Steve Jobs has called to music labels to license their music out free of Digital Rights Management (DRM) to Apple iTunes and other legal download services, following a ruling by the European Commission that states the current system is unfair.

Europe could abolish DRM

In an open letter, Jobs said that instead of attacking Apple for the use of DRM on songs, people should direct their complaints towards the big music companies that enforce them – but that it would embrace the abolishment of the system ‘in a heartbeat’.

The announcement seems to be in response to European discontent with the system, where countries such as France have already approved laws that would force Apple to share its technology.

"Apple can see that the legislative tide is turning in Europe," said Mark Mulligan, an analyst at Jupiter Research. "Come the summer Apple could find itself in the untenable situation of ticking off an increasing number of markets where it could no longer sell digital music. Jobs et al have taken a strategic decision that now is the time that they can do better without DRM than with."

Many independent record labels are calling for a system which does not get rid of DRMs, but instead integrates download services together. However Jobs thinks it is a bad idea to license Fairplay, Apple’s proprietary DRM system used for songs sold on iTunes, to others firms – mainly because of the leaks that would occur as a result of sharing the technology.

“The most serious problem is that licensing a DRM involves disclosing some of its secrets to many people in many companies, and history tells us that inevitably these secrets will leak,” said Jobs in his company wide letter.

“The Internet has made such leaks far more damaging, since a single leak can be spread worldwide in less than a minute. Such leaks can rapidly result in software programs available as free downloads on the internet which will disable the DRM protection so that formerly protected songs can be played on unauthorized players.

Whether the future music download market will be DRM free or will become a more interoperable service, the growing dissatisfaction with the current system is looks set to enforce some change. With two and a half of the largest record labels based in Europe, new laws passed there could be the first step to that change.

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