Little and Big Music Disagree On 'iTunes Match'

iTunes Match was Steve Jobs' "One More Thing at WWDC this year. It allows users to get the same backup and "download anywhere" benefits from legitimate iTunes purchases as well as any other music they might have, regardless of where it was acquired. Or, as All Things Digital's Peter Kafka put it:

Apple will take the songs you've stolen, and turn them into legit files, with big music's blessing.

Big music might have agreed to Apple's pirate amnesty scheme, but little music may not fall in line quite so quietly.

match
Rob Sevier, owner of Chicago-based Numero Group -- a tiny record label that specializes in old Soul music -- thinks iTunes Match is a raw deal. In a chat with Ars Technica's Chris Foresman, Sevier explained the effect of piracy on a small record label like Numero.

[M]any of Numero's releases sell in the range of about 10,000 copies total, including physical and digital formats. Yet, the label has found copies of tracks from its albums on sharing sites such as MediaFire or RapidShare with download counts that far exceed sales numbers.

"People will rip your album and upload them, and you can see how many people are downloading it," Sevier explained. "And in some cases people are downloading our stuff like 80,000 times or more. We have seen, on average, anything from 10 to 20 times more downloads than legitimate sales."

"There's no way that we're not going to see matching that exceeds what we're selling legitimately," Sevier said.

This is nothing new. Six years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that Grokster and StreamCast "induced users to violate copyrights and chose not to take the simple steps available to prevent it." The Economist, writing about the case in 2005, noted "the challenge for content providers is to use new technology to create value for customers, and to make those who use content illegally feel bad about it."

If, as Sevier claims, Match is bad for the artist and the record company, then it must be good for the consumer. Sevier, for one, thinks so:

[iTunes Match is] brilliant. I will definitely use the free version since I'll be able to access all of the stuff I've bought from iTunes and not have to permanently store it all on my computer.

But clearly some of the big record execs like it too. Labels hope iTunes Match will supply them with three important things: Some amount of revenue for pirated music is better than nothing; labels will get more feedback about the types of music that consumers are listening to; and, they hope, iTunes Match will get customers into the habit of paying for music again -- at least in a subscription form.

Top Rated Comments

trainwrecka Avatar
146 months ago
Let's not forget about the legit users.

Remember a lot of us were alive during the transition from CDs to iTunes. That means a lot of us have thousands of songs purchased legally imported into iTunes. It also means people are covered if they bought them from an alternative service like Amazon. People are going to steal regardless. This is a big plus for the honest folk out there.
Score: 24 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Sardonick007 Avatar
146 months ago
Arrogant pricks. Not all non-iTunes music is stolen. I've got over 500 CD's full of music that I have ripped myself. I own them. Screw you record labels.
Score: 22 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Hirth Avatar
146 months ago
The argument is trotted out again that "pirated downloads were X times higher than legitimate sales", with the implication being that if there were no piracy, then our sales would have been X (or some significant fraction thereof) times higher. There is no rational way to estimate this. If there were no piracy, sales might have been X times higher; sales might not have been any higher at all. There is no way to tell. There is no way to perform the experiment to find out, either. Also what about people who have NO pirated music on their computers. Should they be punished (by having to buy a fresh digital copy of music they already own) because of some people who do not respect copyright?
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
AmpSkillz Avatar
146 months ago
"People will rip your album and upload them, and you can see how many people are downloading it," Sevier explained. "And in some cases people are downloading our stuff like 80,000 times or more. We have seen, on average, anything from 10 to 20 times more downloads than legitimate sales."

"There's no way that we're not going to see matching that exceeds what we're selling legitimately"

so.... people download free stuff more than stuff you have to pay for

this Rob Sevier guy is a freaking genius

just because people are willing to download something for free does not mean they would have paid for it

its kind of like apps in the app store, I try free crap all the time but that does not mean I would have paid for it if they decided to charge for it

when it comes to paid apps i am fairly selective
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Michael Scrip Avatar
146 months ago
Apple will take the songs you've stolen, and turn them into legit files, with big music's blessing.

