Blog Post

Apple Should Drop Notion of “Purchased Music”

Stay on Top of Enterprise Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

While Steve Jobs’ call to end DRM is making the rounds in the blogosphere, I have a bigger issue regarding iTunes that can be solved immediately, without any other companies involved – that of “Purchased” songs. Apple tracks which songs in my library I’ve purchased from the iTunes Store, which to date is more than 1,000, as “Purchased”, intimating that the other thousands of tracks I have should be labeled, instead as “Stolen”.

A Screen Cap of My “Purchased” Songs

Just last week, on a trip to New York, I stopped by the Virgin Mega Store, and plunked down $18.99 or so for a dual CD set. It seemed like a lot of cash when compared to the $9.99 price on iTunes for a typical album, but iTunes didn’t have it available. When I got home, the first thing I did was unwrap the CD, put them in the laptop and import to iTunes. The album, which cost me more than anything on the iTunes Store, saw its tracks added to the library, but not in “Purchased”. For all anybody knew, I downloaded them, or borrowed the CD from a friend.

I’m not about to start hoarding my retail music store receipts in the eventuality I might get a visit from my friends in the RIAA. Additionally, having purchased the songs from the iTunes store doesn’t, to me, make them have any higher an intrinsic value to those I got somewhere else. I understand the need for DRM, until things change, and that Apple has the opportunity to track what I’ve purchased or not. But I’m tired of being assumed a thief unless I shop exclusively from iTunes.

34 Responses to “Apple Should Drop Notion of “Purchased Music””

  1. dave martin

    I actually LOVE the Purchased playlist.
    It’s how I differentiate music I’ve obtained from the iTS, emusic, wherever else I’ve downloaded paid-for music. You can add whatever you like to the playlist. I add anything I’ve paid for to that playlist. Taht way, I know when the crap hits the fan, what I have on CD and can suffer losing, and what I need to back up multiple times.

    I can’t help but think you must have something to feel guilty about.

  2. Karl von L.

    Heh, this reminds me of the guy who got an error dialog in Windows saying “This application performed an illegal operation” and then panicked because he thought the cops were coming for him.

    Or the guy who saw an error message saying “invalid parameter”, and called technical support complaining that the software called him “an invalid”.

  3. Hmm… You do know that you can just drag those tracks to the ‘Purchased’ playlist, right?

    I think you’re being more than a little dramatic about the RIAA paying you a visit. I report on MPAA and RIAA lawsuits almost daily, and there has never been an instance of someone getting arrested for merely having ripped tracks (or even download ones) on their computer. The only way you can get in trouble is if your IP is found to be uploading copyrighted tracks to a peer-to-peer network like Gnutella (LimeWire/Acquisition).

  4. If you’re that paranoid about the distiction between what’s in your “Purchased” playlist under the iTunes music store and what isn’t, there’s a quick fix.

    1. Go to your main library.
    2. Select all. (Command – a)
    3. Drag the selected files into the “Purchased” play list.
    4. Done

    This has the added benefit that, when you sync your recent generation iPod with another computer, everything in your “Purchases” playlist is copied to the new computer.

  5. I agree … This is a list of items that you purchased from the iTunes store. I does not imply anything else about your library. The best use of this list for me is knowing which songs I need to back-up so that if I have a HD crash I can get them back! Why back-up songs that I ripped from CD’s I own? I already have the CD and it’s easy to re-rip them. You can’t re-download a purchased track from iTunes, so this identification helps you actually track / keep your music if something happens.

    To me it sounds like you’re feeling guilty about something….

  6. Peter Maurer

    If this were really a problem — as opposed to utter paranoia — then here’s what I would suggest:

    – Rename your “Purchased” playlist.

    … or …

    – Add any song you so desperately need to be labeled as “purchased” to the “Purchased” playlist.

    It’s really that simple. But I guess blogging about a non-existent problem is even simpler.

  7. You’re insane, did you even read the letter? Steve clearly states that the other music on iPods comes from many sources, including CDs people own. Failing to acknowledge that some people (not I don’t say ALL people) have music acquired from other sources would only make Apple look naive.

    “My ITMS”
    You have to be kidding. Windows XP labels everything “my this” and “my that”. Vista doesn’t. Do you think they left it out accidentally?

