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Here we'll explore the nexus of legal rulings, Capitol Hill policy-making, technical standards development, and technological innovation that creates -- and will recreate -- the networked world as we know it. Among the topics we'll touch on: intellectual property conflicts, technical architecture and innovation, the evolution of copyright, private vs. public interests in Net policy-making, lobbying and the law, and more.

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April 29, 2004

Meet The New iTunes, Less than the Old iTunes

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Posted by Jason Schultz

Jim Heid's Mac iLife 04 Site has an excellent review of the numerous changes in Apple's new version of iTunes 4.5 (iTunes 4.5: More to the store, new ways to play, and ripping without losing).

One of the major changes, he notes, is stricter DRM on the songs you buy from the iTunes Music Store:

In iTunes 4.5, you can authorize up to five Macs or Windows computers to play your purchased music -- up from three. But Apple giveth and Apple taketh away: you can now burn a playlist containing purchased music up to seven times (down from ten). And the old workaround of simply changing the playlist slightly does not work.

So after one year and 70 million songs, $0.99 now buys you less rather than more -- seven hard burns instead of ten soft ones. What will Apple "allow" us to do with the music we "buy" next year? three burns? one? zero?

And what about the songs you've already bought? Don't we get to keep the rights we had before the change?

Well, Apple has conveniently reserved its rights to make changes -- unilaterially -- to its DRM and your ability to make fair use via its Terms of Service and Terms of Sale pretty much anytime it pleases, without even having to give you notice:

You shall be entitled to burn and export Products solely for personal, non-commercial use.
...
Any burning or exporting capabilities are solely an accommodation to you and shall not constitute a grant or waiver (or other limitation or implication) of any rights of the copyright owners of any content, sound recording, underlying musical composition or artwork embodied in any Product.
...
Apple reserves the right to change the terms and conditions of sale at the iTunes Music Store at any time. Customers are encouraged to review the Sales Policies on a periodic basis for modifications.

Comments (8) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: IP Abuse


COMMENTS

1. cypherpunk on April 30, 2004 2:10 AM writes...

Let's not forget that there are checks and balances in this system. Consumers are no more at Apple's mercy than Apple is at the consumers'. Apple's dominant market position is not that certain; Walmart started much more recently and has already reached over 50% of iTunes' market share. Ultimately it is this intense competition among music retailers which is the best protection of consumers' interests.

Permalink to Comment

2. Brad Hutchings on April 30, 2004 2:58 PM writes...

So go back to stealing your music on Kaaza. Do you guys know why Apple and the music companies make these kind of superficial, marginal changes? Here's a clue... The free culture crowd is falling all over themselves because they can only burn their playlist 7 times. This is silly. I could burn enough copies to fill up the in-dash CD changer in my Mustang, and still have one burn left over to dish off to a buddy. Puh-lease. The debate is no longer about whether people should pay for music. You've lost it (thankfully), and in engaging in these silly debates, you've marginalized yourselves to being convenient pawns of the recording industry.

-Brad

Permalink to Comment

3. seaan on April 30, 2004 3:01 PM writes...

To rephrase cyperpunk's argument, Apple can change their promises (contract) anytime they want, and that is OK because the market will compensate if the terms get too outrageous. In the long run that might be true, but in the short term what has happened to the value of the materials I bought under a different promise?

That seems inconsistent with a push towards clear agreements between consumers and the companies that want to sell things to them. These open-ended changeable contracts (enforced by DRM) are just the perfect illustration of my point that DRM backed promises become more obscure and less favorable to the consumer.

Of course as a copyright reformist, I had enough knowledge to spot this clause in the iTune promise. I made my decision not to spend my money on a changeable promise (and because the price/feature ration was not right). I have a number of friends who bought iTune songs from Apple without really understanding all the fine print because they trust Apple not to do anything wrong. I guess they really did need a lawyer to explain the hidden ramifications of the fine print!

Although I don't think this particular change will be a tipping point (although I had a number of friends tell me the "changeable" play list contributed toward their purchase decision), they have little legal recourse if they decide they don't like the new terms. The ability to not buy new stuff (and thereby try to hurt Apple, who might not even want to be in the market anymore) is little compensation for the $500 purchased iTunes that are now worth considerably less under Apple's changed set of promises.

Permalink to Comment

4. Firas on May 1, 2004 2:57 AM writes...

cypherpunk: "Ultimately it is this intense competition among music retailers which is the best protection of consumers' interests."

Oh yeah, because music publishers have never been known to engage in anticompetitive practices, have they?

Permalink to Comment

5. Scott Sanders on May 3, 2004 2:53 PM writes...

Brad, I hope you never wreck your Mustang with your buddy in it.

Permalink to Comment

6. glyph on May 5, 2004 2:49 AM writes...

"And what about the songs you've already bought? Don't we get to keep the rights we had before the change?"

Actually, yes you do. The DRM "PlayFair" has multiple versions. Older files are version one and still have the original restriction of ten burns; that has not changed. Only new "version two" files have the seven burns restriction.

Oddly though, it seems that version one PlayFair files did get the increase to five machines for authorization, so if anything, it looks that version one files got an increase in what is allowed, not a restriction.

Permalink to Comment

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