iTMS Purchased Music & Ownership

I came to the conclusion long ago that people like to complain. As case in point, I relate a comment made recently by a retiring executive at my company: “There have been so many changes in my 34 years here. I remember when we first got a network setup and everyone was awe-struck by its capability and potential. Then a week later everyone was complaining about how slow it was…” We are just never satisfied. And so it goes with Apple’s iTunes Music Store.

The DRM (Digital Rights Management) used by iTMS is at the center of the complaints from iTunes users – in fact DRM is the bane of all digital music purchasers, regardless of the clearinghouse of choice. If I buy a song from iTMS, don’t I own it? When I own something, can’t I do as I please with it? Can’t I play it on whatever device I want, burn a backup copy, use it in a home movie or slide show, or turn around and sell it if I decide I don’t want to own it any longer? Well, no, not in this day it seems.

I’m limited to playing my purchased music on 5 authorized system. 5 systems that are set to use my iTMS account to authorize the play of purchased music from the iTunes Music Store. That’s up from 3 systems which is a step in the right direction. 5 should be enough too – I’ve got my Powerbook, my wife’s Powerbook, our iPod, my iPod Shuffle, and my work laptop all as authenticated systems. I can pretty much get my purchased music wherever I desire to listen to it. Almost.

Did you know that when you put together a slide show of your little girl’s 1st birthday party, add your iTMS purchased Somewhere Over the Rainbow by IZ as background music, burn the whole thing to CD, and send to your family that they won’t hear the background music? They’ll get a nice little message telling them that they’re not authorized to view the movie. (They can view it, but the music won’t play.) Personally, I’d assume that when I put a slide show or home movie together strictly for my own, not for profit consumption that I could watch it as I created it on any platform. Doesn’t seem to be the case though.

What about that Ace Of Base CD I bought in 8th grade when “I Saw The Sign” was the greatest song ever? There came a point when I didn’t want it anymore. I sold it. That’s not technically allowed with iTMS purchased tracks.
Sure, there are ways around Apple’s DRM and I believe most people know what they are. But the point is, if I own the file, I should be able to use it as I please and not have to figure out a way.

When Napster ran their ad in the Super Bowl (by the way, could there have been a lamer ad? I think my 3 year old could have done that on his own – but I digress…) I got all hot an bothered about it. “What idiots! They’re completely mis-representing the facts. With Napster, you don’t own that music, you can’t do whatever you want with it. Not like with iTMS music…” Oh, wait… It was a rash comment to make – hey, I was ticked to be watching the Super Bowl because there was no NHL to be found – and the more I think about that, the more I realize I was somewhat wrong. (I said “somewhat”, don’t tell my wife I admitted to being wrong about something.)

At least when I purchase music from iTMS, it IS mine forever. I’m not leasing access to it as is Napster’s MO. I’m just limited in what I’m actually allowed to do with “my” purchased music.

I really do like the idea of the iTunes Music Store and digital music. I’ve bought plenty of music from there. I can pretty much do whatever I want or need with my music (through one process or another). I think Apple is doing what they can to try to make everyone happy (the decade or so behind the times RIAA firstly though) and advance the Digital Music Age. I applaud them for that. They are opening doors little by little, and I believe that if anyone can [continue to] change the face of music distribution and consumption, it’s Apple.

I think the next logical step, or rather, the next step I’d like to see is the cutting-out of the RIAA from the picture altogether. Let the musicians – the ones actually producing the music and generating the consumer interest – partner directly with Apple and iTunes. Let the profits be split between them and the desires of the artists be the final say in how their music is distributed. I may be horribly wrong here, but I feel like the majority of the bands I love trust their fans to support them. I know I’d feel a heck of a lot better when purchasing music, if I knew that my money was largely going to the artists rather than the RIAA and whatever other sources where telling me what I can and can’t do with my purchased property.

I don’t claim to know or understand the music industry or its inner-workings. I think a better solution should be pretty simple. But then I think there’s also a long road ahead before major changes can happen. I’ll keep my fingers crossed. Though Apple has given me hope in the way they’ve so drastically changed the music landscape, and the relatively short time in which they’ve done it.

As always, I want to know what your thoughts are. Do you prefer a different digital music distributor? Do you think there’s a better model? What do you see as the future for digital music – or DRM for that matter? So share your views – it’s what helps to make me so darn intelagint.

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