Dear Steve, let’s ditch Apple’s software copy protection while we’re at it - Macenstein

Dear Steve, let’s ditch Apple’s software copy protection while we’re at it

Posted by Dr. Macenstein

Yesterday’s open letter from Steve Jobs to the (European) record companies painted a very rosy picture of a theoretical future where all digital music would be sold DRM-free. In Jobs’ musical utopia, songs purchased via iTunes would work on all musical devices, not just iPods, and songs bought through competing music services like Sony and Microsoft would play just fine on an iPod.

Jobs theorized that this would be a beneficial move for both the record industry and for makers of digital audio players. Without DRM, more people would purchase digital music (meaning more sales for the music industry, and more music player sales for Apple and others), and without the need for DRM, the music industry could stop spending so much time and money trying to thwart hackers. Sounds great.

The only problem is of course that Steve and company have no control over how the music industry decides to sell its music, and right now, they are pretty into copy protection. Same goes for the movie industry. However, there is one area of digital media distribution that Apple has the power to remove DRM from, and that is their own software.

Let’s remove Apple’s DRM

If Apple truly believes that removing DRM from music (and presumably movies) will create a multi-industry boon in sales, why not carry it over to their line of software? Why not make Final Cut Studio available without a serial number? How about Logic? Shake?

Perhaps I am just being won over by Steve’s words, but I too can envision a world where I walk into my Apple store, buy Final Cut Studio, and then go home and install it on every machine I own. I can install it on my friend’s Mac. I can bring it to work, and install it on every Mac there. Schools could buy one copy, and put it on every Mac in their computer lab. This would certainly be great for edit/post houses everywhere. Think of the new wave of independent films this would create!

But Apple would lose money!” I hear you saying. Well, would they? Not according to Steve. The current iPod model allows you to buy an iTunes song, and then put it on as many iPods as you’d like. This is because Apple makes its money from selling iPods, not songs. They WANT you to buy a song and put it on 10,000 iPods. That means they have sold 10,000 iPods.

Now, in the above example replace the word “song” with “Final Cut Studio”, and replace the word “iPod” with the word “Mac”. You can’t run Final Cut Studio without a Mac (and you need fairly new and expensive one to really run it well). Why wouldn’t Apple want to sell more Macs? And think of all the cost savings, once Apple doesn’t have to spend all that time and money encrypting their software DVDs and coming up with new software license keys. (Or at least, I assume it is expensive, since Steve pretty much used it as the sole reason the music industry would ditch DRM).

“DRMs haven’t worked, and may never work, to halt music piracy.”
-Steve Jobs

Plus, Steve says DRM doesn’t work to stop music pirates, and the same holds true for software. You can download cracked copies of all sorts of Apple software off torrent sites, with no need for a serial number.

“This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat.”
-Steve Jobs

So Steve, please consider setting an example not only to the Norwegian government and the music industry ,but for all of Silicon Valley. You seem smart enough to know that DRM-free music downloads will not hurt the music industry’s bottom line. How could it be a bad thing to remove DRM from your software? To quote something I read recently, “This is clearly the best alternative for consumers”.

20 Responses to “Dear Steve, let’s ditch Apple’s software copy protection while we’re at it”
  1. DT says:

    IMO, requiring serial numbers is not DRM. And quite frankly, I don’t have a problem with mandatory SN# as long as it’s not a Microsoft “I think you’re a thief and I need to phone home frequently” type of registration.

    Otherwise, as shareware authors know very well, most people would never pay for anything.

  2. Zardoz McFee says:

    I don’t know, as Steve says, CDs don’t have copy protection, and they sell quite well. I think the majority of people would still buy their own copy. I think the scenario of a pro editor buying it, and then letting his 13 year old neighbor install it to learn is more likely to happen than anything like a legitimate edit house buying one copy and spreading it around to all edit suites (Apple could do like they do for OSX, and sell bundle licenses at a slightly increased cost, to encourage people/businesses to pay legally without the DRM.) And it would end up helping Apple down the road, as that 13 year old kid would not have spent $1299 himself at age 13, but will in 5 years for his own copy (and Mac to run it on) if he finds he has a knack for the video/effects biz.

