Many hailed the removal of digital rights management (DRM) from the vast majority of iTunes track, a move announced and acted upon last week at the Macworld trade show. The removal applied to 90 percent of Apple’s library, and plans are to extend it to the […]


Many hailed the removal of digital rights management (DRM) from the vast majority of iTunes track, a move announced and acted upon last week at the Macworld trade show.

The removal applied to 90 percent of Apple’s library, and plans are to extend it to the rest in short order. Many suspect that record labels agreed to going DRM-free after iTunes agreed to be more flexible with its pricing options, moving from 99 cents per song, to between 69 cents and $1.29.

What many might not realize, however, is that this isn’t an open invitation from Apple to go totally nuts and start freely copying, sharing, and distributing music like crazy. It’s called “Social DRM” and it makes sure there’s a little bit of you in every iTunes Plus file you download via your iTunes Store account. That little bit of you isn’t your sparkling personality or winning charm, either. It’s your email address, and it’s hard coded into each and every purchase.

The purpose of including the email address is to track anyone who might get the bright idea of uploading their library to, say, a torrent site, thus stepping well into the realm of the illegal. Social DRM, in this regard, may actually be about preventing piracy, something which is not necessarily true about traditional forms of DRM, depending on who you ask.

In case you forgot, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has a nice list of examples of why Apple’s still very much in the DRM game, even if it has relaxed a bit in the music department. Among the most suspect uses: the authentication chip in newer model iPods and iPhones that third party manufacturers are required to buy a license for.

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  1. iirc, this issue came up when Apple first announced iTunes Plus. Me, I see nothing wrong with it; it isn’t like I’ll be sharing music on P2P or BitTorrent anyway.

  2. Why the hell is this the topic of the day? It doesn’t hinder your ability to play it on a Creative Zen or something. Besides, this is an OLD topic; this topic arose when iTunes Plus first appeared.

    You could also always convert them inside iTunes. This gets rid of your iTunes account info if you wish to share it on The Pirate Bay… I mean, if you don’t want your email address in a music file for “no reason.”

  3. This move changes the game from controlling the copying of a song to controlling the distribution a song (to other people). Focusing on controlling distribution enables me to copy the song as much as I want or need so I can play on a variety of personal devices. I only get in “trouble” if I distribute it beyond my personal use. That seems fair.

  4. Putting the name or email of the purchaser in the file is not “DRM” even if you use the (made-up) term “social DRM.” By that reckoning, putting your name in your schoolbooks is “DRM” when most people would think it was merely identification.

    This has also *always* been the case with *all* music and video files form iTunes. It’s also easily removable.

    Why is it a big deal now?

  5. Personally, I think this is good to give people freedom without displeasing music companies. Stop whining, nobody cares about your email address – at least as long as you don’t go nuts with it on torrent, in which case the consequences are deserved.

  6. I thought they also embedded this information because it helps with their complete my album feature? It’s funny that people go crazy over this, because it kind of shows the real intention of some of them. To me, if that song is no longer tied to my machine, and I can play it on any music device, the DRM is gone.

  7. Yeah, there’s no DRM in the tracks anymore. I can play them now on whatever, and however many, devices I own now without paying a penalty in lost quality by burning and re-ripping. Who cares if your email is in the track… unless, of course, you’re wanting to do illegal things with it? At which point, I don’t care what you think about it.

  8. So this is perfect. I can now actually freely own my tracks and I am hardly going to worry about my email address being embedded if I don’t do anything illegal. They are hardly going to prosecute me for sharing songs with my wife but may well do so if i post them on P2P. Anyone complaining about this is a thief, pure and simple.

  9. I absolutely agree with everyone above. What’s the big deal? If you don’t intend to “gift” your songs to the world, what’s the problem? Any reasonably knowledgeable person will know this is not a license for unlimited freedom to pirate the music. The ones who do distribute them are those who will do so regardless of DRM or not.

    Come on, this is at best a non-issue and worst just an attempt to dig up crap where there is none. Get over it.

    And the EFF? Please…to me, they lost the plot long ago.

  10. All of the above: spot on. I see no problem in it either.

    I’d add that an email address is hardly a social security number.

    “Social DRM”? seriously. c’mon, it doesn’t cripple the media in anyway and *that* is what is really wrong with DRM anyway.

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