Watermarked iTunes files

Like a half-baked breeze drifting across the Internet, word has gone out that— heaven forbid! —the DRM-free tracks sold at the iTunes Store contain the name and Apple ID of the purchaser. What has escaped the attention of some is that Apple has always embedded this information in media purchased from the iTunes Store.

Care to see for yourself? On a Mac it’s easy to do. Simply launch Terminal, type:


followed by a space.

Drag a purchased music track, TV show, music video, or movie into Terminal to add its path and type:

| grep name

Note the space between the end of the path name and | and another space between | and grep.

Press Return.

You’ll see name followed by the name of the purchaser, so in my case nameChristopher Breen.

The implications? In the past this wasn't a big deal because, by default, you could play purchased media only on those computers authorized for that purpose. That's changed now that some purchased iTunes media is no longer protected. Obviously, it would be profoundly stupid to share any media purchased from the iTunes Store on a peer-to-peer network. Its source could be easily traced. A less obvious implication is that you may want to keep a closer eye on your media. Suppose you pass along one of these DRM-free tracks to your buddy and she posts it on a peer-to-peer network?

Should the enforcement arm of the RIAA lean on your doorbell, I hope you’ll recall the immortal words of John Donne:

“Therefore, send not to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.”

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