  3. Way Cool Jr. says:

    I DO think Final Cut Studio has some sort of DRM. I have this “friend” who tried copying the DVDs once, and some of them worked, some didn’t. What good are copies of soundtrack loops if you don’t have the app to run it?

  4. greg says:

    I think you have a situation of apples and oranges.

    The only serious similarity between software and music is that is is used on a computer.
    Consider the several order of magnitude difference between creating a valuable software package and releasing an album. Not to discount creativity in the music business (though it might be a good argument) but these really aren’t in the same world.

    I’m assuming you like a lot of apple software? Unlike the music industry the idea that lost revenue for software sales could put an end to a lot of these software packages is quite rational. Software developers are particularly limited when it comes to methods of distributing their products. And having some methodology for unlocking a software package is a completely reliable system for letting users run the software.

    Also, consider the myriad of legitimate uses of copied music in contrast to software. When you purchase software from apple you are typically ‘allowed’ several installs. More than enough for the home user, and these installs are not tracked, the EUL is in place mainly to keep large institutions from buying one copy of Final Cut for an entire division or university. Plus since you are allowed those installs you can easily let your neighbors 13yr old install it to learn on, as likely as that scenario is. So in effect, apple is typically politely asking you not to use this software everywhere after buying just 1 copy. But believe me when I say they are no where near as aggressive as many companies are or would like to be. For example look at the EUL improvement they made with logic after purchasing the company eMagic.

    1. They included many of Logics proprietary filters and features in free software available with your apple.

    2. They stopped requiring Logic’s use of a dongle to initialize the software package – immediately enabling multicomputer usage.

    3. They created a tiered distribution of Logics features from free, to dirt cheap, to amateur pricing, to professional. They are basically giving people access to professional grade software development.

    Apple recognizes that dedicated individuals can bypass any attempt to keep them from thieving. They don’t stop people from making duplicates or overly contort the registration process, they use simple steps to remind the average user that the software they value is actually worth something.

    A more apt DRM comparison would be if apple were to restrict the files that it’s applications create from freely opening and transferring from machine to machine to machine. If they were to lock down the content, this would be more akin to DRM, and if you want to look at a company that loves to pull that shit the answer is Sony. That company has no qualms about fucking over the end user.

    Lastly, and I mentioned this before, a proportionally smaller amount of pirated software can make a more dramatic impact in the profitability of software development. I like free stuff, but music and apps are different things.

  5. Hey Greg,

    I was not speaking necessarily about software in general, just APPLE -MADE software. I don’t expect the little guy developer to give away his stuff for free. And I honestly, I don’t expect Apple too either. However, they are in a unique position among software developers in that their software is by design written so that people will purchase a Mac. While all software is written to (hopefully) be better than a competing app, Apple wants Final Cut to be better than Adobe Premiere because it means editors will say “I like the way Final Cut does such-and-such”, and therefore they will buy a Mac to run it. Premiere works on either platform. Pinnacle makes Windows Specific editing software. Unlike those companies who’s goal is 100% to make the best software they can in order to sell that particular software, Apple makes the best software it can to sell the hardware (and it is ironic that their software IS better than the competition, given their hardware focus.)

    What I was really trying to point out is Steve’s letter to the record industry comes off a bit condescending. He is telling them what will be best for THEM, how to sell THEIR product, why THEY should not apply any restrictions on its use.

    As a consumer I love what Steve said, and as a Mac Geek I love it more because I own more than 5 Macs and I am being directly affected by the 5 computer DRM limit. However, if Steve expects the record companies to do as he says, why not do the same with Apple software? Steve seems to be very worried about what is best for the consumer when it comes to something he doesn’t make money from, but when it comes Apple software, why not make it DRM-free? I think it would be better for me, as a consumer. Doesn’t Steve care?

