Lovin’ The Amazon MP3 Store: Passive-Aggressive DRM

Suing Me

Besides saving a dollar here and there using Amazon’s MP3 store, the main reason I like Amazon over iTunes is its use of what I call passive-aggressive DRM.

Passive-Aggressive DRM is the way Apple keeps you from sharing music you’ve purchased from the iTunes store. It doesn’t have any digital lock, anybody can play it without a problem, but what turns me off from it is this one tiny bit of information that can be used to personally identify you, the account used to purchase the music, and, if need be, used to bring in the law to enforce the EULA that you agree to adhere to everytime you buy from iTunes.

Your email address is in every file you purchase from the iTunes Store. That’s the passive-aggressive DRM.

When iTunes Plus first arrived, the email address in the metadata was noted – but many, including Daring Fireball, brushed it off, stating that Apple gave us exactly what we asked for; DRM-Free music.

This doesn’t bother me because I plan on breaking my agreement with iTunes. I’m not worried about what Apple would do – I’m worried what organizations like the RIAA could do.

If your music folder is wide open and somebody grabs your iTunes purchased music, shares it with their buddies, who share it with more buddies, and in a week it’s on P2P networks, who do you think the RIAA is going to pursue and who do you think will find themselves in the middle of a legal nightmare? You – all because you left a window in your house unlocked either intentionally or unintentionally.

A little extreme? Maybe. Possible? Absolutely.

Amazon may watermark their MP3s to show that they were the ones who sold it, but I haven’t seen anything in their files that personally identify you as the purchaser. For iTunes, this is such a con for me that if it weren’t for this one thing I’d choose iTunes over Amazon almost everytime, except in very specific instances…