Wednesday, May 30, 2007

iTunes launched their DRM-free iTunes Plus service today. A nice milestone on the road leading to the death of DRM, though in actuality it was a little underwhelming. According to Apple's "upgrade to iTunes Plus" page, I actually only bought two albums from EMI: One by Lily Allen (don't you judge me!) and one by the Little Willies (a Norah Jones country side-project). I bought a handful of singles as well. I did go ahead and upgrade what I owned to iTunes Plus, though I was disappointed to see there was not an option to upgrade on a song-by-song basis. The upgrade was actually a good value to me, as I lost a few files from a hard drive crash awhile back, and was able to replace them in the process. And other then the site moving as slow as molasses, I didn't have much trouble upgrading. But I was disappointed to learn that I would have to pay a 30% surcharge to upgrade full albums I'd purchased, even though the DRM-free albums cost the same as the protected albums (an effort to encourage consumers to purchase full albums--a smart move, methinks). But I have a large credit balance at iTunes currently (Best Buy had a "$60 in gift cards for $45" sale recently), so didn't begrudge them the $7.50 or so I spent to upgrade.

One concern that I have about this experiment in DRM-free music is that it might, in fact, lead to a small up-tick in piracy. Much of the reportage about this new development describes the change as involving selling music free from usage restrictions. Not true. Copyright is a usage restriction. Just because a file is free from technological protection from copying doesn't mean that any and all copying of said file is legal. That's one reason why I think the thirty-cent surcharge for DRM-free files is a bad idea; it will confuse consumers, who think they are paying for the privilege to copy a file freely, without regard to copyright law. But I can offer one warning to those planning to share their iTunes Plus songs on P2P networks: Your iTunes account information and e-mail address is encoded within your iTunes-purchased music files. Though, as that article notes, I doubt this information is being used to track down pirates.

No comments: