Technical Implications of FairPlay on DRM-Free Music in iTunes

This is a fairly coherent piece that I wish had stay much more with the technical details with which it started. The article loses focuses about where it delves a little into apologism, then goes on to double back and try to hold Apple’s feet to the fire.

There are some interesting if weakly framed questions about real market pressures for why Apple has little incentive to act to remove DRM contrasted against real technical costs for maintaining such a complex system. I am not sure I completely buy the arguments about selling DRM-free music side-by-side with FairPlay enabled files. I think he’s more right about regression risks and potentially opening exploits which the labels would gladly use to extort damages from Apple. I just disagree with the magnitude of the problem and that it needs to be solved in the way he postulates.

I think he hints at an aspect that many overlook, though, that while DRM-free music would no longer require key distribution and encryption, it still needs authorized sales and to prevent download in the absence of such. I just don’t buy that Apple would have to re-purpose their existing authorization to work as is but skip the key mangling based on the presence or absence of DRM. Why not embedded a second “store” within the existing store? As long as the front end experience is seamless, who cares?

I’d say read the first part of the article because it does very clearly explain what AAC is and is not as a format. I get a little tired of the misconceptions around AAC. “AAC is an enhanced podcast.” “AAC is DRMed music.” Read that part and stop spreading such misinformation. Take the rest with a grain of salt, as commentary that isn’t really any more or less on the mark than anyone else try to read Jobs’ mind.

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