iTunes Plus - Getting more than you bargained for!

iTunes Plus - Getting more than you bargained for!

Summary: Following article on Wired and The Unofficial Apple Weblog, debate is raging as to whether it is right that Apple incorporates user’s iTunes user name into tracks (specifically, the DRM-free iTunes Plus tunes).


Following article on Wired and The Unofficial Apple Weblog, debate is raging as to whether it is right that Apple incorporates user’s iTunes user name into tracks (specifically, the DRM-free iTunes Plus tunes).

I’ve read dozens of blog posts and web articles today on this subject and one thing that seems absent is a sensible look as to why people might be bothered by this. The label that seems to be being applied those who are concerned about this information being incorporated into tracks is “file-sharer.” But to be honest I don’t think you need to be a file-sharer that’s ready to upload their entire iTunes Plus library to P2P to be concerned that this information could land you in trouble. Here are a few thoughts for you to consider:

  • Apple’s privacy policy doesn’t seem to cover this information (at least nothing I’ve read seems to – I’m not a lawyer so I might have missed it). Just how is Apple planning to make use of this information? It’s a valid question and one that Apple is being tight-lipped about.
  • The iTunes user names seem to be incorporated into files as plain text and could be easy to alter. This could mean that someone could change the information on files that they uploaded to P2P and get someone else into trouble (assuming anyone is going to be keeping an eye out for this sort of thing, which I assume the RIAA will …).
  • It makes it possible that someone is blamed for file-sharing when they had nothing to do with it (I can think of several scenarios where iTunes Plus files might find their way into the hands of someone who might upload them to a P2P network where the initial purchaser had no idea that this was happening).

All in all, if Apple had wanted to incorporate some kind of tag into iTunes Plus tracks, they should have done a better job than this (although I’m sure that the Apple apologists will correct me here). Plain text user names in files is sloppy to say the least and if they are easy to alter, next to useless when it comes to tracking files. This bad press surrounding iTunes Plus can’t be good for sales, in the short term at any rate. If this is an oversight, Apple needs to correct it quickly. If Apple does intend to keep a “naughty and nice” list of iTunes users, it needs to come out and make this clear.

However, I am left with the feeling that Apple missed the mark here and that people don’t want DRM-free music, but instead want free music.


Topic: Apple

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  • Forget iTunes

    I think when you subscribe to any service, you buy into the company and/or their business ethic.
    I've bought about a thousand songs from iTunes, but the way I see it, it seems the fancier we made the music experience, the crappier it became. The music doesn't sound as good as CDs, you can't share it, even if the sharing is legit and legal, you can't transport it to any player of your choice, and the music that's free of DRM is still tagged (which makes me wonder what else lurks beneath the floorboards). I've lost my taste for iTunes. So I'm kickin it old school from now on. I only buy real CDs now. The audio is a lot better (still better than even the iTunes Plus audio), I don't have the RIAA or Apple up my behind telling me what I can/can't do with my music. I don't have to worry about dealing with the incompetence of iTunes customer "care", and at the end of the day it's just a more enjoyable experience.
    • Well said. I'm with you.

      I am one who has not fallen for the hype. I purchase CDs (at a decent on-line price) and then choose what I do with the content. I can make lossless copies for the car, rip them onto any number of media players (in any format I choose) and know that if my media player dies (like IPods frequently do), I have a quality backup. No stress, no fuss.
      Big Scoddie
    • You aren't alone.

      The digital distribution model is exciting, but they still haven't got it right. This is a
      step in the right direction, but it still isn't enough to make me stop buying cd's.
  • People need to learn

    to discern between legitimate concern and paranoia.

    You've given Apple your credit card information and you're worried they might track
    what songs you buy?
  • On A Roll Adrian..... :-)

    You are on a roll lately.

    Now it's FUD about ITunes putting (Gasp) your user name into the song. Oh no,
    it's in plaintext and easy to alter if you so choose. Again, Oh No (GASP).

    You actually did say it though Adrian. Users who are complaining about this (How
    many really are: Answer, not very many) wanted to file share the music anyway.
    And if it does end up on some P2P by it's very nature you would never win a suit
    against someone because the info can be changed so easily etc...

    How is this different than someone forging anything else and committing a crime?
    It's not, and it's not very likely to happen either, even though you insinuate it
  • It would be fair to say...