    -The Doc

  6. Civil44 says:

    I was under the impression that the profits from Ipod sales where next to nothing and that all the money was made off of accessories and songs.

  7. Judson says:

    This is totally irrelevant. Taking off Serial Numbers wouldn’t do anything but increase software piracy. They want DRM off music because it generates hassle and a problem. Not to mention that they stand by their 1 person per software package deal. Otherwise they wouldn’t be selling multiple licensees for software.

    AND, this isn’t like music. For every FCS bundle pirated, or reused, they don’t lose 1 dollar, they lose 1000. And they need that money. Why? Because with hardware they have to pay for the parts, pay for shipping of the parts,, pay for installation of the parts, and more. Software, they pay for the box the CD and the materials in it. The rest goes to Apple. Thats a big money maker.

  8. mike says:

    Dude. You want to install it on multiple Macs, and you’re complaining to Apple?!

    They are the most open, and reasonable company out there, on that point…

    You know you just sound like you want to steal shit, right?


  9. GPU says:

    “I was under the impression that the profits from Ipod sales where next to nothing and that all the money was made off of accessories and songs.”

    That is totally untrue. The ipod has always been, and continues to be, extremely profitable, and has really been what has been driving Apple’s record profits for the past xx quarters. It’s almost unbelievable to think of how much they’re taking in from the sales of the player. Apple does bring in revenue from accessories, and of course the highly-touted iTunes store is bringing in a profit as well, but it’s not wholly inaccurate to say that the software is really meant to drive sales of the hardware (for now).

    “Steve seems to be very worried about what is best for the consumer when it comes to something he doesn’t make money from, but when it comes Apple software, why not make it DRM-free? I think it would be better for me, as a consumer. Doesn’t Steve care?”

    Bingo, this statement hits the nail straight on its head. Apple’s main source of revenue in the deal comes from ipod sales, and they will be helped, rather than hurt, by piracy. I fully believe what he says, that people will buy legitimate music if it’s priced right (the success of the itunes store proves that). So why not see if it holds true with software as well?

  10. david says:

    This analogy fails. THink about it

    If I purchased software right now in a brick and mortar store and it did NOT require SN’s or CD Keys to install on my home PCs or notebooks


    Me downloading that SAME software online and it having a DRM attached to it only allowing it to install on that ONE PC,

    Then wouldn’t the article’s argument make sense? But software isn’t like music at all, atm. It’s like comparing apples to oranges, there is not that much similarity between the two.

  11. --- says:

    civil44, you’re right

    As far as the average retailer goes, there is minimal profit to be made from an iPod alone. for example the mark up on a shuffle is tiny [excuse the pun].

  12. Agree says:

    Which is what makes Linux so awesome.
    Plus I’d like to install OSx on Beige Boxes. I consider locking an OS to hardware a type of DRM.
    Look, what it comes down to is opening software to the world does work and is a viable business model. Even when you’re not selling hardware.

  13. macs4all says:

    OS X doesn’t work Beige Boxes (I assume you mean Pee Sees, rather than Beige G3 Mac towers) because Apple is a first and foremost a HARDWARE company, and OS X, as phenomenal an Operating System as it is (and it is!), is mostly there TO SELL MAC HARDWARE.

    That’s not DRM; that’s just good business sense.

    And, BTW, that makes MacroSuck(tm) and all the geeks hiding in their Mom’s basements writing Linuces look ALL THE MORE LAME, BECAUSE THEY HAVE NOTHING TO FOCUS ON ***BUT*** ****SOFTWARE****, and thus, SHOULD be able to KICK APPLE’S Azz on the OS-front.

    But they, er, CAN’T. Witness the abomination that is Visturd(tm), and the OVER 100 Linux Distros, NOT ONE OF WHICH IS READY FOR PRIME-TIME.

    Sad, but true. And if it were NOT true, “Agree” wouldn’t HAVE the “OS X Envy” that he is so CLEARLY demonstrating with his Sour Grapes (and straw-man) “OS X is DRM” FUD.

