iTunes Plus – I am distinctly non-plussed

Broken Side of the MoonI know I wrote about how wonderful the new DRM-free iTunes is a couple of weeks ago, but having actually bought something from it now, I am somewhat disappointed in the whole experience. I decided to cough up for an AAC version of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, as my vinyl copy is gathering dust in the garage, due to not having a turntable any more. The purchase itself was remarkably smooth – you’d hardly know you’d handed over any dosh – but it went a bit downhill after that.

Buggered track

One of the tracks – The Great Gig in the Sky – has several glitches that sound like a CD skipping. (And there I was thinking Apple was getting its music straight from the digital masters or something – looks like they just rip the CDs in iTunes!) So naturally I fire off a support ticket (which, to be fair, is easy to do, all within iTunes).

First I get an email from Apple telling me they can’t do anything for three days because “The order containing this item is currently processing”. What the…? OK, so I can wait three days I guess (despite the fact that by now I would have returned a CD to the store and got a replacement). Three days later, I get another email, telling me they’re looking into the problem and they’ve issued me a “replacement song credit”. The email then says: “Please wait two weeks before purchasing this item again. This will give Apple time to investigate and resolve the issue, if possible, or remove the item from the store.”

TWO BLOODY WEEKS AND THREE DAYS?! And then I have to buy the track again? Apple, how about YOU tell ME when you’ve fixed the problem, and YOU SEND ME A FIXED TRACK! Ideally within 24 HOURS!

Not impressed.

We’re watching you, matey

To add insult to injury, the tracks I purchased – including the broken one – have my name and email address embedded in them. (Whether this is merely in the AAC metadata – and therefore trivial to remove – or somehow watermarked in the music itself, is unclear.) I might be wrong, but I don’t remember ever buying a CD, taking it home, opening it, and finding my name and email address stamped onto the disc. So why the need to do this with so-called “DRM-free” music?

More importantly, Apple: How about telling customers you’re going to do this to their tracks before they buy them? Let’s have a bit of disclosure here, eh?

Seeing my account info embedded in “my” music got me thinking of another thing…

Do I own this album, or don’t I?

Well, of course, I don’t own it. I merely license it from EMI (I assume). This means I can’t sell the album if I get bored with it, like I can with a CD. I can just about live with this, because I rarely sell CDs anyway, and the (slightly) cheaper price and greater convenience (two-week wait for a replacement track notwithstanding) of the iTunes album versus the physical CD helps to make up for this loss of my rights.

However, it raises some rather disconcerting questions. When I eventually kick the bucket, all my CDs will pass to my next of kin – my wife, or my kids – but what, legally, happens to my iTunes music? They’re stamped with MY name and MY email address, right? So can my wife or kids legally “own” or “use” the music I’ve bought? It’s not unheard of for people to amass $10,000 worth of CDs over the course of their life. What if they “amassed” $10,000 worth of iTunes music that they then can’t pass on to their family, because the music is legally registered to them, and them only?

I’m sure all these legal issues will get sorted out eventually – after all, this is all fairly new territory – but I think I’ll be holding off on any more iTunes music purchases until it’s clear exactly what will happen to the music I buy.

Ah well. I’m off down the record store…

UPDATE 4 July: Fair dos to Apple – I waited my two weeks and re-purchased the buggered track. And they’d fixed it. That’s something at least!

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