Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs has urged record companies to abolish digital rights management technology, meant to stop people from duplicating music or video and burning it to disc or uploading it to the internet.


Steve Jobs, shown displaying the iPhone in January, has called for music companies to end digital rights management technology that limits the uses of downloaded music. ((Paul Sakuma/Associated Press) )

Jobs made the call as Apple's iTunes store faces pressure from European consumer groups because DRM technology on songs purchased and downloaded from the site will only play on Apple's iPod and not rival players. Regulators in Norway recently deemed the practice illegal and gave Apple until September to change its policies.

But Jobs defended his company in an open letter published Tuesday, saying it is the large music companies — Universal, Sony BMG, Warner and EMI — that decide what rights protection is contained on downloadable music.

"[Abolishing DRM] is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat," Jobs said in the letter, entitled "Thoughts on Music."

"If the big four music companies would license Apple their music without the requirement that it be protected with a DRM, we would switch to selling only DRM-free music on our iTunes store."

DRM technology has been controversial because many people feel it limits what they can do with legally purchased files.

Jobs said he also thinks it's an ineffective tool, arguing music companies have to realize "DRMs haven’t worked, and may never work, to halt music piracy."

The Apple CEO's criticisms are similar to statements that Microsoft founder Bill Gates made to a group of bloggers in December. Gates admitted no one was satisfied with the current state of DRM.

He also advised consumers their best option was often to "buy a CD and rip it." But Gates defended the idea behind DRM, saying incentive systems make a difference.