Goodbye DRM! Hello Joe The Correspondent?

I wanted to write a brief entry this week on two unrelated news stories that caught my attention. The first has been covered extensively over the last few days – Apple’s new release of iTunes will remove DRM, or Digital Rights Management, a technology that prevents users from copying or sharing music they have legally purchased. I’ve run head-first into DRM a few times, including a span of several months five or six years ago when I bought (and returned) several CDs that would not work in the CD player in my Jeep because of DRM. I understand the perceived business need for DRM within the music business, but have never been a proponent. I can see both sides, but I tend to be pragmatic and pro-consumer on these things. Here’s a clip from the promotion page on Apple.com:

High-quality, DRM-free music. iTunes Plus is the new standard on iTunes.
Now, you can choose from millions of iTunes Plus songs from all four major music labels and thousands of independents. With iTunes Plus, you get high-quality, 256-Kbps AAC encoding. All free of burn limits and digital rights management (DRM).

There are a couple of caveats to this story, which make it more than just an great step forward, including the fact that customers that purchased DRM-protected music will have to pay to upgrade those tracks to the DRM-free version. If I had gone down that road and bought protected music (I didn’t), I would upgrade without hesitation. I also see this update as a clever way for Apple and the music industry to generate some additional revenue in a down economy. Everyone wins.
The second story is a bit baffling to me, both because it’s happening and also because it’s actually receiving national coverage. If you haven’t heard yet, Samuel J. Wurzelbacher (a.k.a. Joe The Plumber) has signed up to become a war correspondent for a small, conservative online news site. According to the Gaza Update page on the Pajamas TV website, “Pajamas TV reports from the US and from Israel on the conflict, Israeli politics, the impact on Israelis, and on media bias.” And Mr. Wurzelbacher has joined that reporting. He told Toledo’s WNWO-TV that he wants to let Israel’s “‘Average Joes’ share their story.” I suspect we’ll quickly find out if he’s got the skill to be an actual reporter, or if he’s riding the last few seconds of his 15 minutes of fame (which he snagged with one well-timed question). No one wins.