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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