Apple has been in the music distribution business for what feels like eons now and they’ve certainly contributed not just to how music is enjoyed today, but also how it is bought and purchased. Along with Nokia Music, they’ve changed the way music, particularly albums and songs, are valued and its brought to the attention of record labels some issues that hinder the digital distribution of music, particularly when it comes to file sharing. Apple, however, has now been awarded patents for a file sharing system that makes music distribution easier and faster, while also saving mobile customers quite a bit on their data usage for mobile networks. Hit the jump to see what their evil scheme is.
Mainly, the changes described in the patent with regards to distribution will only affect iTunes. Its unlikely that we’ll see similar methods pop up for other platforms and certainly this doesn’t affect the market of people and companies who offer streaming services, so that’s not an issue. Like software, Apple now wants people to pay for a license to access the music, and not just the ability to gain access to the file itself. Essentially, you’re paying for the right to distribute that music file or collection of music files that may or may not be part of an album across all the devices you own that use iTunes and support this distribution model.
But there’s more to it than just that. Apple calls the system “decoupling rights in a digital content unit from download” and it opens the gates to not just paying for the music to be on your own device, but for you to share limited access to that music with others before they have to pay for it too.
What the patent allows is for people to come up to you and ask to share the music you’re listening to. They’ll get the song on their device through whatever ad-hoc NFC WiFi connection that will get set up and they’ll be able to purchase the right to also listen to and distribute that music without needing to search for it on the Apple store. There’s already a convoluted method of doing this through Siri by asking her to identify a song that’s playing, though this method has less room for human error.
For Apple, this might solve a problem of network capacity. This sort of acts like a mini Torrent network, so they don’t have to provide as much bandwidth to users wishing to download and buy music through the iTunes store. In addition, the people you distribute the music to also are able to buy it at a discounted rate because they’ve shared it with you.
“This may encourage users to trade or copy digital content units as well as authorize these copies. Such sharing may, in turn, reduce piracy or illegal copying..,” suggests Apple in their motivation for the patent.
However, there are some caveats. One, you don’t have actual access to your music anymore, just the license to play it. Apple now has even more power to dictate what you can and can’t keep on the device as purchased from the iTunes store. Two, moving to a new iPod or iPhone or Macbook may require you to transfer all your music over to the new device, unauthorise your old device from playing that music and authorising your new device. Apple’s going to need to set up some systems to make this easy and to make sure that lost or stolen devices that have authorised access to the music can be remotely deactivated.
Three, this probably isn’t going to work very well. More DRM is not a viable solution to tacking the challenges of digital distribution. As surely as the sun will rise tomorrow, it’ll get hacked within a week and someone will figure out a method to decrypt the files for sharing them en masse.
Are you an iTunes user? Does this new patent solve any problems you’ve been having recently with sharing music? Let me know in the comments below.