As rumors swirl that Apple is gearing up for another musical push — likely streaming — we’re left to examine the clues to see what might be coming. Their Beats acquisition was obviously a big deal, and their recent purchase of a music analytics firm suggests Apple is getting ready to feed info to the music industry. Now there is news of a patent, recently awarded to Apple, that would allow users to share music with one another without fear of running into issues with ownership and piracy.
The patent deals directly with file sharing of media, and addresses sharing content protected under digital rights management (DRM). It’s DRM that provides record labels and artists with a leg to stand on when going after music pirates, or otherwise claiming ownership of a digital media file.
Here is the header language from the patent:
Systems and methods for enabling a user to obtain rights in a legitimate copy of a digital content unit without downloading the copy from a digital content store are provided. The systems and methods provide an encrypted copy of a digital content unit to a first user and transcript the encrypted copy to generate the legitimate copy to a second user. The encrypted copy is encrypted with a first encrypt key that may be associated with the first user and the legitimate copy is encrypted with a second encrypt key that may be associated with the second user.
Let’s extrapolate this one a bit.
Apple is describing a method for transfer of music that you did not download (so, streaming), and then transferring it to a second user. In that transfer, the file is encrypted, and would require a key to be decrypted by the second user (meaning both would have to be customers of the streaming service).
If we look forward to a streaming service from Apple, what we see here is akin to Apple Pay for music. In a scenario where two people had this streaming service, the first user could sent the file to another user, which would be qualified via Apple servers to access the track. That could be done via several means, but NFC and AirDrop immediately come to mind.
Unfortunately, Apple’s use of NFC is payment-processing only, so we’re either left with link sharing or AirDrop.
Apple’s stated goal is to encourage legal sharing. In the patent language, Apple states “such sharing may, in turn, reduce piracy or illegal copying since the opportunity cost of having one or more rights in an authorized copy of the digital content unit may be reduced.”
This could find itself as a feature in an Apple streaming music service, and would likely serve Apple well when negotiating for licensing fees from record labels. It provides a nice package deal when coupled with Apple’s music tracking acquisition, wherein they could report to record labels how often a track is played, shared, as well as the macro demographics and geography of those who are accessing the file. The patent also gets Apple past the ‘fear of piracy’ pushback they’re likely having on Hollywood and Vine.
But we need that Apple/Beats/iTunes streaming service first.