Apple recently announced that it has finally decided to move in to the DRM-free era by shattering the shackles off of all music sold at the iTunes Music Store. No longer will music purchased through iTunes be locked to the previously instituted 5-computer limit nor will there be restrictions on CD burning. One important aspect that has not, and will not, change is the use of watermarking to essentially “tie” the files to a particular consumer. Do not think that because the music files no longer contain DRM that you can up and hop on Limewire and start sharing these tracks with the world.
Don’t be that dumbass who ends up sharing their legally purchased but watermarked DRM-free tracks. This will do nothing but place you in the crosshairs of the high-paid legal guns the recording industry has no qualms wielding.
We started examining the files this morning and noticed our names and e-mail addresses in the files, and we’ve found corroboration of the find at TUAW, as well. But there’s more to the story: Apple embeds your account information in all songs sold on the store, not just DRM-free songs. Previously it wasn’t much of a big deal, since no one could imagine users sharing encrypted, DRMed content. But now that DRM-free music from Apple is on the loose, the hidden data is more significant since it could theoretically be used to trace shared tunes back to the original owner. It must also be kept in mind that this kind of information could be spoofed.
This policy has not changed even though some people falsely believe otherwise. Although Apple has opted to drop DRM on music files entirely, they continue to watermark all music legally purchased through iTunes. Presumably Apple does this as means of placating the blind music executives and idiotic lawyers who run the RIAA.
Apple has no stake in this game other than the continued ability to sell digital music files through the iTunes Music Store. It is rather apparent that one of the “demands” the record labels have made is the continued use of watermarking as a potential means of combating casual piracy. If this is the intended use of the watermarking, this is nothing short of problematic.
Apple should be lauded for the move to a DRM-free world, however the continued use of watermarking is not wholly problem-free. Assuming the use is as I mentioned above, and the RIAA intends to use the embedded data as a means of tracing a file back to a particular consumer for the sake of a shake-down, are we to now expect additional lawsuits against consumers even though the industry has pledged to end this campaign?
So what happens when you lose your iPod with over 500 legally purchased iTunes Plus music files, which then end up on some P2P network no thanks to the lucky individual who found your lost iPod? The RIAA has a history of using unconvincing evidence to pressure consumers in to paying to avoid a lengthy, expensive lawsuit. Do you think these assclowns are going to believe your sad story about your lost iPod, and that you have no clue why music files with your full name and email address are on [insert favorite P2P network]?
Remember, they’re the victims, not you. Solid evidence means nothing to these folks. Even though the music no longer has DRM but is watermarked, this is another method for the RIAA to demonstrate music was shared on P2P networks even though the presence of such watermarks technically proves nothing.