Apple, the tyrant of online content?

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I'm beginning to understand how people with MP3 players that cannot play Apple's FairPlay-protected music files feel, but from a different angle.

In my previous article Hope for a better Asian film/television industry, I stated that we need online stores from which to buy and download Asian-made television and movie content, all without virtual geographic boundaries and all without prejudice or bias to the producers of that content. Only then would the real market emerge, enabling countless talented people in Hong Kong and Asia to do their stuff and create excellent content for the world to enjoy. Two other conditions though were protection of the content to prevent casual piracy and iPod compatibility. The answer to these two conditions was obviously Apple's FairPlay.

The problem? Apple doesn't license FairPlay to anyone else to use although there were suggestions at one stage that companies like Amazon could resell content from Apple's iTunes store via a special arrangement. The result? Only one company, Apple, holds the power to allow independent film and video producers to sell their work online. Apple has the power to decide who can sell and who can't sell their content. They also have the power to decide which content can be sold where. In other words, they have (or soon will) effectively become the largest controller of music and video content in the world.

We could ask someone else to build another content protection system but it would be difficult and time consuming to build something with all the functionality that the iTunes store has; accounts, monthly 'allowances', coupons; and much of that functionality is probably patented by Apple or some other large corporation so that we wouldn't be permitted to duplicate it anyway.

In other words, unless Apple opens an iTunes store in Asia, unless Apple allows independent television and movie content producers to sell their wares through the iTunes store, unless Apple allows the same content to be accessible worldwide, then we; the entertainment talent in Asia; are up the creek without a paddle.

Again, I'm beginning to understand how the non-iPod MP3 player people feel. For me though, the problem is one of not being able to sell the product rather than not being able to play and enjoy the product. If things continue the way they are now, Apple will soon have complete worldwide control of online audio and video content sales regardless of how hard Microsoft and Real work to prevent this scenario. As much as I like Apple, allowing them or any other single entity to have absolute control would not be a good thing.

Perhaps what we really need is an open-source content protection system so that anybody with the desire can set up their own online video content store, selling to anybody regardless of the operating system on their device.

Any takers?