Did Apple Make a Mistake? Networks and iPod Playlists

24 Aug 2004|Leigh Marinner

Apple offers an option within the DRM (digital rights management) protection in iTunes called “share my music,” that lets users make their playlists available to any other computer running iTunes on their local network. By clicking on someone else’s shared music within iTunes, users can “stream” the music to their PC, playing it without actually storing it. Since most colleges have fast local area networks, this has become standard procedure at many colleges. In dorms you can click on the network and see 40 or more music libraries. And programs are widely available that use iTunes as a conduit for illicit music downloading.

Once again Apple has created a cool factor around its products by making it easy for users to showcase their personality and taste by posting their personal playlist. So what’s wrong with allowing sharing on local area networks?

Sharing music in situations where people live together, like college, is going to happen. Why not make it work for the artists, the record companies, the music services, and the digital music player manufacturers. Take a page from the subscription DRM model being promoted by Microsoft and many portable music device manufacturers. Charge college students a small monthly fee (subscription) as part of their annual activities fee to listen to unlimited music legally. Take the onus off the college administration to stop music piracy and remove their liability for future lawsuits. It’s already beginning to happen with companies like Cdigix, which will distribute MusicNet subscriptions to students at Marietta College, Ohio University, the Rochester Institute of Technology, the University of Denver, Wake Forest and Yale University this fall.

Some say that in a few years those college students will expect free music when they enter the real world and they’ll revert to piracy. But perhaps subscription DRM would be more appealing to them after they’ve experienced it for four years.

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