Hard News by Russell Brown

18

New Dataz

Apple got its DRM-free EMI catalogue - which we should now call iTunes Plus - online just in time to meet its May deadline, but you might want to wait a day or two if you're planning on upgrading your existing EMI purchases to the higher-quality 256k format.

I had only one EMI album to upgrade (Lilly Allen) but I had to restart downloads repeatedly last night, and I'm still waiting to complete my single upgrade of a Moby track. MacFixit has reports of similar user experiences.

The upgrade terms of sale only let you do it "solely in a single transaction at a specified total price, all of the songs and music videos you previously have purchased from the iTunes Store that are eligible for upgrade at the time." Which is probably why the iTunes Store is having nasty load issues at the moment. Duh.

The Terms of Service legals treat the Plus download thus:

(xii) iTunes Plus Products do not contain security technology that limits your isage [sic] of such Products, and Usage Rules (iii) – (vi) do not apply to iTunes Plus Products. You may copy, store and burn iTunes Plus Products as reasonably necessary for personal, noncommercial use.

It appears that the iTunes Plus releases available so far are nothing like the full EMI catalogue.

You need to upgrade to iTunes 7.2 to get the Plus downloads. Apple also now offers the separate "iTunes U" section for audio and video podcasts from Stanford, Berkeley and about a dozen other American universities. That's quite cool.

Not so cool, in some people's eyes, is the fact that the DRM-free Plus downloads still include tags for the buyer's name and email address. Yep, "still" include - ownership details have always been a feature of iTunes Store files.

The EFF has found a fair chunk of file size devoted to what may be library data, but has determined that the files themselves are not digitally watermarked.

I guess it would be trivial to create a utility to overwrite the name and address information, but for the moment, as Ars Technica puts it, in theory, "dropping that new DRM-free song on your favorite P2P network could come back to bite you." Well, yeah. And frankly, if the P2P services start to fill up with DRM-free iTunes downloads, people only have themselves to blame if the industry declares that to be proof of the necessity for DRM.

Staying with the music, the new singles chart came out this week, with downloads counted for the first time - and looked basically like the old chart: lots of R&B and urban, which is what kids buy on their phones, but with eight new entries. But I think as local artists get to grips with the new system, there will be opportunities for well-organised acts to vault into the charts. Singles charts were made for hyping. Now everyone can play.

Also, Paul Kennedy from Media Sauce (who compiles the charts) pointed out something about RIANZ's new system that I'd missed:

Something that everyone seems to have entirely skipped over so far is the change to the certification system for singles, which is actually a more fundamental and important change than the counting of digital sales.

As it is in almost every country, the gold/platinum certification system has traditionally been based on 'shipped' wholesale sales (ie. when a record company sold 5000 copies of a single to stores, the single went gold... regardless of whether it then takes another 12 months for those singles to be sold to consumers, or in some cases, might never in fact be sold).

That model doesn't work for digital because there isn't a wholesale transaction - the record company provides one digital copy of a song, then the retailer sells it over and over and over again. The only thing that can meaningfully be counted is the retail sale.

So gold/platinum singles will now be monitored and certified independently, based on genuine sales to consumers. The record company has no involvement in the process any more. They learn when 7500 (gold) or 15000 (plat) consumers have purchased one of their songs (either in physical form or digital form) just like everyone else - when they see it go gold/plat on the chart.

That can only be good in accuracy and legitimacy terms.

That's for singles only though. Albums and DVDs still work the old way. For now...

Also, from this week, album downloads will be included in the album charts, although that clearly won't have as much impact.

Meanwhile, one more from Apple - and, I think, quite a big one.

Apple® today announced that it's bringing the Internet's most popular originally-created content from YouTube to the living room with Apple TV(TM). Beginning in mid-June, Apple TV will wirelessly stream videos directly from YouTube and play them on a user's widescreen TV. Using Apple TV's elegant interface and simple Apple Remote, viewers can easily browse, find and watch free videos from YouTube in the comfort of their living room.

Assuming this won't be some cut-down version of YouTube (ie: without any infringing clips), the Apple TV box now looks like it might be worth owning. Just as soon as I get that new TV …

PS: I don't even code, but I love LOLCODE.

PPS: Suggestions for this month's 'Stories' feature topic, please? OE tales? Pet stories?

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