back to article Sony BMG to drop Custer stance on DRM

Sony BMG, the last major record label that won't sell you music without DRM kneecapping will reverse its stance in February, according to a report today. Corporate froth mag BusinessWeek cites a source familiar with the matter as saying it'll get involved in a major DRM free music tie-in with Amazon and the Super Bowl, which …


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  1. Robert Moore

    Decent music?

    Now if the would just release so decent music I could start buying again.

  2. Mark Allen

    DRM dieing....

    So, if DRM is finally dieing, does this mean Microsoft will release a patch to give us the Vista Operating System back? Or will it be forever looking for non-existent out of date DRM?

  3. Mectron

    Music should be free

    for eveyone for at least a year as compansation from the big label for illegal use of DRM for so many years, and of course Sony should be force to release in whole catalog into the public domain and then be shutdown for that massive rootkit invasion they did,,, ho, well that whould be justice serve, so it will never happen..,, (when was the last time the bad guys got punished in court>)

  4. Ishkandar

    Chief Sitting Fool bites the dust !!

    Hooray !!

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  6. Alan Donaly

    Congratulations Sony BMG

    Might I suggest though it won't cure everything, that they might do better to keep up with industry trends rather than being last all the time. Agile these guys are not they are not going to stand a chance unless they get some people at the top who pay attention. People will

    always buy crap, but they want their full measure of crap, not what they were selling.

  7. iamzippy
    Thumb Up

    DRM Can Never...

    ...plug the 'analogue hole'. And it only takes one copy...

  8. heystoopid
    Paris Hilton

    Too little too late

    Too little too late , but since 2007 as the big four are becoming so dependent on mechanical royalties to replace the majority of their income as sales dwindle and die away based on the obsolete idea of the bland unimaginative style of Britney one tune fits the world crap variety of music continues to fail to ignite the imagination of the buyers of that genre !

    But as always as one door closes another opens for an alternate entertainment media for that is life !

    Oh well , now where was that pesky torrent site again for the local indie music labels ?

  9. Chad H.


    what, no "Little bighorn" jokes?

  10. Stuart Jones


    A lot of DJ sites were offering DRM free 320kbps songs a couple of years ago and now even offer lossless and wav formats - hence will be as good as CDs (and some better). As bandwidth becomes more common place I'd expect this to make it into the mainstream.

    On the other hand I refuse to buy CDs any more now because it feels so last century....I'd rather pay my 79p etc., or even better subscribe to a monthly service.

  11. Valentin

    @Gavin Taylor

    Actually, Amazon's MP3s have a bit rate of at least 192 kbps(that's what WinAmp shows for the ones that I downloaded), and their FAQ has this to say about the MP3s:

    "Bit Rate: Where possible, we encode our MP3 files using variable bit rates for maximum audio quality and smaller file sizes, aiming at an average of 256 kilobits per second (kbps)...Some of our content is encoded using a constant bit rate of 256 kbps." (

  12. Steve Roper

    Before everyone gets too excited...

    ...about finally winning the DRM revolution, let us not forget that this minor retreat covers music ONLY. You can bet that DRM, and the snake-oil salesmen who sell it, is alive and kicking on DVDs, software and games, and will be for a long time to come.

    Also, does anyone seriously believe that these companies have just dropped DRM and thrown their valuable music to the wolves just because of the rantings of a mass of two-bit bloggers? Come on.

    What they've done, more likely, is just made the DRM more subtle. Instead of copy-locking, there'll be digital fingerprinting and watermarking, which will work like this: You download a tune from your nice'n'legal paid service. This tune is secretly watermarked with your name and address (required to sign up and pay). You give a copy to your friend, secure in the belief that there's no DRM in it. Your friend, in turn, generously shares it with the world via Pirate Bay. An RIAA shill downloads the tune, reads off your name and address from the watermark, and... Music Sucker, meet Jammie Thomas.

    Don't delude yourselves. The only reason these companies are abandoning traditional DRM is because they've found a more insidious alternative. Watch this space for a million-fold increase in the rate of infringement prosecutions over the next twelve months.

  13. Tony Starks

    Disagree on sound quality of MP3's

    I've read numerous reviews of various compressed music formats. In blind tests with people listening to the music it is a rare - no very rare - person that can tell the difference between MP3's above 192kbps. We 50 year old types with a history of playing our music too loud can't tell the difference with anything past 128kbps.

    128kbps MP3's cost less off, download quicker, sound fine and will convert to CD audio if you feel the need to burn a CD.

    I think the majors are making (maybe too late) a good choice. I buy my music off of the controversial (but legal) site in Russia because I don't want any DRM issues. I might pay a little more from a non-controversial site if I could get it in standard MP3 format. What will really win me over though is a subscription model where there is no distinction between listening and recording - just like my cable TV. In my mind if I paid a monthly subscription and recorded it to my hard drive it's no different than recording a TV show to watch later. Later could be tomorrow or could be next year.


  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "there'll be digital fingerprinting and watermarking, which will work like this: You download a tune from your nice'n'legal paid service. This tune is secretly watermarked with your name and address"

    More likely the track will have a semi-anonymous number which represents the vendors transaction id. The number is anonymous except to the vendor of the track. If the copyright owner find a copy widely distributed on the internet, they could go to the vendor, obtain the details of who bought it and pursue that person for distributing your copy of the music.

    I happen to like this solution, I've been pushing it for years. It lets you do everything you want with the media, it even lets you distribute it widely on the net if you choose, but not without consequences. So you may have to defend against the consequences but that's just like anything else in the world.

    "You give a copy to your friend, secure in the belief that there's no DRM in it. Your friend, in turn, generously shares it with the world via Pirate Bay."

