DRM is the real difference between iTunes Match and iCloud Music Library →

July 01, 2015 |

Kirk McElhearn:

Both match your iTunes library and store your purchases. Both allow you to access these files, and listen to them, on multiple devices. But with iTunes Match, when you download a matched or uploaded file, you get either the iTunes Store matched copy, or the copy that iTunes uploaded of your original file.

When you match and download files from iCloud Music Library, however, you get files with DRM; the same kind of files you get when you download files from Apple Music for offline listening.

Via Dave Mark at The Loop, who adds:

The critical issue here is backing up your un-DRMed music files. Unlike iTunes Match, if you download matched un-DRMed files from iCloud Music Library, you’ll end up with a DRMed version of those files. To repeat this another way, if iCloud Music Library takes in a song file with no DRM and it has a DRM version of that same song, you’ll have no way to get back your original song file without DRM.

Being an iTunes Match subscriber myself, this seems absolutely unacceptable to me. The way I see it, for as long as I’m an iTunes Match subscriber, if the iTunes Store has a DRM-free version of my music, I should always get that version, regardless of whether I’m using Apple Music or not.

That’s not only what Apple promised with iTunes Match, it’s the whole point of the service to exist in the first place: you pay $25 a year and get access to your own music from any device. The DRM-protected files in Apple Music may sound like my songs but they are not, in fact, my songs. That’s an important distinction that Apple seems happy to just sweep under the rug.

Actually, it’s very surprising to me that Apple doesn’t even mention DRM anywhere in their entire Apple Music website. That’s a little rich coming from the company that made such a big deal out of removing it in the first place.

There aren’t many ways to fix this: either Apple refunds all iTunes Match subscribers for the time they have left in their subscriptions — a pretty poor solution as far as solutions go — or they honor their original commitment and start serving DRM-free files to those users.

So instead of juggling iTunes Match users vs Apple Music users and treating them differently, why not aim for something more Apple-like and eliminate DRM completely across the board? That’s the kind of thing I expect from Apple. They’re not a company that enters a new space only to maintain the previous status quo.

The reasons for DRM to exist today in Apple Music are no better than the reasons for it to exist in the iTunes Music Store back in 2006. In fact, they’re actually the exact same reasons. Sure, devices have changed and streaming services have their own particular usage patters, but the fact remains: whoever wants to pirate music will do it, DRM or not, and this stance only hurts Apple’s own paying customers. Because let’s not forget, neither Apple Music nor iTunes Match are free services.

Dear Apple: If music truly is in your DNA, act accordingly, and let your actions speak louder than your words.