The iTunes Store will begin offering eight million of its 10 million songs in Apple’s DRM-free format, iTunes Plus, today with the remaining two million songs offered in iTunes Plus by the end of March.
So I was somewhat surprised the other day when I downloaded Spin’s free “20 Years of Lollapalooza” compilation from the iTunes Store, and found that two of the 20 tracks were 128-kbps, FairPlay-saddled files instead of modern 256-kbps, DRM-free files.
The dead giveaway was when I noticed both My Morning Jacket’s “It Beats 4 U” and Company of Thieves’ “Death of Communication” listed the Kind as “Protected AAC audio file” instead of “Purchased AAC audio file”.
Interestingly, when I searched the iTunes Store for “It Beats 4 U” I got no results. When I looked up the album Okonokos that the song comes from, I found that it’s now listed as “It Beats for You”, and is one second shorter than the previous version.
With “Death of Communication” I was able to find the song on the iTunes Store (again with a slightly different run time) but not on the same album. My download lists the album as Death of Communication – Single, which doesn’t appear anywhere on the iTunes Store.
So it appears that the tracks, if purchased directly from Apple today, are indeed DRM-free. But the songs included as part of the free compilation are older versions that are otherwise invisible to prying eyes on the iTunes Store.
Is this a reversal of Apple’s stated DRM-free policy, or just some kind of quirky loophole Apple keeps open for those who want to give away free songs on iTunes? I attempted to contact Apple for clarification, but had not heard back at the time this story was published. Either way, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a new DRMed track appear in my iTunes library.
So is this an isolated incident, or have you encountered a similar situation recently too?