    That I doubt the entirety of the file has been discovered? What if this "plain text name" was merely a mask to thwart hackers from the "encrypted" version?

    Personally at this point.. I want to wait a while before I say it's the only bad thing about the file.

    It's definitely one of the worst things and I'm against it completely. It's kind of like saying, I'm responsible for a robber who steals my music. Soon we're going to have a "music company" insurance broker that panders to music downloaders.

    Hmmm maybe I'm onto something here...
  • what's the problem

    I don't see the problem, even if it's in plain text, it uses the users username and some emailadress. How big are the chances that somebody gets hold of both.

    There have been numerous services that did the same, f.i. Oreilly safari put some sort of address in the PDF's you could download, out of your subscription.

    The only problem that will arise is when you do start sharing stuff.

    As long as I can use stuff I bought in a manner I choose on within my personal space. I'm happy.
  • I'll Never Get Another CD Booklet

    while to a not-so-noticeable degree the sound quality is degraded, I'll take that over a 100 booklet of cds any day. Plus if you want it on your portable media player, instead of just plugging in and syncing, you enjoy the tremendously tedious task of ripping your cd to *insert media player here*. The copying it to your media device. I love itunes layout because it makes it easy for me to quickly find the song I want and not spend my time getting songs off of antiquated media. I don't even want to get into trying to get the right cd with the right song out of a booklet while driving.
    • Good on ya...

      So long as you're happy to be locked into Apple's idea of low bit-rate quality and that you can't move any of your tracks to any other media player (translation; better quality media player). It may be "convenient" for you. I won't hold that against you.

      But, why do you imply that my media player is any harder to listen to in my car than your iPlop? Anyway, if I were unlucky enough to lose my media player, I can always buy another (of any brand) and reload ALL my music.

      Each to their own, but I will never be convinced to use Apples low-quality, inflexible, draconian service to purchase my music.
      Big Scoddie
  • Nothing New

    This is actually nothing new, they have been doing this since you could buy any items on the itunes store. If you go back and check your DRMed items you'll notice that this information was included in there too.. This is most likely done when the download is being processed after it is downloaded. So there is no news here.
  • Untrue - Rumor Taken as Fact

    Why print something as true when you have no proof that it is? Do your homework.
    This is not true, as you can see on several Mac news sites today.
    • Yeah, but, rumours are good for your health.

      Rumours, gossip and hearsay are healthy pursuits. Otherwise women's magazines would not exist!
      Big Scoddie
    • Which?

      Which news sites? I can't find any article that disputes this.
  • Who cares?

    As you point out, why should anyone, other than someone who wants to break the law, care? What is the harm in having this data present? What can happen to you if someone, God forbid, finds out your name and e-mail address? How is this any worse than having a blog or a MySpace page?

    I'll also point out that since they're so alterable:
    1) within days you'll see a script available to erase/rewrite them (presumably to read "Steve Jobs")
    2) they'll never hold up in a court of law
    tic swayback
    • Exactly! Who cares?

      If you are willing to load that virus (iTunes) on your computer, then you should expect to be compromised.
      Big Scoddie
  • If I have my name associated...

    ...then, I feel I own it. I should be able to do whatever I want with something Apple have forced me to be personally associated with. This means, uploaded it to the internet, burn it to CD, copy it onto ANY MP3 player and even sell it, if I so desire.

    Thanks Apple.
    Big Scoddie
    • This should be popular.

      I bet this is the kind of statement judges and lawyers hang on their office wall, to
      read when they need a goo laugh.
      • or possibly

        or possibly a "good" laugh. A goo laugh is similar, but with more phlegm.
      • Yeah, that's what I meant...

        If Apple wants to play the "game", then use their tactics to render them "carbon-neutral". Do whatever it takes to ensure their tactics backfire.

        As I pointed out above, I have no intention of every installing their virus (iTunes). Therefore, I will NEVER buy their low-quality offerings, so my original statement is moot, really.
        Big Scoddie
  • Can't plaintext be simply deleted?

    Did I miss a memo somewhere? Why not just delete the information? If you know enough to figure out that the plaintext file is in there, you probably know enough to delete the offending string. That's what I would do... but I use Linux and rip my CDs, so I don't have this problem anymore.

    Or, if you chose, you could simply burn your songs to an audio CD and then re-rip them, and presto! No more DRM, no more extraneous information!