Fake Bruce Willis / iTunes article makes a good point

Probably the funniest article I read today involved a false story about Bruce Willis put out by the London tabloid, The Daily Mail. According to the Mail Online post:

The Hollywood action hero is said to be considering legal action against technology giant Apple over his desire to leave his digital music collection to his daughters.

If he succeeds, he could benefit not just himself and his family but the millions who have purchased songs from Apple’s iTunes Store.

Willis has discovered that, like anyone who has bought music online, he does not actually own the tracks but is instead ‘borrowing’ them under a licence.

Most purchasers do not bother to read the details of the terms and conditions they agree to when buying an album but the small print makes it clear that music bought through iTunes should not be passed on to others.

Since Willis – who occasionally sings with a blues band and has appeared in a video for Damon Albarn’s band Gorillaz – has apparently spent thousands of dollars downloading music on to ‘many, many iPods’, he is keen to be able to hand it on legitimately to daughters Rumer, Scout and Tallaluh.

Although this story was quickly debunked (apparently Willis is considering no such action; was this story made up out of whole cloth?) it does pose an interesting dilemma. Books and music in the past have always been tangible items. You can physically display a set of leather-bound books, you can store your dad’s old record collection in your attic, but you don’t really own the DRMed music, movies, and books that you purchase from online retailers today. CNN, who has forwarded the story on their website, calls the iTunes terms and conditions contract “an exhaustive, jargon-filled document,” and I would have to agree. Sink your teeth into this:


You agree that the iTunes Service and certain iTunes Products include security technology that limits your use of iTunes Products and that, whether or not iTunes Products are limited by security technology, you shall use iTunes Products in compliance with the applicable usage rules established by Apple and its licensors (“Usage Rules”), and that any other use of the iTunes Products may constitute a copyright infringement. Any security technology is an inseparable part of the iTunes Products. Apple reserves the right to modify the Usage Rules at any time. You agree not to violate, circumvent, reverse-engineer, decompile, disassemble, or otherwise tamper with any of the security technology related to such Usage Rules for any reason—or to attempt or assist another person to do so. Usage Rules may be controlled and monitored by Apple for compliance purposes, and Apple reserves the right to enforce the Usage Rules without notice to you. You agree not to access the iTunes Service by any means other than through software that is provided by Apple for accessing the iTunes Service. You shall not access or attempt to access an Account that you are not authorized to access. You agree not to modify the software in any manner or form, or to use modified versions of the software, for any purposes including obtaining unauthorized access to the iTunes Service. Violations of system or network security may result in civil or criminal liability.


(i) You shall be authorized to use iTunes Products only for personal, noncommercial use.

(ii) You shall be authorized to use iTunes Products on five iTunes-authorized devices at any time, except for Content Rentals (see below).

(iii) You shall be able to store iTunes Products from up to five different Accounts at a time on compatible devices, provided that each iPhone may sync tone iTunes Products with only a single iTunes-authorized device at a time, and syncing an iPhone with a different iTunes-authorized device will cause tone iTunes Products stored on that iPhone to be erased.

(iv) You shall be authorized to burn an audio playlist up to seven times.

(v) You shall not be entitled to burn video iTunes Products or tone iTunes Products.

(vi) iTunes Plus Products do not contain security technology that limits your usage of such products, and Usage Rules (ii) – (v) do not apply to iTunes Plus Products. You may copy, store, and burn iTunes Plus Products as reasonably necessary for personal, noncommercial use.

(vii) You shall be able to manually sync a movie from at least one iTunes-authorized device to devices that have manual sync mode, provided that the movie is associated with an Account on the primary iTunes-authorized device, where the primary iTunes-authorized device is the one that was first synced with the device or the one that you subsequently designate as primary using iTunes.

(viii) An HDCP connection is required to view content transmitted over HDMI.

(ix) Content Rentals

(a) Content rentals are viewable on only one device at a time. You must be connected to the iTunes Service when moving rentals, and you may do so only between your computer and other compatible devices. Content rented using your Apple TV, iPad, iPhone 4, or iPod touch (4th generation) may not be moved. If you move a rental to a compatible device and then use the iTunes Service to restore that device, or choose Settings > Reset > Erase all content and settings on that device, the rental will be permanently deleted.

(b) You have thirty (30) days after downloading a rental to begin viewing. Once you begin viewing, you have twenty-four (24) hours to finish viewing a movie. Stopping, pausing, or restarting a rental does not extend the available time for viewing.

Some iTunes Products, including but not limited to Content rentals, may be downloaded only once and cannot be replaced if lost for any reason. It is your responsibility not to lose, destroy, or damage iTunes Products once downloaded, and you may wish to back them up.

The delivery of iTunes Products does not transfer to you any commercial or promotional use rights in the iTunes Products. Any burning or exporting capabilities are solely an accommodation to you and shall not constitute a grant, waiver, or other limitation of any rights of the copyright owners in any content embodied in any iTunes Product.

You acknowledge that, because some aspects of the iTunes Service, iTunes Products, and administration of the Usage Rules entails the ongoing involvement of Apple, if Apple changes any part of or discontinues the iTunes Service, which Apple may do at its election, you may not be able to use iTunes Products to the same extent as prior to such change or discontinuation, and that Apple shall have no liability to you in such case.

The moral of the story: Apple can do whatever it wants, and your stuff, the stuff you paid for, is really theirs. You are just licensing content from Apple for your own, extremely limited use. It seems that letting a friend share one of your earbuds could be considered a violation of iTunes terms. No listening parties for you and your friends when the latest Grateful Dead show gets released. Who knew that buying media in the 21st century would suck so much? I’d like to know who comes up with these random numbers: “You shall be authorized to burn an audio playlist seven times,” NOT EIGHT! Blah, blah, blah. I loaded all but a few albums onto my iTunes from my CD collection; does this mean just using the playlist is limited, even though I own the CDs and didn’t purchase them from iTunes, or is the simple process of creating a playlist a limited, copyrighted, DRMed, super-Apple-own-me-covered action?

Whether its Amazon’s shadow deletion if 1984, or iTunes bundle of red tape, one thing is clear: governments need to step in to protect the rights of consumers, as they are doing with the Big Six publishers right now. If people are buying music that they expect to own, the terms of use they agree to should reflect this. I would love for my children to be reading my Kindle books fifty years from now, but that is, at the moment, a total uncertainty.

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