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Warner hits Apple proposal

Chief says halting rights protections lacks 'logic, merit'

SAN FRANCISCO -- Warner Music Group Corp., the world's fourth-largest record firm, said a plea by Apple Inc. chief executive Steve Jobs to let songs be sold on the Web without copy protection software lacks "logic or merit."

Warner Music chief executive Edgar Bronfman said Jobs's proposal that firms drop digital rights management coding on songs sold online would leave music vulnerable to piracy. He disputed Jobs's claim that so-called DRM software prevents consumers from playing music purchased from rival services on different devices.

"We advocate the continued use of DRM in the protection of our and our artists' intellectual property," Bronfman said on a conference call yesterday. "The issue is obscured by asserting that DRM and interoperability is the same thing. They are not. To suggest that they cannot co exist is simply incorrect."

Warner Music, Universal Music Group, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, and EMI Group PLC required Apple to add rights management software as a condition of selling their music on iTunes, the most popular legal site for music downloads, Jobs said in a letter posted on Apple's website two days ago.

Without the program, iTunes users could play songs purchased online on a range of digital devices, rather than just on Apple's best-selling iPod player, Jobs said.

Bronfman's comments come a day after the Recording Industry Association of America said Jobs should open Apple's FairPlay rights management software to rival online sites.

While Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple could license FairPlay to rivals for a small fee, Jobs wrote that distribution of the software might lead to leaks about how it works, thereby rendering the copy protection technique useless.

Warner Music, Universal Music, Sony BMG, and EMI together control rights to more than 70 percent of the world's music, according to Jobs.

The four should drop the rights management rule on online music since they don't require similar copy protection on music sold on compact discs, Jobs said.