Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Apple gets to drop DRM, goes variable pricing, and gets OTA rights

Apple finally worked out deals with all the major music labels so they could offer iTunes Music without customer-unfriendly DRM (though their files will still be encoded in Apple's flavor of the unfamiliar AAC codec). In return, Apple agreed to two new price points: 69 cents and $1.29 in addition to 99 cents. The labels have long wanted variable pricing in iTunes.

But the big news here is OTA (Over The Air) rights, which allows music to be sent over cellular networks at the same price as IP/WiFi transmission. That's huge for mobile music! The labels were salivating at the prospect of extending their overpriced ring tone business into overpriced full downloads, and for many years have priced OTA rights out of the market. Luckily for the rest of us, consumers are not that stupid. If you can buy a song on your computer for 99 cents (or steal it for free), why in the world would you buy it on your phone for $2 or $3?

Labels also finally recognized the reality of the use cases around mobile music: if I buy a song on my PC, do I also get it on my phone (or vice versa)? If I buy it on my phone, why can't I move it to my PC?

So unifying full download prices across all delivery methods finally makes some sense.

Now music publishers must recognize reality and allow multiple fulfillments of the same song to the same person. No more 30 cent mechanical license taxes for more copies of the same song delivered to the same person in a different file format, on a different device, or for upgrades from the DRM version to the non-DRM version.

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