    Which is of course what the copyright holder wants to prevent! It's a fair balance I think between letting you do anything you want with the track EXCEPT wide distribution. If you're dumb enough to share it with Peter the Pirate, you'd better take the consequences.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's all about unit sales

    They were promised less piracy and hence more sales if they went the DRM route. But what they got was fewer sales, even though unrestricted MP3 were priced higher. So if DRM reduced piracy, why didn't they sell more?

    That's why all the DRM'd tracks are down the lower end of the Walmart charts, EVEN THE WALMART EXCLUSIVE tracks.

    So look at Sony's future, you (a musician) could sign with Sony and be DRM'd and have no chance of reaching the top of the charts, or you could sign with EMI, be in MP3 format and have a much better chance of reaching the top of the charts. Either Sony dropped the DRM or over time the musicians would drop them.

    Nobody, nobody, ever, takes on their customers and wins. I don't care how large you think your corporation is, if you do that you will die.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But what about the right to resell?

    You buy a CD from the shop, you can quite easily sell it on.

    When you buy your DRM free MP3 with it's fingerprint pointing to your transaction, kiss goodbye to any chance of selling it on in future.

    That's one reason I won't buy downloadable music.. I like to have tangible assets that might be worth something in future or that I can hand down to my kids.. or allow the tax man to seize as payment for my tax bill. Will they accept MP3's?

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Keep the receipt

    "When you buy your DRM free MP3 with it's fingerprint pointing to your transaction, kiss goodbye to any chance of selling it on in future."

    Is there a resale market in MP3s that AREN'T watermarked? No?

    If there was, keep the receipt when they ask you WTF your track is doing on Pirate Bay, explain you sold it to Jack the Pirate, of 245 Mateys Street, and give them the receipt.

    The watermark doesn't stop you doing anything, if you can justify it, you can do it.

  18. Tim Bates

    MP3? WTF is that?

    Here's everyone comparing and bitching about bitrates of MP3. I find that funny.

    If you really want your audio quality to remain, use FLAC or Ogg Vorbis. Bonus with these is that no giant corporation owning the rights to the codec. No one claims royalties just for the encoder.

    These are both becoming supported on network audio players for home, portable players and of course on full computers.

    Or if you must pay royalties for proprietary encoders and formats, there's always WMA-lossless. Supported by most WM9 (and up) capable players, and being lossless sounds just like the CD.

  19. TeeCee Gold badge
    Gates Horns


    If I were M$, I'd sue the RIAA / MPAA for using pseudo-legalistic FUD to make them delay / screw up Vista to build its DRM in, only to have the whole thing look like becoming moot before the first SP ships.

    Now *there's* a court case you'd want a ringside seat for....

  20. Anonymous Coward

    Watermarking won't work

    Anon: "I happen to like this solution, I've been pushing it for years."

    Easy to defeat with a "collusion attack". All you do is make two legitimate downloads, each of which will differ only by differences in the watermark, allowing you to locate it within the data. You then simply munge this data (averaging it will do) - after all, it will be designed to be "inaudible". You might only detect part of the watermark, but even trying to prove which of two downloads a pirated version came from makes the prosecution much more difficult. The more downloads you can analyse, the more chance you have of obliterating the watermark completely. You can even obtain each watermark by comparing one download with the averaged version of several others.

  21. Michael

    @But what about the right to resell?

    Bet there will be a lot of customers called "Mike Hunt " or "I.P Freely " then?

  22. michael


    I rember them trying this early on in the mp3 debate they gave some students 3 DIFFRENT files with DIFFRENT wata marks and they removed them with in a week the repor then pointed out that in a real senro they would have been hundre3ds of identacle files and identicle water marks so it was a no brainer

  23. Paul Crawford Silver badge

    Watermark is only part of the evidence

    Even if they find your track(s) on a P2P network, they still have to prove that you put them there. OK, in most cases that would be trivial (e.g. your IP address is found as the source, and/or they seize your computer and find the P2P set up, etc) but the release of such a file is not, in itself, enough.

    What if it your PC was not properly protected and so compromised by a virus that allowed others access to your files? What if you changed HDD and did not properly erase/wipe it?

    Yes, I know those are really DUMB things to allow considering what it could reveal about your personal life & bank accounts, but it still happens in lots of high and low places.

    What if you lost a USB stick or MP3 player with your collection on it?

    They need to actually bring a proper prosecution, although I suspect a lot of bully-like legal FUD would be used to convince you otherwise, and you would have to be able to provide a plausible denial that would convince both an expert witness and jury.

    A properly wiped and re-installed disk might cover most of your tracks if you have the time to react (i.e. not finding out when the police are at your door with a warrant), but evidence of P2P use from your ISP may be there, and you may need to come up with a very good reason for 'destroying evidence' in performing the wipe. Enough for you to stand up to under cross-examination?

  24. Dave

    What? They aren't being sold in AllOfMP3's architecture

    Then still not buying....waiting...


  25. Anonymous Coward

    Vinyl to MP3

    Yep, buying a USB turntable, getting out the old vinyl, converting them to MP3.

    Besides, there have been NO good bands since Zep and Floyd anyway!!

  26. kieran
    Thumb Up

    Ah, my days keeps getting better

    First Clarkson, then the death of HD DVD, now this. Major thanks to El Reg for making my day! :-D

    This is brilliant news. DRM was a REALLY stupid idea and I'm glad to see people are starting to see it.

    Personally a good way of doing things for me would be to be able to freely download 3 or 4 songs off an album and if you like them, then you buy the album. I realise that this kills the single market, but I think it would boost the album market and have a positive effect on the music market as a whole.

    Still, this is no doubt a good thing.

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