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Compatibility Police

Indexfrontside20060607_3Evidently, French lawmakers weren't the only ones worried about DRM incompatibility in the nascent online-music world. Several Web news and comment sites, including Engadget and EE Times, are reporting that government officials in Norway are pressuring Apple and other online music retailers to enable customers to play the songs they buy on any portable music player. Sweden and Denmark are also following suit, or are expected to.

As much as I hate the compatibility problem posed by the Apple-Microsoft-Sony-RealNetworks standoff, I still think the best approach is to make sure consumers know the limits on what they buy and then let the market drive the solution. Why shouldn’t Apple use its music store to help drive sales of its hardware? If you don’t like their DRM, try Napster (which uses Microsoft’s) with one of the many Napster-compatible players. And if you don’t like DRM, period, buy the CD (assuming it’s not copy protected) or switch to artists, labels, stores or services that sell music in MP3 format.

Besides, there’s a simple compatibility solution: people can burn the tracks they buy onto CD, then re-rip into high-bit-rate MP3s. Sure, it’s a hassle, but music fans should be backing up their purchases anyway – I mean really, which is likely to die first, your computer’s hard drive or your love of Calexico?

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Times editorial writer Jon Healey pens opinion pieces about a variety of business issues, and blogs about technologies that are changing the entertainment industry's business model.

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