CNET: Could Apple Screw Its iTunes Customers Too? (Hint: Of course.)


CNET News asks a good question that we can’t possibly imagine happening, but in the wake of the MSN Music and Yahoo Music disasters, it’s still worth considering: what if Apple decided to stop issuing DRM keys?

What that means, in English, is that let’s say you bought music from the iTunes Store. All of it—with the exception of music released by EMI, along with some small independent labels—is copy protected. So if you want to listen to it on a cell phone that’s not an iPhone, for example, you can’t—even though you can walk into a CD store, buy the same CD, import it, and then listen to the same music anywhere you want.

But let’s forget that a second. Let’s assume that Apple decided one day to stop issuing the DRM keys, so that if you bought a new computer or phone, you couldn’t listen to the music on that new device, the way Yahoo and MSN both stipulated.

What CNET said is this, despite the fact that it’s unlikely: “If, for some reason, Apple stopped issuing new DRM keys, people’s music would [also] get stuck. Check out iTunes’ terms of service. The company says that in such a scenario, customers could not hold it responsible: ‘In the event that Apple changes any part of the Service or discontinues the Service, which Apple may do at its election, you acknowledge that you may no longer be able to use products to the same extent…and that Apple shall have no liability to you.'”

The report said that what the Yahoo and MSN situations show is that “DRM-wrapped music is never truly controlled by anyone other than whoever holds the encryption key. Whether it’s FairPlay or Windows Media DRM or some other format, consumers are at their mercy when it comes to unlocking their music.”