iTunes offers legal ‘sharing’

Since he downloaded Apple’s iTunes music player, Keith Salas ’07 said he has tried to listen to new music every day. But instead of buying songs through the iTunes Music Store (iTMS), he said he looks through users’ playlists until he finds something he has not heard.

Yalies have rushed to download the iTunes music player and iTMS since it became available to Windows users two weeks ago. But while an Apple press release says users downloaded one million songs within the first 3.5 days the software was available to Windows users, many Yalies said they use it mainly to “share” others’ music, not to buy songs from the iTMS.

The program and associated music store had previously been available only for users of Apple’s own Macintosh operating system, but Apple made them available to Windows users as a free download from its Web site on Oct. 16. Users can pay to download songs from the iTMS. Most songs cost 99 cents but some are album exclusives and are only available as part of a complete album. Purchased songs can be played with iTunes, burned onto a CD or stored on an iPod.

These digital songs are encoded in Advanced Audio Coding (AAC), which Apple says has improved audio quality over traditional MP3s. Unlike songs a user rips from a CD onto his computer, Apple’s AAC files are modified with FairPlay, a type of Digital Rights Management (DRM) software the company makes. DRM restricts the use of digital files in order to protect the copyrights on those files. Apple-encoded AAC files can only be played on three computers, which can be either Macs or Windows PCs, but they can still be burned an unlimited number of times and copied to an unlimited number of iPods.

“The iTunes Music Store has revolutionized the way people legally buy music online,” Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO, said in a press release.

iTunes allows users to connect to other iTunes users on the same network and listen to their iTunes music collections. iTunes network sharing has become particularly successful on Yale’s campus. Students can listen to anyone’s music in the their immediate vicinity, provided that the user has elected to turn on the library sharing feature. But unlike Kazaa and Napster, iTunes sharing does not permit the actual downloading of files. Users can only listen, as though each student is running a radio station, but one that lets listeners choose which songs are broadcast.

Keith Salas ’07, who is a new iTunes user, and he said he is a fan of the network-sharing feature.

“It is the most amazing program I have ever seen,” Salas said. “It is all right there with the click of a button. You can listen to everyone’s music, with pretty good variety.”

Over 400,000 songs from the major music labels and over 200 independent labels are available, according to an Apple press release. But Salas said he is less interested in the iTMS than the network sharing features.

“I like the allowance feature,” Salas said, referencing the feature that lets parents set a specific amount of money that be spent in the store each month. But Salas said he would buy a used CD rather than digital songs if he were trying to save money.

“I see no reason not to just buy the CD,” he said.

Jade Lamb ’07 uses iTunes on her Mac, but in the months she has had it, she has not used the online store, she said.

The iTMS faces stiff competition from a variety of other providers, many of which use the competing Windows Media Audio (or WMA) format. Dave Fester, general manager of Microsoft’s Windows Digital Media Division, downplayed Apple’s online offering on PressPass, Microsoft’s public relations web site.

“Unless Apple decides to make radical changes to their service model, a Windows-based version of iTunes will still remain a closed system,” he wrote. “If you use Apple’s music store along with iTunes, you don’t have the ability of using the over 40 different Windows Media-compatible portable music devices. When I’m paying for music, I want to know that I have choices today and in the future.”

The iPod, Apple’s popular MP3/AAC player, has been available in both Mac and PC-compatible forms for several months. But WMA-based services are currently incompatible with iPods just as the AAC format is incompatible with other players.

Apple will work with Pepsi to promote iTunes beginning in February, giving away 100 million songs by printing winning codes on the inside of Pepsi bottlecaps.

Julia Felsenthal '06 uses Apple's iTunes music player, which became available to Windows users two weeks ago, for user-to-user file sharing.
Stephanie Dziczek
Julia Felsenthal '06 uses Apple's iTunes music player, which became available to Windows users two weeks ago, for user-to-user file sharing.

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