How a digital-only smartphone opens the door to DRM (and how to close the door)


#1

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/08/12/how-a-digital-only-smartphone.html


#2

I am an Apple customer. My wife and I have 27" macs and iPhones. I have a iPad pro (which I mainly use to read books).

I do not buy books from Apple, as I can’t break the DRM there. I won’t buy books nor music unless I can have it DRM free.

If Apple doesn’t let me access books and music that I have paid for without them being DRM protected - well then I will look back at when I enjoyed being an Apple customer.


#3

[quote=“doctorow, post:1, topic:83298”]Once all the audio coming out of an Iphone is digital – once there’s no analog output[/quote]…In the end, isn’t this fundamentally impossible?

ETA: For that matter, does anyone bother trying to circumvent music DRM via the “analog hole” these days? If I wanted to circumvent the DRM on a piece of music for some reason, I would just hit up the appropriate torrent site.


#4

A digital-only smartphone does not “open the door to DRM” any more than an analog only smartphone does.

In the first years, Apple’s music for the iPod (an analog-audio only device) was saddled with DRM.

Apple fought hard against the music companies, and finally won, allowing all music sold by Apple to be DRM-free!

Switching to digital only does not change this at all. Saying that it does is not only nonsense, it is also fear mongering (some people who don’t understand this will believe it just because it is written here).

The article also does not balance this straw-boggeyman with a list of the great real benefits of having a digital audio connection on a device. ::


#5

For me, that was 1985-2014. Good times! (Yes, even the Amelio years)


#6

I’ve heard this line of argument regarding the purported move to drop the headphone jack, and I don’t buy it.

Apple’s goal here is to simplify the device. Just as they were the first to abandon the floppy drive and optical media, they will be the first to do this, and while there will be a fair amount of histrionics and hand-wringing about money and conspiracies, it won’t be long before nobody will care.

Apple isn’t doing this so that they can make people use a dongle through the lightning port. They’re doing this because people who actually use their iPhones to listen to music do so wirelessly. I own some nice, expensive wired headphones, but 95% of the time that I’m listening to music, it’s either out in the open (Sonos) or over bluetooth headphones. Apple is a consumer products company, so it’s completely sensible for them to be building what makes sense for the majority of their consumers, and cutting out the cruft that holds value for only a shrinking minority. Bluetooth headphones are the future.

And, coincidentally, that’s where your new analog hole is. There are an embarrassing number of bluetooth to analog audio adapters out there, and given that you can plug one of those into any device that you otherwise could have plugged your iPhone’s headphone cable to, I don’t see the issue. Does a bluetooth receiver cost more than a cable? Sure. But not so much more that it’s an unreasonable expense for any iPhone user. Will the quality of the audio suffer if you pass it over bluetooth rather than directly over a cable? Probably, but if you really gave a crap about audio fidelity, you wouldn’t be listening to an mp3 or aac file anyway.


#7

Hm. DMCA came out in 1998. Then the iPod was introduced (2001?).

So why doesn’t this mean essentially that, in spite of the DMCA, music was able to be “revolutionized”?


#8

I’ll grant that there are folk who, with ideal equipment, can tell the difference—provided they have lots of experience listening to the same piece of music in different formats—but as a practical matter, the nadir of cassettes makes discussion about quality pretty irrelevant.

If it’s that pertinent, why appear in a discussion about portable music formats anyway? Isn’t live the only way to listen to music if you care about “fidelity”?


#9

Precisely. Anyone who is currently satisfied with the quality of the sound that is coming out of their portable devices (which, I would imagine, is most of us) is unlikely to detect a difference in sound quality by switching to Bluetooth. So any fidelity-based argument for keeping the analog audio jack on an iPhone is flawed from the start.


#10

At university I knew a few people who were very serious musicians - organ scholars and the like.
They would happily listen to quite defective vinyl LPs replayed over audio equipment that gave the equipment builders among us the shudders, because they knew what they were supposed to be hearing and their brains took over.

Since then I have never believed in audiophiles, because they describe reproduced music with terminology which is scientifically impossible and resist any real double blind tests.

The argument here is purely about Apple reducing the ways in which nontechnical people can record and replay music, in the interests of DRM. The cost of a jack is minimal. Sony have shown it can be made waterproof. The device needs to have an analog output anyway to drive the earphone or the speaker. So it’s pretty obvious that this is simply an anti-end-user measure.


#11

I’m an Apple ecosystem user in large part because I have real servers to manage during the day and would rather my crap just work together at night. I already use bluetooth noise-cancelling headphones because pretty much the only time I use headphones at all is when I’m either in a noisy place and making a call, or travelling via a mode of transport noisy enough to need it, and I don’t want a wire dangling around while I do so.

“ripped” music today is all digital, AFAIK. also IMHO, unless we’re planning to ban standard speaker tech that last analog hole, where sound comes out, will always be there for recording. So there’s a long way to go before we’re truly without accessible analog audio, methinks.

In addition, while Apple is the favourite DRM boogeyman, as Cory says, they added DRM because it was forced on them. This was at a time when there were only a few digital sales out there to begin with and Apple wasn’t in a strong negotiating position. There’s no business case today, AFAIAA, where the record labels could say “DRM the audio jack or we won’t license songs to you”. I mean, how much clout does Apple have in the music distro business today? And more importantly, how do you close the holes where, say, apple music works on Android devices that wouldn’t have these restrictions anyway? There’d be no point.

DRM is a horrible idea and we have lots of past, unplayable content from providers (and likely future unplayable content) as proof of this. It needs to go away. But I’m sorry, the music industry isn’t going to be able to close the analog hole no matter if the port gets DRM or not - there are too many other avenues for content, and then on top of that, the final analog step that would be near-insurmountable to block.


#12

Maybe someone can help me understand this. No matter the type of connector, your headphones require an analog signal to operate (AFAIK). So even if each phone had its own DAC, there is still an analog signal that can be sent to any recording device. I’m I off base here?


#13

Two reasons: One, the DMCA (basically) only applies to formats that have some sort of encryption (even trivial encryption) and CDs don’t have any. Two, CDs had been designed before the DMCA and were still the dominant form of music distribution when the iPod came out.


#14

Not once they finish the iBrain neural interface.


#15

oCrap.


#16

Maybe they plan to stream the mp3 to the headphones and put the dac inside them.


#17

A digital-only smartphone does not “open the door to DRM” any more than an analog only smartphone does.

In the first years, Apple’s music for the iPod (an analog-audio only device) was saddled with DRM.

Apple fought hard against the music companies, and finally won, allowing all music sold by Apple to be DRM-free!

Switching to digital only does not change this at all. Saying that it does is not only nonsense, it is also fear mongering (some people who don’t understand this will believe it just because it is written here).

The article also does not balance this straw-boggeyman with a list of the great real benefits of having a digital audio connection on a device. ::


#18

It’s funny how I can predict who is writing articles just by looking at the titles at this point.

#JustRegularThings


#19

Do they sell lossless yet (like Bleep have been doing for a decade)? If not I’m going to stay with my luddite tendencies and continue to buy CDs whenever possible.


#20