Apple’s lame DRM

Not to turn this entire site into an “apple sucks for the following reasons…” blog, but I expect more from them and feel that pointing out their faults and design decisions that go against their typical fine work is worth mentioning.

Today, I’m pissed at their iTunes Store DRM. I have two computers I use daily, an iPhone, and an AppleTV. All four devices allow me to buy things directly from the iTunes Store, but wherever you purchase a file, it stays. Sometimes when I’m traveling and I’m on my laptop but I wish I had a show I left on my desktop at home, I’ll break down and go to the iTunes Store to get another copy. When you do something like that, you get this screen:

The thing that is broken for me is that you can playback iTunes purchased files on up to 5 computers, which I’m currently using less than the maximum of. Apple knows I’ve purchased the audio/video file before, and they know how many devices have ever played back that purchased file, but instead of allowing me to re-download the file to another computer capable of playing it, I’m forced to purchase a second copy.

I know I can just FTP the audio/video file from one machine to the next but sometimes you forget to do that before you leave the house. Or, you buy a TV show on your AppleTV, and that syncs to one computer, but not the other.

I really wish Apple would allow at least a few extra chances to download purchased media files. I’ve lost hard drives and had backup drives die as well, and it sure would be nice if they could let you see your entire purchase history and let you get things back you might have lost, or get second copies for your other devices.

10 Comments

  • That’s one of the things I really appreciate about eMusic. Keeps my purchase history easily accessible, and lets me redownload anything I’ve ever bought, no problem.

  • Also stop being a pussy prosumer
    heh. I mostly get my tv shows online free, but a lot of weird stuff like kids shows and home improvement shows aren’t the kind of stuff people rip and share, so I have to break down and pay for them.
    And yeah, I’ve heard you can appeal to Apple to get a one-time redownload chance, but I wish it was formalized so I could just redownload as needed without having to ask first. Since I paid for a download/playback license and I’m still within the limits of the license, I should be allowed to redownload freely.

  • Well, see, what you need to do is switch on over to a “non-evil” company, like, Microsoft :-P
    Seriously though, I’m anti-drm yada-yada also, but I just love the concept of a music subscription (not having to worry about choosing music, etc), so I broke down and bought a Zune.
    It’s actually the most fundamentally flawed device I have ever loved. But, the point of my yammering on is this. The Zune store allows unlimited redownloading. It’s a single click to take your entire purchased collection and move it onto a new machine. They even allow the concept of a ‘reverse sync’ where you can move licensed files from computer to device to computer.
    It just goes to show how capricious these DRM schemes are. Also, I think people should not let Apple off the hook here. Obviously the rights holders have no problems with redownloading (or at least they can be arm twisted into allowing it), so it’s clearly just a revenue augmentation strategy from Apple. And to keep the negative publicity to minimum, they’ll give away a couple of redownloads to people who beg.
    It’s not about having a love or hate for any one company. What is important is to realize that they are all in it to bring the most value to their shareholders, and that we need pit them against each other in order to get what we want out of them.

  • If you contact them and ask, and tell them your hardship story, they will allow you to redownload everything you’ve ever purchased. If you google it you’ll find thousands of blog posts describing people’s experiences with their redownload policy.
    mathowie, unfortunately, actually does the whole ‘convergence’ thing and is subject to the edge cases of the DRM.
    Just set up DynDNS, port forwards, and SSH for each of your home computers — then you can easily scp/sftp random shit remotely without premeditation. Also stop being a pussy prosumer and just use bittorrent trackers for your tv shows like the rest of us — higher resolutions, higher bitrates. faster downloads. and free.

  • +1. I had a massive HD failure in July and lost all my music. Wishing iTunes store would just let me magically restore my purchases…

  • I had a hard drive start to crash and copied off everything. I only lost a song or two of purchased music. I contacted Apple with my sob story and was refused the one-time redownload. I guess I’m not a famous blogger. I haven’t bought a song from Apple since. I’ll get it at the Amazon store if I’m not going to get the CD.

  • Part of your problem is the labels and not Apple. DRM is done for their sake; Apple is simply creating and adhering to basic schemas that keep the labels happy. If they allowed 10 machines instead of 5 BMG, Warner et al would probably make you pay $1.99 a song instead of 99 cents.
    I suppose Apple thinks MobileMe and remote file syncing is part of the answer to problems like yours, but they’re not there yet.

  • Agree totally. The more apple devices I buy, the more I feel I have an organizational nightmare to keep things synced and current.
    I would even pay a nominal fee for the bandwidth to download again.
    And what’s with the ‘check for purchase’ menu item in iTunes? If it’s not intended to do just what you’re talking about, call it something else FFS.

  • I’m such a DRMophobe that I refuse to buy anything at all from the iTunes store.
    But perhaps this is related to my pet peeve about iTunes and Apple media mobility: I want a way to intelligently divide my library between a big networked drive and the smaller drive on my laptop.
    There are several management schemes one could imagine for this — giving iTunes the ability to open multiple libraries at once and selectively mirror contents between them; supporting a “virtual iPod” on the laptop populated by smart playlists on the network drive; whatever — but I haven’t heard of anything which works.
    The closest thing currently supported is to just have two completely separate libraries and choose between them with alt-click when starting iTunes, but that puts the entire burden on me of managing what music is in what library and no easy way to move stuff back and forth. What I want is for iTunes to do the work: give me my full collection when I’m at home and an easily managed subset when I’m away, without my having to think about it every time I want to listen to music.

  • I jump up and down whenever someone tells me they’re buying stuff off the iTunes store. Recognizing that DRM isn’t exactly the problem here, but wouldn’t Amazon mp3’s be about 100 times preferable?

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