Edgar Bronfman vs. Steve Jobs

Warner Music’s Edgar Bronfman had some strong words for Apple CEO Steve Jobs during an earnings conference call today:

… let me discuss a couple of issues that have been in the news recently, interoperability and digital rights management, or DRM. Let me be clear. We advocate the continued use of DRM in the protection of our and of our artists’ intellectual property.

The notion that music does not deserve the same protections as software, television, films, video games, or other intellectual property simply because there is an unprotected legacy product available in the physical world, is completely without logic or merit.

But let’s not lose sight of the core issue. By far the larger issue for consumers in the music industry is interoperability. As a content company, we, of course, want consumers to seamlessly access our music and to use the music they have purchased on any platform and with any service, physical or digital.

The issue is obscured by asserting that DRM and interoperability is the same thing. They are not. To suggest that they cannot coexist is simply incorrect.


  1. Oh right EB, I forgot about the DRM built into my software, television, films, and videos. That’s why my VCR, Tivo, film scanner, and “copy” command don’t work. Silly me. How’s destroying your family’s fortune by overpaying for glamour assets in shrinking industries going?

  2. Actually, JB, your Tivo has Windows Media-based DRM built into it, it’s called TivoToGo. That’s why I don’t use it (well, that and I haven’t had a TV in years, I just download stuff off of Bit Torrent now). DVDs come with a DRM scheme called DeCSS so he’s right about video. Almost all software comes with some kind of copy protection so he’s right about that too. Just ask Steve Jobs if he’d consider removing any of those protections.
    However, the difference between these industries and music is that music is very inexpensive to record nowadays, the files are small, and music consumers are so passionate about their music that a large number of them download DRM-free music. As Jobs said, most of the music on iPods has been downloaded DRM-free. Given this climate, it’s only a matter of time till bands start giving away the music for free to attract people to their concerts. It won’t be the big 4 that do this because the way the revenue is split up right now, from what I’ve heard, is that most of the recorded music revenue goes to the big 4 and most of the concert revenue goes to the band. The move to free digital music will only happen once unknown bands start using this strategy to get well-known, forcing the big 4 to compete. Asking or trying to reason with the big 4 accomplishes nothing.

  3. @Ajay: DVD players and DVDs became a huge consumer success. So people do live with it. The key there was the standards group ironed out all the problems before the member companies were allowed to manufacture and sell product and content creation was also tightly managed.
    The problem with digital music on the other hand was that the delayed success of the mp3 codec in the college community and the availability of file sharing. The industry was caught with their pants down. The tech community and the music industry could never agree on a single DRM – a lot of time and effort was wasted.
    Whether we like DRM or not, it will be a fact of life unless the major labels drop the demand for it. I also disagree with your comment that musicians will give away their music and make it up in concerts. I have heard that some top musicians don’t necessarily like the idea of concerts because its very demanding and tiring among other problems.
    Unless the majors drop the demand for a DRM some form of it will exist. Its just too bad that they could not agree on one.

  4. SFGary, where did I say DVDs were not a success? I was just pointing out to JB that films come with DRM. When you say the mp3 codec had delayed success, do you mean early success? I did not know that talks on music DRM broke down but maybe they saw that it was unworkable. Wait, so that’s your argument against free digital music with paid concerts?! That musicians don’t want to work for a living?!! As I said before, my understanding is that a sizable amount of their income already comes from concerts, not from recorded music, so that seems to already be the case. As for your comment about the majors dropping DRM, I made the same point and pointed out exactly how they can be forced to do so, by up and coming bands and labels adopting the free music/paid concert strategy and forcing them to compete.

  5. What a hilarious line: “The notion that music does not deserve the same protections as software, television, films, video games, or other intellectual property simply because there is an unprotected legacy product available in the physical world, is completely without logic or merit.”

  6. There’s a worm in my apple

  7. I wonder if the music industry’s insistence on DRM, coupled with the software/hardware industry’s inability to come up with an interoperable standard, will cause consumers to acquire their music elsewhere. Steve Jobs cited a statistic that 90% of music on iPods is unprotected, which seems to say as much.
    Today you are seeing most forms of _independent_ record labels supporting non-DRM standards. They are releasing in MP3 across the board, from indie rock to dance music. So the clock is ticking. It’s hard to believe that consumers might be metamorphosing into something more advanced, but perhaps as all forms of music have become more accessible, especially the kind you DON’T hear on the radio, we are seeing the transformation from consumer to something more like a connoisseur. If this is really happening, I don’t see how the music industry can fight it. When smaller independent labels can prove their worth, like Def Jam and TommyBoy did in the early days of hiphop, these are the premier labels of the future. They will not be doing DRM.

  8. Of course, their argument ignores the crux of Jobs’ point:
    1. 90+% of music is sold without DRM. Locking less than 10% of it does absolutely nothing to prevent piracy. So obviously, this is not about piracy but about usage restrictions. (revenue opportunities for companies.)
    2. DRM will never stop piracy. It just annoys paying customers.