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Apple Brings iTunes to the Cloud, Legitimizes Illegally-Downloaded Music?

Today along with its new iCloud service, Apple announced iTunes in the Cloud and iTunes Match. Amazon and Google already have cloud-music services that let you upload your music to a cloud, and then stream those tunes to your devices. Apple is taking a different approach, giving you access to its iTunes library to download song you already own or have purchase from iTunes on any of your other devices.

iTunes in the Cloud
With iTunes in the Cloud, tracks you have purchased through iTunes can be downloaded onto all of your iOS devices (up to 10) for free. So if I purchase the latest Modest Mouse album on my home computer, I can download it onto my iPhone for free when I’m in the car later if I forgot to bring the tracks over into my library.

iTunes Match
iTunes Match takes iTunes in the Cloud a step further. For $24.99/year you can have iTunes scan your entire library of songs, and then be given the same access to download those tracks on all your devices – even if those tunes that weren’t purchased from iTunes. So, if instead of buying the latest Modest Mouse album I had ripped my friend’s CD onto my computer (or better yet downloaded the album off a torrent site), I can download the tracks to my iPhone in the car just like I purchased them from iTunes in the first place.

All of the music you download comes in the form of a DRM-free 256kbps AAC file. If you were rocking a lower-quality file beforehand, then you’ll get upgraded to that file format. If for some reason Apple can’t figure out what one of the songs in your library is (or doesn’t sell that particular jam on iTunes), then it will upload your track to the cloud and give you access to download your original version.

So, does iTunes Match legitimize illegal music?
Sort of. On a basic level, if you’ve managed to get a track into iTunes on your computer you will now be able to download high-quality version of that tune on all your other iOS devices for free, regardless of whether or not you paid for those track in the first place. If you’ve got those songs on your computer; however, you could also transfer the songs to all the same devices on your own – Apple’s just making easier.

The kicker comes when you’re talking about poor-quality music files you have on your computer. The way it sounds,  with iTunes Match you could essentially upgrade those songs to a higher quality version than you ever had, that’s now legit, for just $24.99 a year. If you’ve got a lot of low-quality files you’ve picked up from less-than-reputable sources, then $24.99 is a bargain to get the iTunes version of all of those jams.

Apple didn’t specify in its keynote what quality a file would need to be order to qualify as an iTunes download, so potentially iTunes may just upload poor-quality files it scans to your cloud rather than update you to the 256kbps AAC version … or maybe not.

Apple has a number of record labels on board with the service, and a lot of money has presumably exchanged hands. One would presume the record labels knew what was going to happen when they signed on the dotted line, it’s hard to believe they would be up for giving out high-quality versions of songs in exchange for low-quality torrent files; however, maybe Apple threw in enough cash on the deal that they didn’t care.

Do you think iTunes Match is going to legitimize illegal music downloads, or will there be some sort of security measure in place to prevent you from turning illegal torrent files into legitimate iTunes files?


Emily Price

Emily has been obsessed with computers since the early 80s when she discovered she could play Ghostbusters on her father's Commodore 64. She...

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