The other day I stumbled across this article about a rather insidious function hidden within Apple Music, and out of concern I shared it with some friends who use the service. Their reaction to Apple searching and removing files from users computers was… complacent would be the best way to describe it. Since it hadn’t happened to them, it wasn’t a big deal and they’d continue to use the service with the frequency they had been.
I found this upsetting and a little disappointing, but on a certain level I do get it. Apple Music is convenient. Pay a small monthly fee and as long as you’ve got an internet connection you’ve got access to the discographies of thousands of artists, legally. It’s better than pirating, right? Except, if Apple removes audio files that are your intellectual property, modify them and then add them to their database with the intent to distribute them back to you, without actively informing you or getting your consent, that’s okay… I mean, that sounds a lot like pirating, but apparently Apple can do it with impunity because they have better lawyers than you do? Or is it a feature?
It seems like we make a lot of trade-offs like this for convenience. Amazon Kindle is another good example. Buying ebooks is much cheaper, you can carry thousands of books in your pocket and download new ones on the go. The downside is if you really love a book, you can’t lend it to anyone you think might also love it, you also can’t transfer that book to a different ebook library (say over to Google Play Books). Worse, if you anger Amazon, by say accidentally buying a book from the wrong region, they can freeze you out of your library and all those books you bought are just gone now. Poof.
Copyright and digital rights are a legal minefield that only the best lawyers seem capable of traversing. Though I don’t know how much the average person thinks the headache is worth it. If we don’t worry about it, then we get access to all this cool stuff for crazy cheap – so long as we agree to the terms of service no one actually reads. Meanwhile, we’re slowly losing the right to decide how/when/where we use the things we buy. How long before we lose the ability to own consumable media at all?
That’s not even a question that would’ve crossed anyone’s mind twenty years ago. You paid money for it, it’s yours, whether you wanted to lend it to all of your friends or enjoy it once and leave it on a shelf to collect dust. And now, the overwhelming complacency about the issue makes me wonder if this is something to bother getting upset about – or did I miss the meeting where we collectively decided to let corporations tell us how to live our lives?