Amazon MP3

Remember all the fuss a while back about DRM-protected MP3 files, and how the industry was (thankfully!) moving away from them?  Well, it appears that not everyone really has abandoned the practice, even if they claim to have done so. It looks like some companies are still placing personal information inside the music files you buy and download.  Hit the break for the details [via TechCrunch] and some visual evidence.

Watermarked DRM free digital music

This is a screen shot from TechCrunch that shows a downloaded song opened in a text editor.  Notice the area circled in red.  Yep, that's the name of the fellow who bought the file.  Now I can't be certain where the file was bought, but I am certain it wasn't bought at Amazon's MP3 store.


Because Amazon has resisted the record companies urging to watermark songs with user information.  Unlike iTunes and others, Amazon is one of the companies that is not putting your name (or any other private info) into each and every song you buy. Take a peek HERE  to see who is selling you out and who isn't.

Have a look at this quote from TechCrunch by an anonymous music industry insider:

Hidden in purchased music files from popular stores such as Apple and Walmart is information to identify the buyer and/or the transaction. You won’t find it disclosed in their published terms of use. It’s nowhere in their support documentation. There’s no mention in the digital receipt. Consumers are largely oblivious to this, but it could have future ramifications as the music industry takes another stab at locking down music files.

This is a 180 degree turn from DRM free songs, and something that was supposed to have been abandoned.  Sneaky.

Amazon's MP3 store is supported by Google and included in most Android devices.  Mark this as another area where the consumer's best interests are being looked out for by big G.  Open source mixes well with freedom to use what you paid for as you like, and Google's choice to support the Amazon MP3 store fits right in.  Don't be evil. Thanks Amazon and Google, e-hugs all around.

Unfortunately for our friends whose only solution is iTunes, they are at the mercy of a different kind of corporate giant - one who appears to want control over where and how you can listen to your music.  What's next?  Muzak getting piped into the walled garden?  Save me before they play a duet of Shatner and Jobs signing Beatles remakes, please.


Reader comments

Another reason to like the Amazon MP3 store over ... that other store


This is one of the reasons I went to android. I had previously purchased music from iTunes. And the thus drm shit came out. I could not transfer about $800 worth of music. Even to a cd vi had to pay an additional $.30 per song to do so. Rip off. Screw apple. That is the only reason I still have my iPod touch. Because I have about a thousand dollars worth of music locked up I'm iTunes. Haven't given them a dollar since.

There is software out there that will convert your itunes to drm free files. They may cost a little but of money but they will allow you to do what you want with YOUR music. I've had great success with the software.

I just burned all my music to cd, then ripped it back off of the cd's as mp3 files. Good to go. I agree, I don't use iTunes anymore, they suck.

Haven't bought DRMed files in a while but I used a program called Tunebite a couple of years ago when I needed to rip it from some iTunes tracks. It basically just plays the song and re-records it but it skips the CD burning and ripping.

Anyone want to buy my Mac Pro? I feel dirty knowing I have supported such an evil company.

Yes, music is "art", but lets be real here... Music wasn't a money maker before the first recordings... It was when a physical object was created that it cost something to own and listen to because the MATERIALS cost a pretty penny... Music is now digital and the materials to harness it are not expensive... If a musician is seeking the all important $ for their efforts, they are not going to go far or will end up trying to sue people for "stealing" their "work" thus leading to being widely hated (cough cough Metalica...). Simply put, if record companies didn't take a huge cut of the amount that I pay for music, I'd be more willing to support it... Why, because it'd be cheaper. The music industry is a joke... Face it, it is a battle they'll never win, and if they choose to ruin a few peoples lives to make the point that they are greedy - F... them... Just sayin'..

What really gets me about the whole subject is the underhanded way it's done. Apple or Walmart are allowed to do whatever they like with their service, but I think they should be forced to disclose huge privacy violations like this.

This royally pissed me off, and now I have years worth of songs I have to look at to see if it's just my name, or is other more sensitive information about the purchase there as well.

posted from my DRM free and open source netbook.

I just did a search on one or my recently purchased files, and what did I find? MY EMAIL ADDRESS. Not cool. I don't share my files, but that's crap.

Apple is the most monopolistic micromanaging corp. in America. that's why I still (sigh) run windows and why im soooo looking forward to Android!

Coming from a Mac, I gotta say, I love win7 way more than Snow Leopard. I'm running win7 on a 3 year old computer and its FLYING with it on it. no hangups and it starts faster than my macbook.

I never use the Amazon music store app anyways, I actually deleted it from my device because I hated seeing it in my app drawer.

Supporting the Amazon MP3 store by including an app on my phone is one thing (that I don't like), but being unable to remove an app (without rooting) that has nothing to do with the core functionality of the phone is quite another. But that's not the subject of this article.

No, people didn't know this.

Because none of those conditions were posted in the iTunes End User's Agreement, nor did Steve Jobs publicly state this. Here's the problem with this system. Let's say your computer was hacked, stolen, or someone just walked up to a Mac & downloaded the contents of your iTunes folder. A more likely scenario? You make a CD of songs for your friends. That same friend copies a CD of your iTunes to their computer & put those files online via P2P service.

