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DRM-Free iTunes Files Still Contain Your Account Info



January 16th, 2009 19:48 pm | by Ed |

In a move that many are applauding, Apple's iTunes music downloads store is now very nearly completely DRM free and is expected to be completely free of DRM laden music by sometime this spring. I have to say that I agree with a vast majority that moving to DRM free is definitely the way to go. A recent CNet article however has just dropped the other shoe.

iTunes stuff is indeed free of DRM, however that hasn't stopped the boys at Apple from making sure they can find out who is uploading their music onto file sharing networks. It turned out to be pretty easy too. All they had to do was include your account information in every file you download from the iTunes store.

Just in case you'd like to check, the CNet article said that if you load one of your DRM free iTunes music files into a text editor such as Notepad and then use the "Find" option on the Edit menu to search for the email address that you used to sign up for iTunes, you will find it in the file amongst all the binary data. It's a no brainer to figure out that if your email address is in there, things like your account number, date you downloaded the file, the IP address you downloaded it from and God only knows what else is in there too.

This means that all they have to do is look for titles that they sell on whatever file sharing network and when they find 'em, all they need to do is download them and check to see who bought it. This allows them to build a database of people who have shared their iTunes music, who, how many files, over what time span, Etc. All of this data they can then use to track down the ones that they want to "make an example of" and haul 'em into court, probably with the cooperation of the RIAA & co.

This led me, just for the heck of it, to do a search on Google. I put the phrase "removing personal information from itunes files" (without the quotes, though with might get more refined results) into the search box and click "search".

The very first result was absolutely no surprise: "iTunes: How to Remove Personal Information from DRM Free iTunes Plus Songs using iTunes". Which gave instructions with a screenshot that explained how to sanitize your iTunes music.

However, one commenter pointed out that this process involved converting the file format with a lossy codec and therefore would, however slightly it might be, cause the resulting file to be of lower quality than the original.

This led to another Google search, this time for "edit personal information in iTunes files". Again the first result proved informative. It was a slashdot article where one commenter pointed out:

Also, despite the summary's between the lines implication that Apple is hiding the info from ID3 tag editors, the audio files are MPEG4. This means they don't contain ID3 tags. Since MPEG4 is based on QuickTime, a QuickTime atom editor will happily show you the tags and let you remove them.

I don't have iTunes or a QuickTime atom editor so I couldn't check this out but it sounds reasonable to me.

Finally, just for the heck of it, I did one last Google search for "remove itunes" and it confirmed my suspicion. Apple's creation is just as much a pain in the ass as trying to remove a Symantec product. I found this out by following the third result on that search which was the first one that didn't point to something on apple.com.

Reading that page was very informative. It also made me glad that I've never polluted my computer with iTunes and now I certainly never will. Anything that can give you *that much grief* when you try to remove it, isn't something I ever want to install. Frankly, from that page and a few others I've looked at, I have to say that I have a real problem installing anything from Apple. Besides, that company started it's trip to hell way back in the days of the Apple ][e when Steve Jobs stole it from Wozniak.

Technorati Tags: music downloads, music files, drm free music, riaa, cnet article, itunes, apple downloads, apple music, itunes plus, itunes music, drm free, google search, apple store, royal pain, remove apple software

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