Eddy Cue on DRM: It was Necessary to Swing Record Label Deals

Apple didn't want copy protection on music, but was forced into it to swing deals with record labels. That's the official word from Apple's senior vice president of Internet Software and Services during his testimony at a class action lawsuit over the iPod's closed ecosystem.

Apple confirms iTunes music DRM was an unwelcome record label requirementApple confirms iTunes music DRM was an unwelcome record label requirement

That requirement from record labels led to Apple's decision to develop its own DRM scheme that it ultimately chose to keep to itself over technical concerns. "We thought about licensing the DRM from beginning, it was one of the things we thought was the right move that because we can expand the market and grow faster," Mr. Cue said, according to The Verge. "But we couldn't find a way to do that and have it work reliably."

He added that companies like Microsoft tried to do just that, but failed. The big problem was finding ways for the copy protection system to work reliably across a wide range of portable media players from multiple companies.

Apple is in court to defend itself in a class action antitrust lawsuit alleging the company intentionally blocked competitors from putting their music on iPods to lock them out of the market. The company did take measures to keep music from competitors like Rhapsody off the iPod, but Apple executives testified that was necessary to block hackers from working around built-in security measures.

Mr. Cue said,

If a hack happened, we had to remedy the hack within a certain time period. We had a time to fix the problem, or they could take all their music off the store ... we'd have to drop whatever we were doing and go work on those [hacks].

That requirement to patch hacks quickly led to another complaint in the case: Apple intentionally deleted music from other services from customer's iPods.

The lawsuit dates back to 2005 when some music services tried to hack Apple's FairPlay DRM so they could load songs onto the iPod. Apple continually released updates patching the hacks companies used, and some iPod owners complained that Apple was using its market control to artificially block competition.

Apple eventually convinced record labels to let it drop copy protection from songs, and updated the music customers already purchased.

After all these years, the case has finally found its way into the court room, but it may all be for naught. Apple claimed yesterday that there may not be a plaintiff because no one named in the case bought an iPod during the time frame noted in the filings. If the plaintiffs can't prove they did buy an iPod during that window, the trial may be dead in the water.

Apple, of course, is hoping this brings an end to the trial. The attorneys representing the plaintiffs are working hard to find a way to prove they did own iPods during the case's specified time frame, or hoping they can convince the court to let them bring in new plaintiffs.