Saturday, November 24, 2007


My first — and last — iTunes purchase

Well, in a move that’s probably behind 98.6% of the free world, I’ve just made my first iTunes purchase. I bought one song. I had to try it all out.

They do make it easy to deal with — it’s very easy to set up an account (in fact, I just iTuned the Apple account that I used when I bought the Macbook), searching for what I wanted was a snap, as was adding it to my shopping cart and checking out. 99 cents per tune. The software downloaded my selection, put it in the expected place, and logged it into my iTunes library. Groovy.

And that’s great, if all I want to do is play it on this computer.

I’m told that I can also easily copy it to an iPod, but I don’t have an iPod. I have another kind of mp3 player (if you can imagine), which isn’t supported by iTunes. I gather that I can copy it to another computer too, but that I have a limited number of copies before it stops letting me do it.

I also have to use iTunes or an iTunes-enabled program, such as QuickTime, to play it. If I transfer the file to a Windows machine, I can only play it if I log into iTunes with the username/password I used to buy the song. And I can’t play it at all on Windows Media Player, just as I can’t play it on my BlackBerry.

It will let me put it on an audio CD, at least. And the silly thing is that once I’ve done that, I can now use any of myriad tools (including iTunes, in fact), to copy a DRM-free version back onto my computer. Which I can then copy and play anywhere, including on my BlackBerry and on my Windows computer. So what good did all this idiocy do, really?

And it’s the DRM crippling that makes this my last use of the iTunes store, as well as the first. I won’t support, with my wallet, that business model. I won’t support the purchase (that’s “purchase”... purchase, OK?) of a product that limits my use of it. I would not buy a skillet that I could only use on one stove, nor a hammer that only let me hammer four nails before it stopped working, nor a book that I couldn’t let a friend read.

And I won’t buy music that decides when, where, and how I can listen to it.

[Amazon sells DRM-free mp3 files for the music they sell. I’ll support that instead.]


Anonymous said...

In fairness, _some_ titles are available DRM-free from iTunes (so-called "iTunes Plus" tracks). They come in the form of pretty high-bit-rate MP3s.


P.S. I have never bought any music in a non-physical form...

Thomas J. Brown said...

I have never made any purchases from the iTunes music store for exactly that reason.

I understand the idea behind DRM, but there's no way to make it work properly without taking away my fair use rights. And because of that, I simply can't support it.

Plus, piracy will always find a way.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree with you on never purchasing a song from I-tunes. Don't totally understand the "purchase" of a song anyway. Either listen to the radio or buy a CD if you like a song. We don't have an IPOD either and I'm afraid I wouldn't understand how to put it on our mp3 player.

Barry Leiba said...

Well, I understand the purchase of a song — think of it as buying the "single" instead of the "album" (um, if you're old enough to remember "45s".

Maybe what's hard to understand is the purchase of bits instead of hard media, and, yes, that's the tricky part. I understand the motivation behind DRM: when you buy something that you can readily copy and pass around to your friends for free, the sellers want to try to stop you doing that.

I just don't think DRM is the answer; as Thomas says, it interferes too much with the rights of the buyer.

inw: Yes, I know about iTunes Plus... and Amazon's DRM-free line is likewise limited as to what's available. Perhaps that'll change.

As it stands, I'll either buy the "album", if I want more songs... or will do without the song or two that I'd like, if I don't think they're worth buying the whole album for.

Lidija said...

It didn't used to be like that. In the beginning they didn't restrict it, if I remember right. But, I have been too busy to shop for music on iTunes for a couple of years at least and in light of this ridiculous, arbitrary rule, there is no point in doing it. Plus they have a pretty shabby collection compared to a CD shop, Amazon, Borders... And from my CD (which is proportionally easier to get all the songs to iTunes than to buy them all...) I can listen to my music on anything. I agree, there are times I want my digital "45s" and not a one-hit-wonder-"LP" but that's not that often for me at least. I guess I think of myself as an early adopter or much technology but also as an early "rejecter" once it goes the wrong way.

Frisky070802 said...

I've been using iTunes since getting an iPod two years ago. I have to admit that I find it a pretty convenient and compelling environment and have bought many albums despite being wedded to the format.

I agree with your objections in principle. But... I can't get past the fact that (a) the total cost per album is usually significantly less than a CD, (b) they often contain extra features not on the CDs, (c) the instant gratification of click/download/play in iTunes without further conversion or importation.

Barry Leiba said...

Right... it works great if you use iTunes and have an iPod.

Can you say more about the extra features? I didn't know that the files you get from iTunes had extra features.

Frisky070802 said...

Sure. What I meant was that a fair number of albums contain itunes-only bonus tracks. For instance, one might buy the CD and get a few songs, or buy the itunes version and get a few music videos with it for around the same price. There are also "digital booklets" on some albums.

Anonymous said...

The first poster wrote, "In fairness, _some_ titles are available DRM-free from iTunes (so-called "iTunes Plus" tracks). They come in the form of pretty high-bit-rate MP3s."

To be precise they are unprotected, 256 kbps AAC, not MP3.
Many people incorrectly use "MP3" as a generic term for music files.

You can burn DRM songs to an audio CD and then reimport them unprotected in any format you want.

Yes, DRM "punishes" the good guys but until people quit file sharing copyrighted music, we all get to suffer.

Many people don't even know it's illegal. They purchase the LimeWire Pro app and think they have a subscription to download anything they want.