  14. macs4all says:

    —, the Profit from iPod sales is mostly realized by APPLE (the manufacturer), rather than the RETAILER.

    You seemed to miss that there is more than one “handshake” in the manufacturing/distribution chain for iPods. And each handshake involves some profit.

    Just not the same percentage per “handshake”.

    OTOH, I am sure that the percentage of profit on a Shuffle is certainly not as high as that on a 60GB 5th Gen iPod.

    I am pretty sure that the Shuffle is considered ALMOST a “loss leader” by Apple; something to get people interested in the whole iPod thing (and I don’t mean for this to be twisted into “The first hit’s free” Drug-dealer metaphor). But rather a way for people unsure of whether they will “like” the idea of an “MP3 player” to test the waters, so to speak, before laying out a few hundred bucks on a Nano or 5G iPod.

    None of this, BTW, is in furtherance of “lock in”; because ANY of these devices are perfectly capable of being filled to the brim WITHOUT involving ANY music purchased through the iTS.

  15. Eric Tetz says:

    Your analogy is total bullshit. Poor logic. Apple doesn’t sell it software DRM-free to a majority of the market via brick and mortar, then sell it encumbered with DRM in a *much smaller* online market.

  16. grovberg says:

    It’s worth noting that Apple’s single most successful piece of software, the Mac OS itself, does not in fact make use of a serial number.

  17. GadgetGav says:

    What a completely bogus analogy.
    If you want to compare to software, the only reasonable comparison would be to something like a Linux distribution which is available from the open source community without a serial number and from a vendor who would require a serial number.
    The point Jobs was making is that the record companies themselves sell non-DRM’d digital copies of their songs on physical media and yet impose restrictions on how that same digital data can be sold online by Apple, Microsoft or any of the other download sites.

    Even if your analogy held some credibility, Apple has one of the better policies. How about the software (like Civ IV) that always insists on the original disc being in the drive to launch, or any of the Microsoft “Genuine Windows Advantage” things that scan your entire PC and phone home..??

  18. Anonymous says:

    Actually Shake is free and unencumbered by SN already – if you’re a big enough user (circa 100+ UI licenses) you can have the source code which was made available when they decided to stop developing it. At the same time they slashed the price to ‘own’ it on the mac – from thousands to hundreds – but you have no and cannot buy any support. Not many people use it macs though.

  19. John F. says:

    Hmm… maybe I’m just a flip flopper. I was under-the-surface steaming at Jobs and Apple earlier this year, after watching my wife’s new Powerbook warp… and replacement MacBook get the RSD blues. But now she’s got a newer, better MBook courtesy of Apple… and I’m on a second-edition MB Pro that I love… and Steve’s letter, when I read it, sat very well with me. Yet the original letter above made some sense to me too. Double hmm.

    One key point made over and over in the response, though — is that Apple already really does have a very loose policy on copy protection. The dongle-experience with some software was the exception, not the rule (and incidently, successful in stopping at least one Mac user I know from stealing the software.)

    Even though you didn’t ask, I’ll tell you what REALLY sells software… quality. And Apple is on top of that. They dutifully and dramatically improve their offerings — often — so they’re either among the best or retired quickly, without sentimentality. This has to be pointed out because, where others could focus their resources on that, they focus them on building rigid copy protection schemes and blitz marketing campaigns instead (not that there’s anything wrong with marketing, just that it’s disingenous when the product isn’t worthy of the claims).

    To be fair, sometimes it’s true that Apple has released hardware they should have scrutinized better before unleashing on the public. But even then, they ultimately come back and make those products better, too. You have to give Apple credit where it’s due. There’s no question they’ve become a mega corporation. But they’ve done so artfully, with a passion for innovation that’s clearly alive and well.

    By the way… as much as Gates has won me over with his charity work… could you ever see HIM or, God forbid, Steve Bawlmer having the stones to get up and make the same proposition?

  20. OMG says:

    Wow, some of these comments are among the most stupid I’ve ever seen.

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