I am incredibly irritated with my iPod right now.
I just threw a big party (my 40th birthday party, in fact) and I wanted to have good music for dancing. My wife and I briefly considered hiring a DJ, but that was just too expensive for the size of the party. Anyway, these days iPods make it so easy to set up your own playlist, that I decided just to show up with a Bose and an iPod and press play. So I stayed up late a few nights setting up a dance playlist for my iPod. Apple’s iTunes store was so easy to use that I bought most of my music there. That’s right, I actually legitimately paid for all my music, mostly because Apple made it convenient for me to find and buy the tunes I wanted. So far so good.
The bad part came when I was at the party and realized that I didn’t have half the music I expected to see on my playlist. In fact, none of the songs I JUST PAID FOR got transferred to my iPod. There had been no hint of trouble; they played perfectly on my computer. My playlist was in good shape, and in the past the music on my computer always successfully transferred to my iPod. But this time it SILENTLY FAILED to transfer my newly and duly purchased goods. Not a peep of warning or error. I didn’t test the iPod ahead of time (I will now!), and I would have been truly screwed had I not thought to ask some friends to bring their iPods as backup in case mine broke for some reason. In fact, it did break, but not because I dropped it. It broke because Apple chose to break it. The reason Apple broke it is that they keep playing around with their digital rights management, and the best way to keep you upgrading to the latest lawyer-tweaked software is to stop you from playing newly-purchased music on older versions of the software.
The disturbing thought here is that you will never own information again. You will only lease it, and since you are forever on the upgrade treadmill, the lease can be revoked against your will at any time. Songs, cartoons, newspaper articles, jokes forwarded by email, horoscopes, fortune cookies, all these things will have digital leashes leading back to their masters. Imagine someone at Apple blocking your ability to listen to your own music because they believe you did something naughty. That’s not a farfetched possibility.
Here are two scatalogically entitled entries from BoingBoing by righteously potty-mouthed EFF maven Cory Doctorow on this topic, one recent and one from a year ago.