iTunes Plus: Minus DRM, But Plus Price And Tracking Info

from the we-don't-really-trust-you-that-much dept

As was announced last month, Apple finally has started selling some EMI tunes through iTunes without DRM, but with an additional $0.30 in the price. Apparently there are some glitches, but perhaps that's not too surprising. A more interesting point, however, was submitted by John, who notes that while the DRM is gone, in its place is metadata about who bought the song. In other words, should you take a non-DRM'd file bought at iTunes and pass it on to someone else or put it on a file sharing network, it would be possible for someone to track you down (though, there would be no evidence that you purposely distributed the file). It's basically a poor-man's DRM, like watermarking technology, that is designed to scare you off from sharing the music. Not too surprising, really, but continues to show how the industry is confused about the promotional value of its own music.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Nasty Old Geezer, May 31st, 2007 @ 8:44am

    So what?

    As long as it plays anywhere and does not phone home, who cares? You laptop has LOTS more ways of being identified.

     

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  2.  
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    Team Tutorials, May 31st, 2007 @ 8:53am

    This is what DRM should have been.

    We should have the right to use the music how ever we want. Not the right to give it away for free. This is a great answer.

     

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  3.  
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    Starky, May 31st, 2007 @ 9:20am

    Re: This is what DRM should have been.

    Agreed. This doesn't stop you from using your music how you want, and it helps identify the people who the RIAA SHOULD sue. This actually could discourage the RIAA from suing random people, because they could see who actually paid for the song.
    Of course, that makes way too much sense for them to try.

     

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  4.  
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    Walking Dude, May 31st, 2007 @ 9:27am

    Sometimes this site really stretches for controver

    Every song purchased from iTunes has this "meta data" attached to it. Right click and choose get info and there it is. The Hymn project left it in by default, too. This isn't suppose to free you to distribute this content for free - it frees you to use the files in anyway you choose, which is what all these anti-DRM folks say they want (and are now complaining about this ... hmmm).

     

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  5.  
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    Brizzle, May 31st, 2007 @ 9:28am

    Once the file is purchased for personal use it isn't for promoting the music by giving everyone a copy. Promotion is supposed to be getting excitement generated about a product, not giving the product away.

     

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  6.  
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    OKVol, May 31st, 2007 @ 9:38am

    Doesn't a way exist...

    Can't you modify this data in the file, and make it look like it came from Bill Gates or George W. Bush?

     

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  7.  
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    Kap, May 31st, 2007 @ 9:42am

    Mike I think your confused here more then the industry. I didnt buy my music to promote it songs and they arent selling it to me to share to others. My name appearing in the meta info is great maybe thats just enough of a hassle (as small as it is) to discourage people from illegally sharing their music.

     

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  8.  
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    Kap, May 31st, 2007 @ 9:42am

    Mike I think your confused here more then the industry. I didnt buy my music to promote it songs and they arent selling it to me to share to others. My name appearing in the meta info is great maybe thats just enough of a hassle (as small as it is) to discourage people from illegally sharing their music.

     

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  9.  
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    Steve, May 31st, 2007 @ 9:47am

    not a big deal

    It's not surprising, really, that they left it in there. The multimedia container format is designed to hold lots of metadata in there, such as genre, author, copyright, year, etc.

    I don't think there was anything nefarious behind the decision. Besides, it's trivial to modify.

     

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  10.  
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    Tyler Hellard, May 31st, 2007 @ 9:48am

    Strip it

    I converted the 256 m4a files to 256 (VBR) mp3s using iTunes, mostly out of curiousity. No noticeable change in the audio quality, and it seems to have stripped the tag as well. Not that I support file sharing, just thought it was interesting how easy it was to get rid of.

     

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  11.  
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    Starky, May 31st, 2007 @ 9:56am

    Good thing

    I think that this is actually a good thing. I mean, it doesn't stop you from doing what you want with your music, it just means that if you do spread it around, the company knows who it was that sent it, and can decide whether or not to go after them.
    It also can work to the advantage of file-sharers, because they can show how many times the song was uploaded by them, and how far it was spread. The RIAA wouldn't be able to say that there was millions of dollars of damage caused if there was only 5 people who downloaded it. Also, they couldn't go after random people anymore for uploading, because they could see who it was that shared it.

