Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.
This is Leo Notenboom for askleo.info.
Apple's iTunes normally uses a fairly reasonable form of DRM or Digital Rights Management. Basically you can play your iTunes purchased media on up to something like five different computers registered to your account. Until recently if you want a DRM-free version of a song that you can play anywhere without restriction, you need to resort to illegal DRM removal tools, or actually burn the music to an audio CD and then rip that CD to MP3 files with some resulting loss in quality.
Apple recently enabled the purchase of some the music on iTunes without DRM for a slightly higher charge. Buy it once and play it anywhere you have iTunes. Sounds great, right?
The concern, as some people discovered, is that Apple is apparently embedding your name and email address in plain, easy-to-view text within that DRM-free music you purchased.
Now, on the surface, as long as you're staying legal that shouldn't cause you an issue, right? As long as you're not uploading what you just purchased for others to steal for free, you should have nothing to worry about. The only copies with your information would be on devices you own.
Except that apparently the name and email address can be altered. So to actual music pirates it may not have much effect at all as they patch the name and email address to be that of Apple's CEO Steve Jobs, or Bill Gates or someone else whom they want to set up to take the fall for illegal file sharing.
Some folks are surprised that Apple took this measure, and did it in this way.
What appears to be a blunder on Apple's part - letting the information be present in plain patchable text - seems to me to like it could be part of a brilliant strategy.
Everyone now knows that Apple can do this. The concerns raised so far have mostly been about the privacy implications of putting your information plainly visible in the music you've purchased, not whether Apple has a right to actually put it there.
So what can Apple do?
Simple. Encrypt it.
That's all they have to do. That way they get to keep the identifiable information within the DRM-free music in a way that only they can use to track music pirates, without putting people's privacy at risk.
And because of all the publicity to date, everyone will know it's there. Even if they can no longer see it.
Now, I'm not much of a conspiracy guy, but what if that was the plan all along?
I'd love to hear what you think. Visit askleo.info and enter 11589 in the go to article number box to access the show notes, the transcript and to leave me a comment. While you're there, browse over 1,200 technical questions and answers on the site.
Till next time, I'm Leo Notenboom, for askleo.info.
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