More top execs are buzzing in on the world of digital music and digital rights. This time it’s SanDisk’s CEO, Eli Harari. He states that having no DRM is not a solution, but there can be a happy medium with DRM that will favor both consumers and rights’ holders. This middle ground is using DRM but allowing users, not the MP3 player manufacturer, to choose where they purchase content. Harari condemns Apple’s closed DRM system saying that it is not consumer-friendly and brings up the issues of legality and anti-competitive nature of a proprietary system. Admittedly Harari says that a closed system offers a smoother user experience but restricts the freedom of the consumer.
Under the current business model, I believe that this is the ultimate solution by allowing consumers to purchase digital content from many different places. However, DRM is a headache to consumers no matter how you give it to them and in the end they won’t stand by it. Ultimately, it’s the business model that needs to change. But in order for that to change, there is a pink elephant in the room acting only in its own self-interest, the RIAA. Once technology rids the music world of RIAA, the relationship between the artist and consumer becomes less complicated and more respectful. The digital music revolution will give the music industry a major shake up. This will result in a major shift in the way artists sell music and make money without the soon-to-be-obsolete RIAA.
While I think that SanDisk is on a better path than some, I also think that the consumer is still rooting for a DRM-less way to listening to their favorite artists and will ultimately get it.
Eli Harari’s open letter:
As a loud debate continues over how digital music is sold and used by consumers, SanDisk believes there is another way to address this issue—an approach less confrontational than that voiced by others in the industry.
The answer is to protect the interests of everyone involved, not to chastise rights holders for trying to safeguard the entertainment they create and support.
As a leader in the digital music industry, SanDisk has always supported freedom of choice for consumers. At the same time, we believe that entertainment companies and artists must be compensated.
Consumers deserve fair use of the digital entertainment they purchase, with the freedom to enjoy content on any device they own. SanDisk’s approach is to let consumers decide how and where they acquire and play back their music.
Proprietary systems, in short, aren’t acceptable to consumers. In recent months, there has been a rising chorus of complaints in Europe about the anti-competitive nature of closed formats that tie music purchased from one company to that company’s devices, and tie that company’s devices to its music service.
SanDisk is already offering an alternative with its Sansa line of MP3 players, which connect to many major online music stores, including Rhapsody, Napster, URGE, Yahoo! Music, emusic and Best Buy Digital Music Store. Users purchasing songs from those services can also play them on many non-SanDisk devices. SanDisk and our partners have full support from the four major music companies, and we believe our offering is no less secure than closed systems.
What’s more, the decision on using digital rights management (DRM) should rest with the music industry, not with device makers.
Time and again, we have seen that open choice prevails. The “walled garden” approach may offer a smoother user experience in the short run, but ultimately restricts user choice. Protecting music doesn’t require confining consumers to a single company’s service or devices. It’s time to tear down the walls.
SanDisk is looking at the big picture, by creating solutions rather than conflict. Building an infrastructure to give consumers fair access to digital content while protecting content creators is vital for the long-term health of the music industry, as well as to our business and to our competitors. SanDisk stands committed to making this happen.