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Would you pay more for DRM free digital media? iTunes Now...

[poll id=”138″]

The music industry is hoping that in exchange for DRM free music and the attendant freedom (and reduction of guilt associated with DRM stripping), the consumer will be okay with paying a higher price for music.  Apple inked a deal with the three largest music distributors: Sony, BMI and Warner, to provide DRM free music.  The cost of the songs, though, will be in excess of the $.99 standard.

Update: Apple announces that as of end of Q1 2009, all music at iTunes will be DRM free. You’ll have to pay $.30 for each song you previously purchased to get a DRM free copy. Or you can download software and strip the DRM yourself.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

19 Comments

  1. RfP
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 10:54:12

    The $.99 “standard” in iTunes is one of the more expensive ways to buy music (not that that stops anyone!). So seeing the price pushed up past that, without any *benefits* (e.g. higher audio quality) is a bit irritating. I’m supposed to pay more simply for a record company to remove something that didn’t benefit me (or anyone, IMO) to start with? No thanks; I’ll keep buying DRM-free MP3s for $.99 on Rhapsody, and $.79-$1.29 on Amazon.

  2. Angela James
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 10:57:29

    I have to agree with RfP.

    And again I say…DRM, whether on music or ebooks doesn’t stop pirating, it only stops the honest consumer from either purchasing or getting full use from their purchase.

  3. Sunita
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 17:38:44

    Am I missing something? I can buy the same songs and albums from Amazon without any DRM and they automatically load into my iTunes. So why would I pay 30 cents for the privilege of buying from Apple? I’m a big Apple fangirl, but this seems ridiculous, more a way for them to slide out of their DRM straightjacket than anything the consumer really needs.

    I guess that’s what RfP just said. I should read the comments more carefully.

  4. Kat
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 18:16:02

    I voted, “yes, I would pay more,” but that’s just because if it has DRM I won’t buy it at all.

    Why?

    Partly because of a support call a friend of mine (who uses Apple computers at work and home, and an iPod for play) had with Apple. Something had happened to her software setup, and she could no longer copy new songs from her computer to her iPod — one or the other machine thought the songs weren’t hers, even though she had paid for them and downloaded them on the the registered computer. When she called support to get the problem straightened out, they basically accused her of piracy and refused to help her.

    Then there was the Sony rootkit debacle a few years ago, where audio CDs inserted into computers surreptitiously installed software that was nigh-impossible to uninstall (if you even knew you had it) and could use the machine’s internet connection to transfer data between your computer and Sony without your knowledge or consent.

    And then there was… eh, it’s all been reported before. There are plenty of examples to choose from.

    There is never any excuse for giving legitimate, paying customers that kind of grief.

  5. Ann Somerville
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 18:19:45

    @Sunita:

    Are the Amazon tunes high quality? That might be the difference.

    I would pay more for non DRM because like Kat, I won’t buy DRM goods unless it’s software. The DRM issue has always deterred me from using iTunes. Now it won’t.

  6. Sunita
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 18:46:42

    @Ann:

    There’s a lot of debate over whether AAC or mp3 is better. The high-level iTunes AAC encoding appears to be better than Amazon’s mp3, because it’s a higher bitrate. But the base encoding under DRM is worse. And of course whether you will hear the difference depends on the quality of your earbuds anyway; if you’re using those standard-issue iPod earbuds they eat up most of the variation.

    I think the benefit of iTunes is that is has more music, plus podcasts, etc., so if you want one-stop shopping it has the edge. But if you know what you want and Amazon has it, then Amazon is better. Even with the highest level of encoding, the difference is not really discernible with the equipment most people use (we have sacrificed a *lot* of audio quality for the convenience of mp3 players).

    I’ve bought a lot of stuff at iTunes, but when Amazon showed up with non-DRM’d mp3s I switched over when I could, because even if you aren’t philosophically opposed to DRM, the constraints are hard to avoid if you have multiple computers and listeners.

  7. Ann Somerville
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 19:19:39

    @Sunita:

    even if you aren't philosophically opposed to DRM, the constraints are hard to avoid if you have multiple computers and listeners.

    Yes. If I buy a CD, I consider I have the right to copy it onto my iTunes (not share it) and listen to it on my computer, and in my car. The record companies in Australia say I should have a CD for each copy I listen to, and have done since it was vinyl and cassette tapes. I pay no attention to silly people like that :)

  8. Miki
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 20:21:06

    You need a “maybe”!

    I would not pay more for an eBook than I would for the same book in print, period. (Not if I was paying attention, anyway. I have been bamboozled a couple of times by books I thought were “trade” ebooks, but really just overpriced!)

    If my choice, however, for a $7.99 print MMPB was a 1) DRM’d copy for $5.75 and a 2) nonDRM’d copy for $6.25, that would be a tougher choice. While I know how to strip DRM, it’s still a hassle. And technically illegal. So a only-slightly-bit-pricier nonDRM copy would be tempting.

