As is his wont, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer put his foot in his mouth when he accused iPod owners of being thieves. Actually, the journalists’ reports are not entirely accurate – while he used the iPod as an example, what he was really implying is that any music format that is not encumbered with mandatory digital rights management (DRM) restrictions induces “theft”.
Copyright infringement is certainly illegal, and should remain so, but merely repeating the mantra that copyright infringement is tantamount to theft does not make it so. This is beyond the point. Many stores have to deal with shoplifting, which is indeed theft. What if a store you were in accused you of shoplifting and performed a strip search? You would feel humiliated and enraged, certainly stop patronizing them and almost certainly sue them for false imprisonment. DRM is no different.
There is no acceptable form of digital rights management, period. And yes, that includes the iTunes Music Store’s AAC/Fairplay.