    Calling it “From Apple” makes it sound like Apple is sending you letters. The only letter you’re likely to get from Apple is a C&D. Cease and desist being a moron.

    Please stop posting your paranoid ramblings on the internets and leave the thinking to us adults.

  8. MonkeyBlood, I’m laughing at your suggestion, in a good way.

    We could go the official “Purchased from Apple” vs. “Purchased at Retail”, “Gifts from Grandma”, “Downloaded Illegally”, etc. route, and get plenty of playlists.

    The reactions here (and elsewhere, i.e. Macalope) were not exactly what I had anticipated. If I were to refocus this, it’d be on the fact that even in Steve’s comments, he mentions the 97% of songs on iPods that are not from the iTunes store. It’s widely assumed in many corners that those are more from P2P than from retail stores. I’d like that assumption to change, and was trying to suggest Apple could help with some word-smithing. Clearly I could have too.

  9. MonkeyBlood

    This post makes the diaper-wearing astronaut look relatively well-balanced.

    Anyway, you could always create another playlist called “Also Purchased” and put all of your other music in it. That way, when the Feds confiscate your computer, they’ll never suspect you of illegal downloading. That should help you rest easier.

  10. the reason your physical cd cost more is twofold

    1)you bought it from the most overpriced store imaginable

    2)you are actually getting a whole product when you buy a cd. When you buy something from an itunes store it is a compressed version of what you get on a cd. Therefore if that format ever goes out of use (or say you buy something other then an ipod) and you want to convert it to another format it is an even more compressed version of of what you would have got and there would be a noticeable drop in quality.

    the point is that if you know where to buy cds (if you live in new england try newberry comics, if not try amazon or other online stores) you will be paying about the same price for more product and even if it costs a couple dollars more it is worht it.

  11. “Purchased” is what you bought at the iTunes store, and everything else is everything else. For some reason, you want credit for that CD that you bought and ripped is also “purchased.” OK, what do you suggest? Should Apple and the record companies collaborate and devise some program by which you can register your CD purchases and verify them as you rip them so that iTunes knows that everything is A-OK? YOU aren’t one of those dirty, thieving music stealers! The RIAA thanks you!

    Honestly, one of the things I like about iTunes is that it doesn’t care where you got the music from. It doesn’t run any checks based on ID3 tag formatting or only allow you to play tracks that you ripped from a physical CD using iTunes, proving that you didn’t download them from elsewhere. Apple simply says, “Don’t steal music,” and then leaves the rest to you and your conscience. Saying “I’m tired of being assumed a thief unless I shop exclusively from iTunes” sounds like there’s a beating heart under the floorboards that’s bothering only you.

  12. I don’t see the problem. Does it really matter if people know you bought something or not? It doesn’t seem very likely that the RIAA will visit you, and I can’t imagine why it would matter that much if someone knows how you got the music.

    If you really want them to know, you could always just tell them.

  13. What is better than “Purchased”? Seriously? It succinctly describes what that playlist containers (“Items purchased from the iTunes Store”) in one word.

    If it bothers you so much delete the playlist.

    “That may be true, but not here.” Oh, it’s definitely true here.

  14. It seems everyone thinks I’m ultra-paranoid. That may be true, but not here.

    As noted in the article, I think it’s great that Apple has the capability to track my purchase history. I would expect them to. My feeling is that it could be presented in a better way. Even if the songs themselves were labeled “My ITMS” or “From Apple”, that’s more accurate than “Purchased” – even if it is under the iTMS store itself. With the Marketing geniuses at Apple, I am sure they can come up with a dozen better options in a half-hour or so.

  15. Ye gods, its a preference you selected. If you don’t want Purchased music to be added to the playlist, you can disable it.

    If you want to make your own smart playlist called “Real Purchases” then do it. Its a one-minute exercise.

  16. You’re corporate paranoia has gone just a tad into the red zone. The plain implication, particularly in light of the fact that the “purchased” label is in the iTunes Store section of the sidebar, is that these are the items that have been purchased from the iTunes Store.

    On third thought, this must be some kind of joke, right? I mean no sentient being really thinks Apple is trying to send a message to its users that if it wasn’t purchased via the iTunes Store then it must have been acquired by illegitimate means.

