Cory jerks his knee again.

Cory Doctorow knee jerks at iTunes today:

(of course, every iTunes user whose iTunes tracks have been downgraded by an iTunes patch knows this already — Apple won’t give you back your $0.99 even when they decide to take away some of the value you paid for when you put your money down).

Throughout the history of iTunes, you can burn all music purchased from the store to a standard audio CD. If you burn, say, Green Day’s American Idiot to a standard CD using iTunes, you end up with a copy of American Idiot that is very close to identical to what you could purchase in a store.

Furthermore, Apple didn’t actually take anything away. The # of times you could burn anyone playlist was reduced from 10 to 7, but that is a limitation on the playlist, not the song. Change the playlist, burn another 7 times. At the same time, Apple upped the # of computers that the songs could be shared between.

To summarize: Once you burn tracks purchased from iTMS to a CD, no one — not Apple, not the RIAA, not the thought police — can take away your ability to play the burned CD on any standard CD player.

The same holds true for any of the other stores that allow burning to a regular CD (I haven’t checked which do. Some do, some don’t. Some have whack-ass DRM that only allows burning of some songs, not others).

Sure, Apple could choose the path of darkness and completely bone the consumer, thus destroying Apple’s hold on the market. So could just about every other company in the world that sells goods and services. Sony could only allow games to be played a dozen times. Movie theaters could play movies out of focus so they couldn’t be pirated. Software companies could require subscriptions for their standalone wares.

But they don’t. Why? Because companies are in business to make money and being evil does not make money. Monopolies, of course, change the rules.

This is very different than the current uproar over TiVo. Cory
posted
an otherwise excellent summary of how wrong the DRM is, in that case. Of course, this isn’t entirely TiVo’s fault. Oh, crap, I already responded to another Cory Post about this way back in January of 2004:

So, TiVo walks a fine line and has been doing so very well. Witness ReplayTV (who? Gone.). They threw the 30 second skip and content distribution in the face of the broadcasters and the end result was the complete lack of strategic partnerships and the eventual death [twice] of the platform.

Unfortunately, Cory’s ongoing knee-jerk response to DRM, the RIAA, etc.. does more to hurt the cause than help it. Unfortunately, the EFF isn’t going to be receiving a donation from me anytime soon.



16 Responses to “Cory jerks his knee again.”

  1. Cory Doctorow says:

    iTunes customers have had the right to burn a playlist 10 times unilaterally reduced to seven; have had the ability to stream to an unlimited number of friends reduced to five streaming sessions per 24 hours; have had the right to stream from a home server to their office computer taken away, and other reductions in functionality. iTunes is the only player that plays iTMS songs (Apple threatened to sue Real for trying to extend the functionality of the iTunes vertical channel) and Apple has even changed its API to add a blacklist of programs whose calls are silently discarded, because these programs add perfectly legal functionality to Apple products, functionality that was in widespread use by Apple customers who used it to extract new value from their investment in iTunes songs.

  2. Erik J. Barzeski says:

    Funny, Cory, but you say that “iTunes is the only player that plays iTMS songs (Apple threatened to sue Real for trying to extend the functionality of the iTunes vertical channel) and Apple has even changed its API to add a blacklist of programs whose calls are silently discarded” but that’s not true. iTMS songs play via QuickTime on any authorized computer. Even software like Rock Star work with iTMS purchased songs.

  3. Nat says:

    Apple’s whittling away of iTunes’ streaming capability has annoyed me greatly. I didn’t have that much of a beef when streaming became subnet-only (though the potential was lovely), or when the limits on the number of simultaneous users went down, but I have been bitten by the latest limitation of only 5 separate streaming users in a 24-hour period. The ability to rummage through someone’s laptop collection at a coffee shop is a great pleasure, and it works great unless the person’s been there a few hours, in which case iTunes imposes an artificial scarcity that serves no one.

    We have five iTunes-capable machines on the home network, so we’re on the bubble there.

    This doesn’t have anything to do with iTMS music, of course, but that’s still a novelty as far as I’m concerned.

  4. Nick Matsakis says:

    At one point, I heard that the change in playlist burn limit only applied to songs that were purchased after the change. That is, if you had a playlist of songs that were purchase before the limit, iTunes would still let you burn that playlist 10 times. Otherwise, it would be 7. I’ve never tested this hypothesis, because I’ve never burned a CD of iTunes songs (I use my iPod to listen to my songs in my car, on the speakers in my kitchen, while exercising, etc.) It would be nice if someone could do this test, with the latest version of iTunes.

    On the point of the 5 user limit for iTunes music sharing: this is a feature that is intended for personal use. It is my understanding that copyright law prohibits you from broadcasting music that you have purchased (on CD or through the music store) to strangers in a coffeehouse or even friends on your dorm or office network. In my office, there are over a dozen people who share their music over iTunes and I very much enjoy exploring other people’s libraries and have even purchased albums that I’ve discovered that way, because I wanted to listen to them when that person wasn’t around. I think iTunes system of “soft” music sharing, which lets you stream but not download and only from people on the local network, is a great way to let people share the music they enjoy with friends while still providing an incentive to purchase, but the fact is that it’s illegal (again, I’m not a lawyer).

