Steve Jobs Calls For an End to DRM

Following up on the few comments in class on DRM (Digital Rights Management)-protected files, Apple CEO Steve Jobs wrote a lil essay today titled “Thoughts on Music.” Web users and digital media companies have been calling for an end to DRM for some months now as has nearly everyone short of the RIAA, which represents the big 4 labels comprising the recording industry oligarchy.

There has been a flood of blog posts today that try to decipher exactly what Jobs is getting at. Is this a mea culpa? Chest-beating? A cryptic call to direct negotiations with the majors?

The biggest nugget in the essay is Jobs’ claim that, should the labels agree to drop current DRM, the iTunes store “switch to selling only DRM-free music,” which means it would be compatible with all music players, among other things. Personally, I’d be shocked if the labels and the RIAA agreed to anything close to this. On the other hand, after the success of the iPod, Apple really has the consumer in it’s core — does Jobs have the entire entertainment industry up his sleeve as well? We shall see. He’s already down with Disney, and a copyright/content deal with the majors (like Google/YouTube recently did) is not an impossibility.

Other reasons Jobs is making what appears to be his first ever blog post could relate to a digital music antitrust lawsuit alledging that Apple “locks” consumers into its platform. Jobs lays out these three scenarios:

1) stick with DRM. Apple keeps winning.

2) Apple licenses its FairPlay DRM system (which was devised at the behest of the labels).

3) The music industry agrees to license their music to online stores without DRM.

Below is a bit more from Jobs’ essay:

…Some have called for Apple to “open” the digital rights management (DRM) system that Apple uses to protect its music against theft […] Today’s most popular iPod holds 1000 songs, and research tells us that the average iPod is nearly full. This means that only 22 out of 1000 songs, or under 3% of the music on the average iPod, is purchased from the iTunes store and protected with a DRM. The remaining 97% of the music is unprotected and playable on any player that can play the open formats.

Cory Doctorow and others are optimistic about this “big news.”

Video Mashups & Subvertising

Thinking back on the “good ol’ days” of the early 21st century when I lived in Chicago, and was witness some of the greatest independent creations / multimedia commentaries / videos / and zines of this century. The best series of all is the Select Media Festival, a collaborative project that included some incredibly provocative video mashups and animations in the direct aftermath of 9/11 and continues, each Fall.

Check out the hilariously unfortunate G.I. Joe PSA’s here.

Other goodies can be found there, as well as at Version Fest — which takes place April 19-May 6 in Chicago. Lumpen is ground zero for the classic free zine and is in some way or another connected to each of these events as is GNN, whose original Guerrilla News Network broadcasts brought shock and awe into the home with critical responses to the War on Terror (Ian Inaba, an early contributor to GNN, recently produced the acclaimed “American Blackout” and is one of three people behind the Video the Vote project.

Also worth checking out is this short clip in which John Ashcroft reveals a new policy to deal with Illegal aliens.

Electric Vehicles: LAT Overlooks Little Radio

When I noticed a link to a story titled “Electric vehicles generate buzz,” on the Times‘ front page, I fully expected to read about Little Radio’s new EV shop.

In the Times article, John O’Dell boasts about a couple super-sporty (and priced between $60,000 and $120,000 electric cars coming to market and made in California. You’d think he went for a test ride and never brought the car back.

The cars sold by Little Radio are neither made in America, nor are they especially fast. However, they can be yours for under $10,000. They may not go half as fast as O’Dell’s dream Tesla Roadster, but they’re ideal for city driving. So, was it an editorial decision to only mention up-and-coming, hi-priced, sporty electric vehicles, or is the Times not yet aware that you can buy inexpensive, highly practical EV’s in town today?

From Little Radio:

In pursuit of social and environmental responsibility, Little Radio has inked an agreement for the exclusive dealership rights to sell the only new and 100% electric cars available here, in Los Angeles.

Little Radio EV will be the sole retailer in Los Angeles for all ZAP (Zero Air Pollution) cars and other vehicles distributed through Voltage Vehicles. Little Radio EV looks to deliver the newest in electric vehicles and technology from manufacturers in the US and around the world.

UPDATE: CNET has more on Tesla’s nationwide grovel for state funds.

photo by Dave Bullock via flickr