Apple's Jobs Wants Open Music Market

The company's CEO says record labels should drop antipiracy software.
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Mounting pressure on

Apple

(AAPL) - Get Report

to open up its proprietary online music store to competition has prompted CEO Steve Jobs to declare that the major music labels should be encouraged to sell their wares without a copy protection scheme.

Jobs posted a three-page "Thoughts on Music" essay on Tuesday on the Apple company homepage that says an open music retail system is "clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat."

"If the big four music companies

Vivendi's

Universal,

Sony

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BMG,

Warner Music Group

(WMG) - Get Report

and

EMI

would license Apple their music without the requirement that it be protected with a DRM

digital rights management we would switch to selling only DRM-free music on our iTunes store," he wrote. "Every iPod ever made will play this DRM-free music."

Several European countries have voiced their opposition to Apple's closed system linking songs from the iTunes Music Store with iPods, a digital rights management system called FairPlay. Some countries have said that they will take legal action against the company if it does not unlock its DRM.

If every online store could sell DRM-free music, any music player would be able to play songs purchased from any store. Likewise, stores could sell music that could play on any portable player.

Jobs wrote that the music companies should agree to selling music without copy protection because "DRMs haven't worked, and may never work, to halt music piracy."

He noted that the music industry already sells music without DRM on CDs. Fewer than 2 billion DRM-protected songs were sold in 2006 in online shops, while more than 20 billion songs were sold without DRM on CD by the music labels last year.

"If the music companies are selling over 90% of their music DRM-free, what benefits do they get from selling the remaining small percentage of their music encumbered with a DRM system?" Jobs wrote. "There appear to be none."

It's not as if Jobs is concerned that DRM is slowing sales of its ubiquitous iPod music player. iPod sales dwarf the competition at 72% of the market, according to NPD Group, with its nearest competitior,

SanDisk

(SNDK)

, at 11% share.

He urged those unhappy with the current system to direct their energies toward the music labels, not Apple.

Apple shares closed up 21 cents Tuesday to to $84.15.