     

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  12.  
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    just some guy, May 31st, 2007 @ 9:57am

    So?

    It is easily altered if it's a huge concern for some reason, but I don't see the problem.

    It might be enough to alter the file hash so my copy of Justin Timberlake's latest craptastrophe and your copy don't appear to be the same file on a P2P network, but then if I already bought it, why do I care about it's P2P compatibility?

     

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  13.  
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    Trey, May 31st, 2007 @ 10:01am

    Re: It isn't?

    Actually, sometimes, thats exactly what promotion is. Give product away to one customer, so another buys it. Or giving one part of the product away, so the customer buys the other part. Or giving a lower quality version of the product to the customer, so the customer pays to upgrade it. All these methods are use in other buisnesses and other media, why not music? The reason file sharing and such is so huge now if because there is no mainstream, rational "legal" offer of this. In this day of age its "give us what we want or we will find a way to get it". Also, if it wasn't for the ability to copy tapes and give them to friends, MANY bands and even genres of music would not exsist. The music industry is a dinosaur, and either needs to evolve or die out.

     

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  14.  
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    Matt, May 31st, 2007 @ 10:25am

    Nit Picking

    I really think that too much is being made about the iTunes meta-data. After years of abuse, consumers have finally won a huge victory with iTunes Plus. For the first time ever, we can legally purchase music online, sans DRM, from a major record label. It's taken us nearly a decade to reach this point. Let's not spoil it by stressing over minor details.

     

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  15.  
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    Nismoto, May 31st, 2007 @ 10:34am

    Re: Nit Picking

    Well said! Metadata is not DRM, not even close, and doesn't bother me at all.

     

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  16.  
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    Trey, May 31st, 2007 @ 10:40am

    Baby food

    Not stressing the small things is what got us into this mess. In the time we have had CD technology,20-25 years,previous generations evolved 3-4 seperate media types. Wonder why? CD's are very cheap, have no moving parts, and scratch easily. Scratches mean we have to either make multible copies of the CD, or buy a new one. Either way makes someone money. Where is the flash ram in music stores? Mini-disc? Or even a music downloader machine you can plug your ipod into? No where, because CD's make them more money. So yes, having a scratched cd, or a bit of data on your file may be a small thing. But small things are what they feed us until we eventually swallow it all.

     

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  17.  
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    The infamous Joe, May 31st, 2007 @ 11:22am

    MPfree

    Bottom line: DRM-free doesn't mean that Apple suddenly supports piracy.

    It's kind of funny that the RIAA has succeeded in its black propaganda to where people actually need to be told that DRM-free != Supporting Piracy.

    I think the fact that this tag is so easily removed/altered says that Apple didn't keep it there to thwart anything-- unless they're worried that my grandma is file-sharing.

     

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  18.  
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    low res, May 31st, 2007 @ 11:41am

    Re: Baby food

    20-25 years,previous generations evolved 3-4 seperate media types

    CDs are easier to destroy than older types of media? cassettes and 8-tracks jammed, could be eaten by the player or even the tape could be scratched. Vinyl LPs could be scratched or cracked. I'm sure the same went for wax and aluminum cylinders before that although i would not know from personal experience. And before cylinders, there was no recordable media so there was only a few innovations before cds: cylinders, vinyl records and magnetic tape.

    Either way makes someone money.

    someone has always made money off the sale of recorded music (its why they make the albums to begin with) and for most of the history of recorded music, there was no way for you to make a perfect copy of the music you bought, not until the cd and the pc.

    Where is the flash ram in music stores? Mini-disc? Or even a music downloader machine you can plug your ipod into?

    Flash ram is too expensive. They tried selling mini-discs in stores with music on them and nobody bought them. And your music downloader machine for your ipod is your pc with ituneson it. Why would you go to a store to do something you can already do at home.

    The whole point of havin a DRM-free file is so you can use it on any device you own easily and without restrictions. Your name being in the metadata does nothing to hamper that. All it would hamper is you sharing it online anonymously, and then only if you are too lazy to edit your info out of the metadata.

