John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

"Comes With Music," DRM & Sony BMG

Sony BMG (SNE) has signed on to Nokia’s (NOK) new “Comes With Music” program and really, who better than the pioneer of the rootkit digital-rights management scheme to endorse Nokia’s DRM-hobbled prebundled music initiative?

This morning, Sony BMG became the second record label to jump on board the Finnish phone giant’s Comes With Music offering, which–when it launches in the second half of 2008, will package mobile phones with a year of unlimited access to music. There are, however, certain caveats to that value proposition, as I pointed out last December:

Though Comes With Music does indeed permit owners of certain Nokia cellphones to download as many songs as humanly possible in one year (with no per-song data charges), transfer them to a PC and keep them at the end of that time, they must pay a per-song usage fee to burn them to CD. What’s more, the songs are wrapped in Microsoft’s (MSFT) ironically named ‘Plays for Sure’ digital-rights management scheme, which prevents them from being played on the iPod, Zune, etc. Finally, another 12 months access to the music catalog requires the purchase of a brand new phone.”

Clearly, Sony, like Universal (VIV.PA) before it, doesn’t see these issues as off-putting to consumers. “When you give consumers the key to the candy store without any limitations, there’s a lot more opportunity for discovering music that you might not have found before,” said Thomas Hesse, president of global digital business and U.S. sales for Sony BMG Music Entertainment. “We think this will energize the discovery of music.”

It might energize Sony BMG’s bottom line a bit as well. When Universal first signed up for Comes with Music, sources close to the company said that Nokia would pay the label up to $35 for every phone that offers access to its library. Nokia subsequently denied it was paying that amount, but it’s definitely paying something–to Universal, Sony and whatever other labels it manages to line up for the service.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik