Fair Use?

Digital Rights Management is a tricky topic. I can certainly see both sides of the argument. Artists, and more importantly, the owners of the copyright to their works, have an interest in being compensated for their work. On the other hand, consumers of that work expect certain freedoms to use that work. The freedoms may be implicit, or they may be explicit.

Until today, I've never run in to a situation where I found Apple's DRM on music purchased from their iTunes Music Store to be unfair. I can load it on to my iPods (I really don't care if you can't load it on your favorite player). I can play it on computers I use at home, on the go, and at work. I can burn CDs for the car. I can make backups. I'm aware of their rules, and they seem to suit me fine. You could argue that I'm giving up some of the freedoms that purchasing a CD would provide, but this is amicable to me. I get convenient, instant, access to music that I may not otherwise get the opportunity to hear. In fact, in many cases, I am able to purchase the music at a discount compared to other sources.

In DRM discussions this week with my friends, a question arose. Could Apple's own software be used to remove the DRM on iTMS music? The answer to that is of course. You can burn the music to CD and then rip it right back in to iTunes. That part is clear. The thing I wondered, is if GarageBand could be scripted to load a track in and then saved back out, DRM free. It isn't that I want to do this, I was just curious how deep the DRM support in iLife went. If DRM removal was the goal, software like JHymn already does that sort of thing. From my earlier post on ring tones, we saw that GarageBand's media browser provides easy access to the iTunes music library. What I didn't realize, is that I happened to pick some music that was ripped from my own CDs, not a track from the iTMS.

Clicking on the purchased music source in the media browser results in an annoyingly blank window. GarageBand has apparently been told to ignore all DRM'd music. That's not cool. Certainly making a ring tone from a song from the iTMS is no different that making a ring tone from that same song ripped off of a purchased CD. Certainly using a track from the iTMS in a podcast about recently purchased music falls in to the fair use category of for illustration or clarification of the author's observations;. Not so fair, huh?

This leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Who decided that DRM'd music can't be used in GarageBand? It doesn't look like a technical problem. It isn't an AAC vs. MP3 thing. My other experiment used an AAC. It's not a playlist issue. Clicking on other playlists that are a mix of DRM'd and non-DRM'd music will show the nons only. Surely they didn't just forget to add in the support for DRM's music, right? So who decided this? Did Apple do it to avoid potential legal issues? Did the deals with the record companies require it? The iTunes Music Store Terms of Service tells me that You shall be entitled to export, burn (if applicable) or copy Products solely for personal, noncommercial use. They've already put it all on me, why are they pulling back once we are outside of the friendly confines of iTunes?

I'm not a DRM is bad kind of guy....yet.

1 comment:

Jason said...

You would have thought they could have at least indicated the tracks were copy-protected. This also, was not likely an oversight. Most people might not even notice that their purchased iTunes music was not showing up.

Apple has been very clear through their actions that they don't want to simply pay lip service to their DRM. They won't go to Draconian measures to enforce it (aka Sony, RIAA, etc). However, they have made a point of changing the protocol and breaking any programs that were able to remove the protection several times in the past.

That is their perrogative. It is mine to assume that after I buy music from them, I want it free and clear. Even though I will only use it myself, and may not ever even take it beyond a PC or iPod