20 November 2005

Sony DRM Disaster - and the Mac

If you're reading this, it's highly unlikely that you don't already know about Sony's DRM disaster, so I won't go into the details.

Sony's FAQ, though, is just too weird to pass over in silence. Leaving aside that it's written in a language which only approximately resembles English, and that it appears not to have been proofread in any language, it's got all sorts of amusing stuff in it. I recommend you snuggle up with a glass of your favorite recreational beverage and browse through it. As Lewis Black would say, you've got to experience it in person, because there's no drug which will duplicate the experience.

My favorite part is this little gem:

3. How can I get tracks I rip from my CD into iTunes and/or onto my iPod?

Apple's proprietary technology doesn't support secure music formats other than their own and therefore the music on this disc can't be directly imported into iTunes or iPods.

Sony BMG wants music to be easily transferable to any device that supports secure music. Currently, music from our protected CDs may be transferred to hundreds of such devices, as both Microsoft and Sony have assisted to make the user experience on our discs as seamless as possible with their secure formats.

Unfortunately, in order to directly and smoothly rip content into iTunes it requires the assistance of Apple. To date, Apple has not been willing to cooperate with our protection vendors to make ripping to iTunes and to the iPod a simple experience.

If you believe that you should be able to easily move tracks from your protected CD to your iPod then we encourage you to use the following link to contact Apple directly and tell them so. http://www.apple.com/feedback/ipod.html

That said, while there is no direct support on the disc for iTunes or iPod, SONY BMG has worked out an indirect way for consumers to move content into these environments, despite the challenges noted above. If you'd like more information on how to move content to iTunes please CLICK HERE.

One of the many things that's funny about this text ("secure music"?) is that nothing in it bears any resemblance to reality! It happens that I have one of the XCP-infested discs: Cyndi Lauper's "the body acoustic". I bought it the other day before I knew about the DRM problem, but I hadn't listened to it until tonight when I noticed that it was on Sony's XCP list.

After I read the Sony FAQ, I figured I'd just take a shot at "directly and smoothly ripping the content into iTunes". I used my usual solution for this:

It worked perfectly. None of the distorted audio the FAQ warns about, no warning messages, no attempts to install the Mac version of Sony's DRM on my machine, no prompting for admin passwords, no incompatibility - just the usual Mac iTunes import process, with the usual successful result.

In fact, Sony knows this. They even admit it in the FAQ:

1. I have an Apple Macintosh computer. Will the disc work on my MAC?

Yes. This disc will behave like a traditional CD in a Mac.

Did you catch that? The disc will behave like a traditional CD (i.e. it will work!) in a Mac. It's only on a Windows machine that the CD becomes "non-traditional" - and stops working!

Let's translate that: It's Sony's proprietary technology - not Apple's - which makes the CD misbehave on PCs. Sony hasn't gotten around to making its CDs break iTunes on the Mac yet, presumably because Apple's market share is smaller than Microsoft's.

I think this is in fact the key to the success of iTunes and the iPod. Apple designed their system to make it easy to copy and play music; Sony designed theirs to make it hard - unless you play the game their way.

The CD is great, by the way. Too bad for Cyndi it will be off the market for at least part of the critical Christmas buying season (I'm sure Sony feels terrible about this, because, you know, DRM is all about protecting the artists and their revenue). But it's on my iPod, and I'm keeping the XCP-protected version of the CD, too. Who knows, it might be worth something some day...


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