iTunes Plus under fire for sneaky user-ID feature

Stuart Dredge MP3 players, Top stories


Apple launched its iTunes Plus DRM-free downloads yesterday, but the company is already being criticised for the way that whenever you buy one of the iTunes Plus songs, your name and email address is embedded in its tags.

It’s true, too. I bought an iTunes Plus album by Digitalism yesterday, and when I checked the track info, it’s got my name, email address and the date/time of purchase. Music biz blogger Bob Lefsetz has slammed the policy:

“EMI hasn’t given up on copy protection, they’ve just instituted a NEW ONE!,” he writes. “Wherein they can trace your track if you choose to do anything untoward with it. Yup, if it’s your track that’s being traded P2P, you’re FUCKED!”

He’s not done there either, claiming that the higher-quality 256kbps files sound “barely” distinguishable from 160kbps ripped MP3s on his thousand-dollar speakers. And in a separate post, he lays into the way iTunes users aren’t presented with a choice of standard or iTunes Plus options for albums.

Apple’s new DRM-free service was bound to catch some flak, but Lefsetz’ arguments certainly merit attention. The first argument, about your ID being embedded in the tracks, is an interesting one. It’s like CCTV: arguably if you’re not planning to do anything illegal, what’s the problem? And I’m sure it’ll be about 15 minutes before someone releases an app to remove the ID info from downloaded iTunes Plus tracks.

But at the same time, Apple has hardly made it clear that the DRM-free files will have your personal data stored within them, which is hardly going to win friends and influence people. Steve Jobs also made a point of the fact that iTunes users will have a choice between iTunes Plus and standard DRM songs on the service, so it seems counter-productive not to present this as such on every album.

By Stuart Dredge | May 31st, 2007