  9. Kaetrin
    Jan 06, 2009 @ 21:37:56

    Some of the eBooks around are too expensive now – refer your recent post about eBooks being the same price or greater than the print price. I think that eBooks should be cheaper than the print version given there is less cost in producing them. Of course, the author needs to make some money etc, but I do object to paying more for stripping DRM. DRM was an invention of the various publishers (by that, I don’t mean the individual publishers, rather I meant it in the sense of Amazon, Apple and Sony etc) to suck money from us – why should we pay more for them to remove something? It would be like paying someone who put handcuffs on you (in a totally non-consensual, non-sexy way!) to remove them!!

  10. Angie
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 03:17:34

    I voted “Yes” to the basic idea, but in practice it’d have to be a really token amount. Almost one-third more is definitely a “No.” If it were like five percent more, then yes, I’d probably go for it, just to be able to leave all the hassle behind. I don’t like the idea that the idiots are winning even that small amount, but if there’s media I want and an extra 5% would let me get it without all the DRM crap, then fine. :/

    In principle, of course, DRM helps no one (no actual pirate has ever been stopped by DRM, and most aren’t even slown down significantly) and hurts all the honest, paying customers, which is insane. Media companies should get rid of DRM for free, because it won’t hurt them at all and will improve their product. And when you get right down to it, they should be able to charge us less for the media because they’re no longer pouring millions of dollars into the futile effort to develop “unbreakable” DRM (which is impossible), nor will those companies which use phone-in type DRM have to pay to maintain the servers. They’d be saving money by abandoning DRM, which already gives them a bonus to profits. They’re just too stupid, and too caught up in their OMGPirates! WeMustSTOPThem!!! tunnel-vision to see that.

    Angie

  11. GrowlyCub
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 07:50:29

    Angela James wrote:

    And again I say…DRM, whether on music or ebooks doesn't stop pirating, it only stops the honest consumer from either purchasing or getting full use from their purchase.

    I absolutely agree with that sentiment, so I’m rather confused.

    Could you clarify for me how the secure digital formats in which the Samhain books are sold at FW differ from DRM?

  12. Angela James
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 18:18:35

    To be honest, I didn’t even know Fictionwise was selling them in secure format. We format them without DRM and upload them to Lightning Source (which is where Fictionwise has previously gotten them from), we sell them without DRM in our sister bookstore. I’m assuming that Fictionwise puts the DRM on them. We did just reach an agreement with Fictionwise for a direct deal, and they’re going to actually be formatting all of our books for sale on Fictionwise, but we’ll continue to sell them without DRM from our end. I don’t know why Fictionwise sells them as secure formats.

    And I feel like I should caveat this by saying my opinion doesn’t ever necessarily reflect that of Samhain, but the owner doesn’t like DRM either.

  13. kirsten saell
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 18:37:31

    I wouldn’t pay more per unit. But I would cetainly buy more songs/books/whatever, if I didn’t have to worry about DRM.

    I would also be more willing to risk more than a couple of bucks on a book. As it is now, I won’t buy more than a short story if there’s DRM, since I know it might be money wasted…

  14. kirsten saell
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 18:48:12

    Of course, the author needs to make some money etc, but I do object to paying more for stripping DRM.

    This rankles a bit too–I can see paying more for decaf than regular, because the coffee goes through a process to remove the caffeine. But it pisses me off when I have to pay more for white cheddar than regular, because they didn’t put any dye in the former. Or more for unsalted butter. Or any number of products they charge more for despite the fact that all they had to do was not add a certain ingredient.

    That said, epubs don’t use DRM, and they typically pay their authors WAY higher royalties on ebooks than NY authors make on print…

  15. SonomaLass
    Jan 07, 2009 @ 21:53:27

    To be fair, Apple also announced that they are changing the iTunes pricing structure to be more competitive with amazon.com, so I think that’s all going to shake out in the marketplace. Consumers have pretty thoroughly rejected DRM whenever they have the opportunity. I’ll pay a little more to avoid it, because (like others here) I do my best to avoid anything that is DRM “protected.” On principle.

  16. Kerry D.
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 15:12:17

    My immediate reaction to this is “Hell, no!”

    Why should I pay more for the publisher to remove something they shouldn’t have been stupid enough to put on there in the first place?

    I totally agree with everyone who has pointed out that DRM doesn’t stop piracy, it only inconveniences and turns away honest consumers. DRM hasn’t driven me to piracy, but it has certainly sent me to the library, as has ridiculously high ebook prices.

    They’d be better (in my opinion of course) to remove DRM and reduce prices. Then they would probably actually make more money as more people would be willing to buy their ebooks.

    Hmm, hit a hot button for me here, clearly.

  17. Angela James
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 17:14:58

    I didn’t like not knowing, so I did more research. Lightning Source adds the DRM to our books and that’s where Fictionwise picks them up from. With our new contract with Fictionwise, the books will soon be available non-DRM. We do not ever add DRM to our books. I don’t know of any epublisher that does.

  18. GrowlyCub
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 17:58:01

    Thanks, Angela. I was really confused about that since all my Samhain books came from FW and all had DRM on it.

    I’m happy to hear that I’ll be able to buy future books without it! :)

    Any chance that they will offer the ones they originally got from Lightning Source DRM free in the future?

  19. Angela James
    Jan 08, 2009 @ 18:12:00

    I’m not sure but I think that’s a possibility, because part of the reason for signing the contract was being able to provide more formats.

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