Last updated: February 21, 2008 - 5:15am
MUSIC FANS: DISMANTLE DRM
[SOURCE: BusinessWeek, AUTHOR: Catherine Holahan]
When it comes to legal action over downloaded music, the defendants are often individuals: The lone user downloads one too many copyrighted files and Big Media goes on the offensive. But now, the little guy is turning the tables. A fresh crop of lawsuits filed on behalf of individuals argue that it's the big companies that are ripping off the consumer. Melanie Tucker, a San Diego resident, says Apple Computer unfairly restricts how its iTunes Store customers can use legally purchased music. Apple uses its so-called Digital Rights Management, or DRM, software to prevent iTunes songs from easily running on media players that compete with its iPods. (The files can be converted but the process is time-consuming and can be confusing.) Apple's brand of DRM software, called FairPlay, also prevents music purchased through services other than iTunes from playing on the iPod. Tucker maintains that the company, which controls between 70% to more than 85% of the legal music download market and perhaps a 90% share of the digital music player market, is behaving like an overly aggressive monopoly, stifling competition in violation of antitrust legislation. A 2006 class action filed by Scott Ruth against music industry players including Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, Time Warner Music Group, and EMI, argues that the labels are violating antitrust agreements by using DRM to prevent music from being sold by a variety of retailers, thereby stifling competition that could keep prices down. Both Ruth and Tucker's suits seek compensation for music download customers as well as a change in the restrictions.
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