iTunes Match will not be used to track pirates, experts say

Apple will launch its iCloud service this fall for iOS and Mac devices. There are many new features included with this service, and some parts will be free. As Neowin previously reported, Apple has introduced a feature called iTunes Match. This feature costs $25 dollars a year, and it will match any song in your library to the iTunes Store. If it finds a match, it will stream the song directly from the iTunes Store. This allows the user to not upload unnecessary songs, saving bandwidth on their ISP of choice. However, considering that iTunes Match uses metadata analysis, could Apple identify pirated music? What would Apple do with the information?

Ars Technica says that an industry expert they spoke with said the answer is yes to the first question. Digital music contains embedded information in the IDv3 tags of song files. Often times, there is data that can't be found, such as a hashed time stamp. If iTunes Match found 1,000 identical embedded hash time stamps, that would be evidence of file sharing or piracy. Music labels could embed watermarks that Apple could scan and identify files that have been pirated. All of this, however, assumes that Apple would cooperate. Apple does not comment on this matter, however, which may mean they do these kind of things for their own purposes. Apple says they only release aggregate information to music labels. They say they do not release personally identifiable information unless required by law.

"There is likely some value to Apple to know where people get files, for marketing purposes, and that same information could potentially be used to determine if files were pirated," Julie Samuels, staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said. Chicago-based intellectual property attorney Evan Brown agreed that outing users as pirates serves little purpose for Apple. Doing so would merely alienate users and keep them from paying the yearly $25 fee, and could keep them from coming back to the iTunes Store to make additional legitimate purchases. "It doesn't seem like Apple would be the one with any incentive or reason to ferret out pirates."

Even if Apple had a reason to hand over information, the RIAA would have a hard time getting at the right data needed to make their case. The makeup of a individual's library is pretty opaque, making it hard for anti-piracy groups to snoop, according to Brown.

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29 Comments

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Lamp Post said,
Is there any reason you wouldn't be able to engineer fake files which would pass right through iTunes Match?

While it would be easy for someone to write a bit of code to clean up the ID3 bits, a CRC hash of the mp3 would be enough to confirm if a song had been copied a zillion times.

One would need to re-encode the file, which would digitally degrade the song a wee bit.

Enron said,
I wouldn't trust this service any more than I trust emails I get from Nigeria.

Why not? What's wrong with it?

Maybe using Match will not link you to piracy, but every track you download off of iTunes (even though they are DRM-free) are stamped with your user ID. If that track slips from your control and ends up in cyberspace anyone can see who the source of the copyright infringement is. Don't share with your friends unless you intend to re-encode the files you get from Match.

Tod Westlake said,
If the information exists, it can be subpoenaed.

Not exactly, for a subpoena to be used, you need prima fascia evidence. Fortunately, iTunes Match doesn't expose that kind of data that could be used.

"The makeup of a individual's library is pretty opaque, making it hard for anti-piracy groups to snoop, according to Brown."

What the hell does that mean?

Skwerl said,
"The makeup of a individual's library is pretty opaque, making it hard for anti-piracy groups to snoop, according to Brown."

What the hell does that mean?


It means that the user's information is hard to obtain by just looking up the library they have

jwoodfin09 said,

It means that the user's information is hard to obtain by just looking up the library they have

Except if someone has like 100,000 songs in their library that could be one helluva red flag. 8P

Won't be available in Canada apparently.. royalties won't let it happen unless they find a way around it, which I doubt

If it finds a match, it will stream the song directly from the iTunes Store.

This is false. The iCloud service has no streaming component. The iTunes Match service merely allows the user to match their non-iTunes purchases to content in the iTunes library and make it available for download to any of their authorized devices or computers.

metal_dragen said,

This is false. The iCloud service has no streaming component.

Currently. It is rumored that Apple will be rolling out a streaming component to iTunes soon.

Luis Mazza said,
"They say they do not release personally identifiable information unless required by law."

So.... There's a possibility.

That's about as good as any company can guarantee when it comes to that. If a court says hand it over, there is nothing the company can do at that point other than appeal. In the end, they have to do what the law says.

Luis Mazza said,
"They say they do not release personally identifiable information unless required by law."

So.... There's a possibility.

Apple has shown it will even do things that are not in its users' best long-term interests if offered enough money to do so (re: AT&T, etc. etc.).

O5M3L said,
To save your music online? How is that awesome lol

The ability to download full 256kbps AAC files that are DRM-free for your entire music collection (no questions asked) is very awesome! I'd probably pay a lot more than $25! You don't have to keep re-subscribing unless you get more music. Once you download the files, they are yours.

It should be noted that these "DRM-free" AAC files are stamped with your iTunes user ID, and removing that stamp w/o re-encoding the file is very difficult. So, be careful who you share these files with.

Shadrack said,

The ability to download full 256kbps AAC files that are DRM-free for your entire music collection (no questions asked) is very awesome! I'd probably pay a lot more than $25! You don't have to keep re-subscribing unless you get more music. Once you download the files, they are yours.

It should be noted that these "DRM-free" AAC files are stamped with your iTunes user ID, and removing that stamp w/o re-encoding the file is very difficult. So, be careful who you share these files with.

Is it not widely known that iCloud WILL include DRM?