It really sounds too good to be true... that you can have Apple scan your "less-than-legal" music downloads and let you have fresh clean copies of those songs sent to your iDevices.

On the other hand... you're paying for that service... and I bet a big portion of that fee is given to the record labels.

The record labels currently get ZERO dollars if you just sync those illegal songs with a USB cable... so maybe this is their way of trying to get something...
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jlgolson Avatar
146 months ago
Apple will make it seamless, but there's 3 kinds of songs:

(1) Purchased on iTunes with local copy on your device, and if not, available to download. No dent in your 5GB iCloud. This is already working. Very nice.
Correct!

(2) Obtained elsewhere but iTunes Matched. Can stream from the iCloud as long as you pay your subscription. No dent in your 5GB storage. It's Pandora with your database playing Apple's copy of the track. This is why this entire article and thread is a non-issue.
INCORRECT! iTunes Match gives you the EXACT SAME benefits as (1) but for music obtained elsewhere. Whether you got it from Amazon, ripped a CD or pirated it, it gives you a 256Kbps AAC copy from iTunes (if that's better than the copy you have) AND lets you download to all your devices, exactly the same as if you purchased it from iTunes. There is NO streaming. No dent in your 5GB storage, because it's just giving you access to iTunes tracks for free.

(3) No match for your song. Uploads your file to iCloud, counts against your 5GB, available to download to any device.
Correct.

What keeps someone from continuing to "pirate" music and register (i.e. "legitimatize") pirated songs via iTunes Match?
Absolutely nothing.
Is Apple going to work with the RIAA to identify pirated music and support the investigation? I could totally see the RIAA planting songs on the torrents with their own unique watermarks and then Apple giving them a call when these watermarked songs show up in iTunes Match, along with the user's name, address, etc.
This will never happen.

If iTunes Match actually allows you to DOWNLOAD a 256kbps AAC rather than STREAMING, then...

* Won't this open up a whole new era of pirating, with the neoNapsters of the world sharing/stealing crappy small 16kbps files for iTunes to upgrade? A bunch of friends cobble together the $24.99 and they all receive unlimted downloads of the high quality versions of all their songs? I say no, because the files will not be downloaded, only streamed.
Yes, it will! A bunch of friends won't "cobble together" anything. It's $25 bucks and it only works on a certain number of devices. $25 is not a lot of money. THERE IS NO STREAMING. Only downloading.

* What happens to someone who downloads all the upgraded versions, then stops their iTunes Match subscription? Do the files explode? Is Apple going back to a DRM scheme with some sort of lockdown for cancelled subscriptions? I say no, because they will not be downloaded, only streamed. Stop subscription, stop streaming access.
Again, no streaming. You keep all the files that you have downloaded, and stop getting access to iCloud backup of your songs until you pay $25 again. The files don't have DRM. They are 100% identical to the tracks you get from iTunes.

* Why does Apple continue to ask me for $0.30 to upgrade all the old 128kbps DRM'd AACs I purchased years back? Wouldn't they just discontinue that program right now if they were about to let me download them all for free anyhow? I say no, because they will not be downloaded, only streamed.
Good question. It seems pretty silly. Gotta be an oversight.

Implies to me your matched music will be played from the iCloud, just like the 90-second previews in the iTunes store, but the whole song. Imagine the current iCloud icon next to your song in a playlist with a little play button instead of the little download arrow.
"And all the music iTunes matches plays back at 256-Kbps iTunes Plus quality — even if your original copy was of lower quality." Plays back. Not downloads. Plays back.
You're wrong. It's a "download" service. No streaming. At all. None.

Mark my words, iTunes Match is a streaming/syncing service. The writing is on the wall folks.[/B]
If you're right, I'll pay for your first year of iTunes Match. There is no streaming.

All iTunes Match does is add your existing music to iCloud, and treats it the same as any music you have purchased from iTunes.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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