iTunes Music Madness

On May 29, Apple opened up iTunes Plus as a subset of its broader music store, offering DRM-free songs and albums encoded at 256kbps. Apple also offers to upgrade lower-bit-rate, DRM songs for 30 cents a piece. It’s a good deal. But the licensing is downright confusing. While browsing iTunes Plus, yesterday, I saw “Pat Benatar’s Greatest Hits” available DRM-free. I thought, “Huh? I’ve got other Pat Benatar music, and I don’t remember getting an offer DRM-free replacements”. I upgraded 25 other songs from other artists.

Sure enough, my iTunes library contains three Pat Benatar songs, from three different albums. My version of “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” from album “Pat Benatar: Best Shots” is available DRM-free from iTunes Plus. But Apple offered me no 30-cent replacement option. Is it a glitch? I don’t think so. The song in my library lists publisher as Chrysalis, while the DRM-free version is Capitol Records. 

I don’t know if Apple publishes licensing terms for the 30-cent DRM-free upgrades, but I wonder what’s going on here. Song and album in my music library are identical to iTunes Music, but not the publishers; yes, I got the song in my library from iTunes. Maybe in the future—or maybe not—DRM-free version might be available.

Damn music licensing is ridiculously complex, and it’s not unusual for a song released by one publisher to be transferred to another later on. Example: A few months back, iTunes store added a second version of 10,000 Maniacs classic album, “In My Tribe.” The original, published Elektra/Asylum Records, lists for $9.99. The other version, from Atlantic Recording lists, for $7.99—a bargain maybe, but $1 less than when first re-released under the new label.

Photo Credit: Faruk Ateş