June 3, 2007

When DRM-Free Isn’t Good Enough — The Debate Over iTunes 7.2

Filed under: Apple, DRM — Tom @ 7:27 pm

It seems that to many, Apple’s new DRM-free music store isn’t enough. Now Geeks R Us has posted a response to all the nonsense — and it’s a good one.

I love the work Cory Doctorow has done to raise awareness about DRM issues. I hate DRM and have posted about it in the past. The problem is that the EFF and Cory are sometimes so rabid that they go off half-cocked.

First they spread a half-assed report from Playlist Mag that the new version of iTunes prevents DRM’d tracks that have been burned and ripped as MP3s from loading on the iPod. It doesn’t.

Several people posted in the Playlist Mag forum that they haven’t had any problems with burned and ripped tracks. It appears to be a bug — the problem can be corrected by rebuilding the iTunes library file. Cory updated his story with a weak follow-up that “some people have figured out how to get iTunes to load burned and ripped tracks” — I’m still waiting for a Boing Boing headline “iTunes 7.2 Restriction Total Fiction.”

Now some folks are complaining that the new DRM-free tracks have the user’s name and email address embedded in them. But this information has ALWAYS been included in purchased music’s metadata. There’s nothing new here.

It’s pathetic everyone has been desperately looking for a way to point at the new iTunes Plus service and say, “Look, they’ve removed the DRM but NOW look what they’ve done!” The fact is that the DRM is gone. This is a Good Thing. All the anti-DRM advocates who have always complained about not being able to play their music on the device of their choice have gotten their wish. Except they’re still complaining — now they’re crying foul because Apple didn’t make their music files totally anonymous.

In other words, this isn’t good enough because they don’t really want to play music they’ve purchased on all their devices — they just want to steal music. (Don’t bother entering into a debate on semantics; I’m fully aware of the distinction between theft and infringement. But for purposes of this discussion, “steal” works just fine.)

Apple isn’t obligated to facilitate illegal file-sharing. There’s still a question of EFF’s claims of some additional data encoded in the iTunes Plus tracks, but I doubt they’re going to find anything there that’s going to outrage me. This is my music. I’ve purchased it for my use. I’m about as upset that my name’s in the track metadata as I am that the dry cleaners writes my name on the inside of my collar.

Anti-DRM folks — including Cory — it’s time to put your money where your mouth is and buy some of this DRM-free music. iTunes is “crippleware”, but the new version that enables DRM-free music is a “downgrade”? Come on, guys. Enough’s enough.

(Although I’m all for writing to my congress-critters in support of legislation to roll back the copyright extensions, ban software patents or kill the DMCA. So keep fighting the good fight.)

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