Stolen music, Mr. Ballmer? Or sour grapes?

Three years ago, I was enraged to hear Steve Ballmer, the not-quite-statesmanlike CEO of Microsoft, call open source a “cancer.” Tarring a development practice that’s resulted in some really good software—as well as the viral license of the GPL—with a very broad brush when Microsoft was trying to win the hearts and minds of developers to a new development platform struck me as foolish at best and stupid at worst. I was reminded of the comments, which Microsoft has since backed down from, when I read today’s “iPod-users-are-pirates” comment:

We’ve had DRM in Windows for years. The most common format of music on an iPod is “stolen”…

My 12-year-old at home doesn’t want to hear that he can’t put all the music that he wants in all of the places that he would like it.

Steve, where I come from, we call a statement like that condescending, inflammatory, and probably libelous—in short, fighting words. Speaking as an iPod owner who carries around 10 GB of both licensed music and tracks ripped from my own CDs, I also feel that much less inclined to investigate Microsoft’s digital music offerings if that’s what you think of music customers.

As I recall, the Sony decision pretty much set the precedent that, once you pay for media in one format, you have the right to shift it in the form of a recording for personal use. So someone might want to let Steve’s 12-year-old that he does have the right to put his music where he’d like it, as long as (a) he didn’t steal the music file in the first place, and (b) he isn’t distributing it widely to other individuals.

And Steve, we have a word for your whine about having DRM on Windows for years. It’s called “ignoring market reality.” Windows Media isn’t stagnating while the iPod takes off because customers are thieves. If anything, it’s stagnating because the DRM in Windows Media starts with the proposition that customers are thieves.

(Via BoingBoing.)