    Personally, I think DRM harms the customer much more than the pirate, and for this reason I think DRM should be outlawed. Still, it seems that over 95% of the time I hear people complain about the policies imposed by iTunes it’s because they’re trying to do something they shouldn’t. My 80 year old grandmother uses iTunes and one day she was telling me how much she liked a certain album, so we bought it on iTunes. She wanted to listen to it in her bedroom CD player, so I showed her how to burn a copy. A few weeks later, she called me and said that iTunes wouldn’t let her burn another copy. It turns out that she had made 6 additional copies to give to friends. So, I unwittingly turned my grandmother into a pirate, and had to explain that if she liked the album that much, she should consider purchasing legit copies as gifts. On the flip side, I’ve had friends who were surprised to learn that iTunes songs had DRM at all, because they had never run into the software-imposed limitations.

    DRM may be evil, but Apple’s policies are very friendly to the customer. I don’t fault Apple for it’s DRM policies, but rather its policy of being very restrictive in allowing other companies to license the ability to play files; this policy is actually hurts music store customers the most.

  5. Paul D says:

    “So, I unwittingly turned my grandmother into a pirate, and had to explain that if she liked the album that much, she should consider purchasing legit copies as gifts.”

    You didn’t unwittingly turn your grandmother into someone who murders and pillages on the high seas. (What, you were making a harmless exaggeration?)

    She simply did the thing that is most natural to humans–to share art and music and other cultural expressions with each other. Copyright and DRM run counter to human nature.

  6. MHC-in-the-box » More iTMS heat says:

    […] The other link from Daring Fireball is this article, Bill Bumgarner’s Cory jerks his knee again. a response to Cory Doctorow’s post, TiVo breaks devices, then charges you $150 if you don’t like the new deal in which Doctorow claims “every iTunes user whose iTunes tracks have been downgraded by an iTunes patch knows this already — Apple won’t give you back your $0.99 even when they decide to take away some of the value you paid for when you put your money down”2. […]

  7. Lekun says:

    If you look at the info of a song, it will tell you the “Fair Play” version of the song. If you bought a song under the fair play version of ten time burn times and 3 authorized, that should stay with that song and the new songs are under the new fair play (7 burn and 5 computers).

    I never have maxed out fair play so it is totally innocous to me, but i believe Apple did not reduce fair play ‘features’ after purchase.

  8. Phil says:

    Apple’s DRM scheme is certainly ‘better’ than most of the competition, but, that doesn’t mean a whole hell of a lot. Eating a rat is better than eating feces, I’d wager, but I wouldn’t exactly call the rat very friendly towards the consumer. It’s just not as bad. Big difference.

  9. Nick Matsakis says:

    but I wouldn’t exactly call the rat very friendly towards the consumer.

    It lets you strip the DRM by burning to a compact disk, playable in any of millions of players worldwide. It lets you use the music in movies and DVDs authored on your computer to. I think it’s very friendly.

  10. Paul D says:

    You get a definite hit in quality if you convert AAC to CD audio and then want to rip it back to MP3 to play elsewhere. The price of stripping the DRM is degraded audio, the cost of a CD, and a bunch of unnecessary effort.

    As per Phil’s example, saying you can get rid of DRM by burning to CD is like saying you can turn rat into a hamburger if you put it in a bun with pickles.

  11. bbum says:

    Very briefly: Yeah — total lossiness when going AAC->AIFF->MP3. So, rip to Apple Lossless or Shorten.

  12. MLE says:

    “functionality that was in widespread use by Apple customers who used it to extract new value from their investment in iTunes songs.”

    …and was in widespread use by people who used it to steal music.

    Totally agree with bbum here.

  13. Nat says:

    It is my understanding that copyright law prohibits you from broadcasting music that you have purchased (on CD or through the music store) to strangers in a coffeehouse or even friends on your dorm or office network.

    On the planet you’re describing, is it a violation of copyright law to play music in a dorm where other people might hear it? No? Then calm down.

  14. Nick Matsakis says:

    is it a violation of copyright law to play music in a dorm where other people might hear it?

    No. And Apple’s software doesn’t prohibit this either. Was there some kind of point you were trying to make?

  15. Nat says:

    My point, expressed murkily, was that you defined “broadcasting” to include an application that can stream music to, at most, a local subnet, and expressed an opinion that such behavior is subject to restrictions on the sorts of broadcasting that reaches millions of people. This was as unsound as claiming a copyright violation for “broadcasting” to an adjacent dorm room.

  16. mns says:

    I’m not sure which is more annoying; Cory’s constant moaning about a product he refuses to use in the first place (how many times, exactly, do you have to burn an audio CD? You can simply burn it once, then rip it as mp3s, or, if you *must* burn it more than the times you’re limited to, add a track to the playlist, then remove it, or create a new playlist with a different name, but the same tracks. Problem solved), or his Disney fanboi-ism.

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