Record industry executives and lawyers in Los Angeles for the Grammy Awards responded with skepticism to the call by Steve Jobs, Apple Computer CEO, to get rid of digital rights management (DRM) for music.

While talking about online services during a keynote address to entertainment lawyers at the Grammy Foundation's Entertainment Law Initiative luncheon on Friday (Feb. 9), Universal Music Group president/COO Zach Horowitz brought up Jobs' open letter. Horowitz said he would be remiss in not making a comment about the recent proposal "by the owner of one such store who has his own ideas about how the record companies can sell more music online."

It's debatable whether the best way to sell more music is to eliminate all DRM, Horowitz said, or to allow full interoperability, the latter seemingly a reference to Apple's refusal to provide necessary information to other technology companies so that they can develop their services to work with Apple's iPod or their devices to work with iTunes.

"But I'd suggest a healthy degree of skepticism, and suspicion about motive, when a company with over a 75% market share in this area -- and an overwhelming desire to keep that dominant position -- suddenly is pushing a solution that it says will have the effect of driving more sales to its competitors," Horowitz said. "Because there just may be some other agenda behind the proposed solution."

Horowitz didn't elaborate on what that agenda may be, but another industry executive, who asked that his name be withheld, spelled out to four reasons for Jobs to call for an end to DRM:

- DRM is essential for subscription services, which compete with Apple's online downloads. Calling for an end to DRM could be harmful to those services. And if subscription services then insisted on keeping DRM, they would appear to be the bad guys trying to disrupt a steady flow of digital music to consumers;

- Since iPods work with MP3 files, eliminating DRM on all music would ensure that DRM isn't used with any other services that could compete with Apple. Music on all services would then work with Apple's iPods, increasing sales of the devices;

- Ending use of DRM would make the iPod compatible with other services that use MP3 files. This could get European regulators to stop questioning Apple's lack of interoperability with other services and devices; and

- The open letter may make Apple appear as the consumer-friendly company even though it won't provide other companies with the necessary information to make their services or devices compatible with iTunes or the iPod.

Several industry lawyers said they were concerned about the effect DRM-free digital music would have on sales. They believed it would increase piracy, although they couldn't point to any specific evidence to prove or disprove their belief.