boycotting the RIAA because they're suing customers. (The latest is that they're suing a 10 year old girl who's disabled mother is on Social Security, for file sharing she allegedly did when she was 7. Come on! suing a 10 year old girl!? That's low.)
One of the other things major record companies do is putting DRM (Digital Rights Management) on their music when selling online. I think this is more dumb than it is evil.
What is DRM? It's encoding of a music file to prevent sharing of said file. The encoding takes into account the computer that owns the file. iTunes Music Store, until now, has DRM'd all their music. So if I buy a song from iTunes Music Store, it's encoded and will only play on my computer, my iPod, and up to 4 other computers that I authorize. Oh yeah, and on those computers the song can only be played in iTunes.
The idea behind DRM is that it makes the song impossible to copy so I can't give it to anyone over the internet. But it isn't that simple in reality. First of all, I can burn the song to a CD, then rip ("to rip a CD" means to copy the songs onto your computer into a file format, such as MP3) the song off the CD into MP3 format onto my computer. Then I can share it. Or I can just buy the CD and rip the music off of that.
Right now music bought on services, such as iTunes Music Store, makes up such a small minority that DRM probably doesn't make any difference to "illegal" file sharing. Steve Jobs doesn't seem to think so, anyway.
Today's article explains how iTunes Music Store will start to sell EMI songs, DRM-Free. It's a tiny bit more expensive than DRM'd songs, but it's also at a higher recording bit rate, meaning higher quality.
Both Apple and EMI should be applauded for this. But I find myself in a difficult position. My first instinct is to run home and buy some DRM-free EMI tracks from iTunes Music Store to show them my support for this move. But then I'm still supporting the RIAA. Perhaps I need to do a temporary suspension of my boycott.