Friday, March 09, 2007

The FSF's Open Letter to Steve Jobs...

Recently I posted an article responding to Steve Jobs' "Thoughts on Music", calling Jobs insincere in his stated desire to eliminate DRM software in iTunes - which strips away consumer rights over the music they legally purchase.

Now the Free Software Foundation has set up an Open Letter to Steve Jobs. It states, "it has been three weeks now since you published your pledge to drop DRM, and there have been many responses from commentators who have outlined actions you could take to back up your words. The fact that you have not taken any action leads us to ask the question: How genuine is your pledge?"

As I suggested in my previous post on the subject, it seems evident that Jobs called for the elimination of DRM, not because it's the right thing to do, but rather as a negotiating tactic to leverage against the new deal Apple must make with the recording industry. The Free Software Foundation is trying to hold Jobs accountable for his statements (or put another way, is attempting to find out if his statement was an outright lie), and should be supported in their endeavor. Again, DRM software makes it so that when you buy a song on iTunes, you can never play it on any device other than an iPod, essentially locking you in for life, even if down the road you'd rather get a Zune, Dell, or other Mp3 player.

The Free Software Foundation does suggest two worthy things that Jobs can do TODAY to show the world he is sincere in his desire to eliminate DRM. First would be to drop DRM on iTunes for independent artists. As their letter states, "many independent artists and labels distribute their music through iTunes and many wish to do so without DRM, but you won't let them. You could show good faith immediately by dropping DRM for those artists and labels."

Second, Jobs should take a public stand against legislation mandating DRM by funding a campaign to repeal the Digital Millenium Copyright Act's (DMCA) prohibitions. "The impact of DRM and the DMCA will have chilling effects on our freedom of speech. In a world where our radio shows, TV shows, news, and political coverage, come laden with DRM---because digital TV, digital radio and webstreaming have been mandated to use DRM---we will have lost the legal right to make commentary using source materials. Free speech through parody and quotation will have disappeared."

The ball is in Steve Jobs' court. He is in the unique position to back up his words through action. If he does not truly want to eliminate DRM, then he should at least be honest and say so to the public. Enough deceit.


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