    But one never knows . . .

  17. Um, yeah, I’d have to agree with the general consensus here. Nobody’s accusing anyone of anything; if you know where you got your music from, then your conscience should be clean. It’s a feature, not an accusation.

  18. This is the way it’d go down if the proposed “issue” were to be “fixed”.

    – For a user that has purchased all of the music on their system, the “purchased” play list because pointless, since it contains all of the music on your computer and is then removed as a result of it’s uselessness.
    – People that want to backup only the songs in their collection that they’ve purchased online start to complain about how annoying it is to have to create their own dynamic playlist that only contains songs that use Apple’s DRM, meaning they were purchased online. Who doesn’t want to backup the files they’ve spent money on and cannot obtain again? (except for the one time re-send policy Apple has).
    – Apple puts in a special playlist under the Store category that lists all of the items you’ve purchased, to make it easy to back them up. What would you call it?
    – Some complaines that anything not on their “purchased” playlist may be seen as “stolen” by others.


  19. Hello, long time listener, first time caller here. Of all the faults that iTunes may have, I have to say, this one seems the most negligible. Assuming I agree that it’s a fault at all. Which I don’t. Is the USDA assuming I’m too fat by printing a daily recommended allowance on my canned beets? I suggest doing whatever the heck you want to with your iTunes, and stop worrying who’s assuming what about your ethics. Make peace with your iTunes and you will find peace in yourself. Or something. Good luck.

  20. Another Matt

    Wow. I think you are a way overly sensitive on this one. Just throw those receipts away and tell the RIAA they damn well better have a search warrant before they step a foot beyond your door. :-|

    Along with what has been said by in previous comments, the “Purchased” tag has one more very important use – it allows you to easily find and backup songs that you have no other copy of. I backup my Purchased music once a week so I have a backup. It’s a preset backup plan in Apple’s own Backup app. You could say that Apple is trusting you will have other legal copies of every other tune and only need your iTunes purchases backed up.

    Thanks for your faith in my Apple.

  21. I totally agree with Izzy. It’s a purchased playlist listed under the iTunes Store. Therefore, it is obviously music you purchased from—wait for it—the iTunes Store. It says absolutely nothing about anything else in your library, including by implication. They probably figured it was just a little too long (not to mention redundant) to say “Purchased from the iTunes store, which is not to say that you didn’t purchase your other music,” not to mention the fact that they give you a pop up dialog that tells you what the playlist is for when you go there the first time, and every time thereafter unless you check the box.

    So, in short, get off it.

  22. But I’m tired of being assumed a thief unless I shop exclusively from iTunes.

    Louis, there’s absolutely nothing to be tired of. If you have the feeling, that anybody accuses you of anything, just don’t care about it. It’s really that dead simple.

    I too buy digital music and i download digital music for free. I download both legal, but NOT from iTunes. Trust me, i couldn’t care less of what anybody might accuse me of…

  23. Please take off your Che Guevara t-shirt and put down your anti-drm protest sign long enough to pay attention to what’s actually around you. Notice that the “purchased” smartlist shows up under the “STORE” section of iTunes interface. It’s not intimating that the rest of your music is stolen, it’s informing you that the things in its playlist were purchased from the iTunes Music Store.

    The songs which you purchased from the store might not hold any higher intrinsic value to you, but the information about where they came from damn well should. That playlist is there because there is no other easy way to know where that music came from. If you’re in the fraction of people who’s digital music library is 100% legit, then without it you have no easy way of tracking your digitally-purchased music: it doesn’t have a jewlcase or jacket like physical media. So in essence, it’s protecting those with legal libraries.

    Or if you’re just obsessive compulsive about organizing your music. Or if you want to send someone a song, you have an easy way to check if it’s DRMed or not. Or if you really hate the “purchased” list that much, just delete the songs from it. It works just like any other playlist, you can delete items from it, but they stay in your library. That way you’ll REALLY be sticking it to the man!

    Oh, by the way, I’m highly impressed that you have 1000 songs purchased from the iTunes store, and that you bought a ~$20 dual CD. You must be rofling in the moneycopter right now.