3GSM - After Jobs criticism, Warner exec defends DRM

Warner Music Group's CEO encouraged interoperability in the digital music industry.

The head of Warner Music Group defended the use of DRM (digital rights management) with digital music on Wednesday in an apparent response to recent criticism from Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

Jobs roiled the music industry last week by suggesting in a letter published on Apple's Web site that the music labels are to blame for the fact that music from Apple's iTunes music store can only be played on Apple's iPod music players -- something Apple has been criticized for.

"DRM and interoperability are not the same thing," Edgar Bronfman Jr., chairman and CEO of Warner Music Group, said in a speech at the 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona on Wednesday.

"We believe in interoperability," he said. "Consumers want it and should have it. We at Warner, and I hope the rest of the music and content industry, will make it as easy as possible to achieve interoperability."

Jobs said last week that Apple uses a proprietary DRM system because the music industry requires it to fix any failures in the technology in a short amount of time. If Apple shared its DRM technology it would not be able to meet that requirement, he said.

Bronfman did not mention Jobs or Apple by name but his remarks appeared to be in response to the criticism.

Apple has come under fire, particularly in Europe, for its DRM technology, which ties its music stores to its players. Apple isn't alone, however. Microsoft and Sony also operate digital music stores that require customers to play the music only on their own music players.

iTunes is the biggest digital music store, however, and the second largest, eMusic.com, only sells music that has no DRM.

Jobs also wrote that he would prefer to sell music without any DRM protection.

That's a concept Bronfman doesn't think is up for discussion.

"I don't agree that intellectual property should have no protection. We should all agree that intellectual property deserves some measure of protection," he said. "But that is distinct from the issue around interoperability."

Today's music protection environment isn't ideal, Bronfman admitted.

"There can't be so much protection that we create a poor consumer experience. We need to work to find perhaps a better balance than works today."

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Nancy Gohring

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