Leave it to Steve Jobs to go from controversy to PR coup in a matter of words—1,800 of them, to be exact. That's how many it took for the Apple chief executive to issue a dramatic about-face that could recast Apple's role in the long-standing debate over copyright protection software. His company is under increasing pressure from governments in Europe and consumers around the world to loosen restrictions on music downloaded from the iTunes music store and what songs can be played on the iPod.
In a carefully worded statement, Jobs took the onus for lifting those restrictions off his company and put it squarely on the music industry. At issue is the so-called FairPlay software that prevents iTunes songs from being played on non-iPod music players and keeps music purchased at other services from being played on the iPod. Apple embedded FairPlay into iPods and iTunes at the behest of the music labels, and now Jobs is calling on those companies to stop requiring digital music distributors like iTunes to use copyright protection technology. In the final paragraph of the essay, "Thoughts On Music," posted to Apple's Web site on Feb. 6, Jobs said that convincing music labels, like Viviendi-Universal (V), Britain's EMI and Sony-BMG (SNE) to allow their music to be sold online without digital rights management (DRM) technology would "create a truly interoperable music marketplace"—one that Apple would embrace "wholeheartedly."