Is it wrong of me to be upset that my old Protected AAC files sound like crap once I've burned to CD and ripped as mp3s? I mean, heck, I bought these things from Apple for full price, and though they still sell the same files without DRM (and, painfully, now at twice the bit rate I got), I'm strangely stuck. You're supposed to be able to pay 30¢ a track to get the DRM removed, but for whatever complicated licensing reason, I can't. I've got albums from Rolling Stones, Rich Robinson (not really a big change there), No Doubt, White Zombie, and Alison Krauss, all on protected AAC that can't be cashed in on iTunes Plus.

This didn't used to be a huge deal. I usually listened to iTunes while working and often an iPod while I was moving around. And it's not like I don't have plenty of other albums. On my MacBook now, Protected AAC tracks less than 3% of my music collection.

What bugs me is that 1.) I do like these AAC albums more than average and 2.) Now iTunes allows you to download your DRMless tracks as many times as you'd like, to whatever machine you're on.

Reread the second. One thing that always bothered me was that I could lose the AAC files, and I usually burned albums to CD pretty quickly in case I had a hard drive failure. Amazon and iTunes both have mini-clouds now, where tracks you buy from them can be downloaded over and over. Amazon would also like you to consider streaming your music, though I don't see the advantage of streaming files that small to your phone at inferior bit rates when you want to listen to music. It's worth the SD card space to avoid stuttering music, imo.

iTunes of course has iTunes Match as well, where you shell out $30 a year to access all of your files over the cloud, and occasionally at a higher bitrate that the files than you initially owned. So if you ripped The Cranberries at 128 bits/sec on your bondi blue iMac and threw the disc away, you can get them at 256 bits/sec now. And for those of you that pirated files, well, shame on you, but you can get copies of those from Apple's cloud wherever you are as well. Instead of being mad about Apple laundering pirated files, apparently the music companies consider this "found money". Finally, since Apple apparently pays some royalties for each time a Match subscriber downloads a track, copyright holders are getting a small cut of cash from the schmoes that pirated the files before. (This attitude also suggests that the companies really do understand each album stolen does not constitute a loss at retail prices, though that's not a surprise.)

You can get copies of all the music in your library that's on the Store, that is, unless you initially bought them from Apple during The FairPlay years. Painfully, those files, unlike the ones you grabbed years ago from Limewire or the original Napster, aren't going to show up on Match.

Now I have to imagine the files I just ripped from a CD made from 128 bit/sec AAC files that sounds like crud would count for Match. Which also makes me wonder how strict Match is about the files you say are legitimate. If I want a new, expensive album, can I simply make mp3 files that are the proper length with the right names/ID3 tags and have iTunes Match do the pirating for me, virus free? Or is the check more complicated, double-checking the sound in the file against an original's signature? If we have iPhone apps that can "listen" to what's playing and find that song for you to buy, well, you'd hope iTunes Match is at least as complex. And would my mp3's from Audacity-recording of cassettes match that cut?

If you can make mp3s simply of the same length with ID3 tags and confuse Match, well, it's a real irony that legitimately purchased, DRM protected files are now in practice less legitimate than a kid with Audacity.

Labels: , , ,