     

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  19.  
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    whiner, May 31st, 2007 @ 11:44am

    remember the real pirates

    This is great for the purchaser, no license file to lose and the like. the metadata doesn't bother me as long as my address is not there and I can put the file on any player I wish. Those who wish to share with no trace can buy the CD and rip it for that purpose.

    Either way the real pirates, selling the cd's for $ on the streets will not be bothered. Everyone is always referring to the file sharing crowd as pirates, and while strictly speaking that is true. They are not gaining and money from the sharing. If there is any loss to the record label's income it is a drop in the bucket compared to the illegal sale of CD's.

     

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  20.  
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    Michael Long, May 31st, 2007 @ 11:50am

    Easily removed?

    Are you sure it's easily removed? Sure the metadata isn't signed such that tampering is obvious? Are you sure that you can't work backwards from the signature to the source?

    Really sure? I'd take another peek if I were you....

     

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  21.  
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    M, May 31st, 2007 @ 11:55am

    But are the files watermarked?

    It seems to me like a metadata tag is trivial. The real question is whether the files are also watermarked with the account info of the purchaser.

     

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  22.  
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    Scruffy Dan, May 31st, 2007 @ 12:04pm

    what happens when you loose your ipod

    since music files tend to be stored on portable devices, and portable devices are occasionally lost, this will affect more than just pirates.

    What apple should have done is encrypted the personal information, and kept the keys. This way apple (or its partners) could track whose files end up on P2P, but peoples personal information is not exposed if they loose their iPod

     

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  23.  
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    Sanguine Dream, May 31st, 2007 @ 12:17pm

    It's a first step...

    Hopefully the music bought from iTunes can now be used on devices other than iPods. While Apple still has the lead in the mobile music market other companies are starting to steal its thunder.

     

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  24.  
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    Overcast, May 31st, 2007 @ 12:33pm

    Sorry, but the "War on the Consumer" from the Entertainment industry still has me to pissed off to buy music. It's gonna take all this stuff going away and then further time after that for me to get over the RIAA's holy war against consumers.

    Sorry, look at it anyway you want - putting rootkits on CD's that people have BOUGHT, is quite an offensive gesture, IMO.

     

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  25.  
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    HotGarbage, May 31st, 2007 @ 3:49pm

    Use it wherever!

    I want to buy some of this great new DRM free music from iTunes, but I don't use windows. Is there a reliable way that anyone knows to shop iTunes via Linux?

     

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  26.  
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    Trey, Jun 1st, 2007 @ 1:11am

    Re: Re: Baby food

    >cassettes and 8-tracks jammed, could be eaten by the player or even the tape could be scratchedsomeone has always made money off the sale of recorded music (its why they make the albums to begin with)Flash ram is too expensive. They tried selling mini-discs in stores with music on them and nobody bought them.

     

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  27.  
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    Steve R. (profile), Jun 1st, 2007 @ 5:35am

    Electronic Frontier Foundation (May 31, 2007, Convert to MP3 BEFORE Upgrading to iTunes 7.2!) is reporting that: "Adding to previous revelations about the latest version of Apple's iTunes software, Playlist is reporting that the iTunes 7.2 (necessary for the so-called DRM-free iTunes Plus tracks) has broken the "buy-burn-rip-to-MP3" procedure that iTunes users have long relied on to convert the FairPlay-restricted songs they buy from the iTunes Store into unrestricted MP3s. Apparently, after the iTunes 7.2 "upgrade," MP3s created in this way will no longer play on your iPod!

     

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  28.  
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    The infamous Joe, Jun 1st, 2007 @ 6:31am

    Joke's on you!

    Haha, the article that Steve R. points out is great, even thought I have no idea how itunes can tell if a song has been burned or not, but one line highlights all that is wrong with DRM:

    While cumbersome, the "buy-burn-rip-to-MP3" workaround has been the primary way to start with a 99 cent iTunes download and end up with an unrestricted MP3 that will play on your Squeezebox, your non-iPod portables, or your MP3-enabled DVD player (it's not about "piracy" -- if that was your bag, you'd have started by downloading the song as an MP3 from the myriad P2P options).

    The point is, DRM is only hurting the people who buy the music, the "honest" customers. Those that download illegally don't get affected at all.

    Haha, the joke is on you, "honest" customers! Next time, maybe you'll skip all the nonsense and just download illegally. :P

     

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