Then your name & info would be on those tracks. Yet you didn't do anything to try to pirate the music. However, Apple & their friends at the RIAA would assume without proving it that you were responsible for piracy. Then the police would show up, arrest you, & using circumstantial evidence convict you of copyright violations.

See where this goes? Not to mention the privacy law implications of this. Apple said NO DRM. Unfortunately, this kind of tagging IS a form of Digital Rights Management. One of the most insidious kind.


I get it. You certainly get it.

You know the people who made this decision got it too, they just didn't care.

Jose, your point is exactly right. For those thinking, "Well, what's the big deal? It's just my name ... or email address ... or IP address. So?"

If the song you bought legally suddenly shows up on a torrent sight, guess who the RIAA is going to be looking for. You. Now, could they use this info to convict you? Probably not (maybe ...). But they can make your life a living hell.

Will this info ever be used? Who knows. (Keep this in mind, however ... if Apple/Walmart didn't want to use it, why is it there?) I'm glad Amazon is on the right side of this, and I gotta say I love Android even more now. Here's to hoping they keep up the good fight.


yeah, that is lousy that companies would sneak that kind of information.
but i don't think that makes google or amazon saints by any stretch.

problem is if you own the equipment you are legally liable for anything done with computer unless it's either a: theft/vandalism or b: it is owned and purchased with a business monies and business tax id. Then it would be covered under the LLC or INC laws. So yes it does matter what people would do with your machine while your not using it. Still liable homie.

> problem is if you own the equipment you are legally liable for
> anything done with computer unless it's either a: theft/vandalism or
> b: it is owned and purchased with a business monies and business tax
> id. Then it would be covered under the LLC or INC laws. So yes it
> does matter what people would do with your machine while your not
> using it. Still liable homie.

This is complete nonsense.

That post is correct. You are liable for what happens on your computer and network. Why do you think WPA2 encryption on your wi-fi network is so important? Oh sure, to keep people from hogging your bandwidth, but that is a minor problem. The reason you use WPA2 is to keep people from doing something illegal on your network, and then that illegal activity is tied to your IP address and that IP address ties you to the crime.

Wrong. In a court of law, where the prosecution has to prove beyond all reasonable doubt that you have been, for example, downloading loads of child porn or terrorism manuals etc, the fact that it happened on your IP address is not enough. It could have been anyone, and it's not MY job to prevent people from downloading that sort of stuff, on my wifi connection or elsewhere, because I already have a job and I don't want another one.

You're suggesting that if your wife commits a crime (credit card fraud, spamming, ordering illegal drugs, threatening to kill the president etc) on an internet connection you pay for it means YOU get tried for that offence? Don't be daft.

No, I'm saying you would come under investigation. If something is found on a hard drive that you own, that could cause more "investigation."

Look, the IP address leads the police to your house, they take your computer and search it. If info is found on that computer matching their investigation, and you stated you "own" that computer, you are now a part of the investigation.

Let's put it this way ... you have a party. Someone brings drugs. The cops come out because you guys are being too loud. They see the drugs. You say, "It's not mine." They ask who's is it? No one comes forth (obviously). So the cops now ask who's house this is. You say, "It's mine!" You now go to jail for possession. It sucks but that's how it goes.

Has anyone ever got into trouble because music they paid for and was watermarked this way "got onto the internet"? Wouldn't a pirate just deny it, and suggest it was someone from Amazon or someone accessing their PC without my permission, if they were accused of sharing stuff? Without proof that you are sharing it then all you've got is a file with someone's name on it - hardly a smoking gun. My pc is on at home and I've no idea what other people in my house are doing with it, nor do I care, because it's my pc and I'll do what I like with it, including letting other people use it and my wifi.

So here is the plan, you put all your music on an inexpensive device (probably with an SD card), and it is stolen while you turned your back to look at something while in the food court at the local mall. You report that theft to the "authorities" (Police, Mall Security,...) get a report from them and file it away for future protection... You remark on Facebook/MySpace that your music player was stolen and move on...

Unless of course you're at work and someone "borrows" your sd card without your knowledge to get your music, shares it and you're screwed? Besides, why would you have to do all that reporting to protect yourself from something that otherwise shouldn't affect you besides the loss of your property? That's like somebody steals my car in the middle of the night, runs over somebody with it and GETS CAUGHT, but because the car is mine and I didn't know was stolen I'm in trouble even though the guilty party is OBVIOUSLY someone else? Sorry, that's just BS. On another example if I choose to give my car to someone, they run someone over and get caught, I'm still liable because the car is in my name even though I wasn't driving it (seeing as how the culprit was caught)? Come on now....

The difference is the act of theft. If you can show that your property was stolen (ie: a police report), then that pretty much releases you from liability. The RIAA really doesn't care about following those rules. They want to make examples of people, innocent of otherwise, as a way to scare the public from downloading music.

On a side note, working for an insurance company I do know that if you let someone borrow your vehicle, and that friend then kills someone in an accident, the driver could be held criminally liable for the vehicular homocide. However, you, as the titled owner of the vehicle, can be held responsible in a civil lawsuit from the other party involved. The vehicle belongs to you ... be ready yo accept responsability for what happens with it if you let someone borrow it.

And the person who stole it can use software included on every computer made since 1990 to get your personal information from the data he/she stole.

Maybe you're ok with that, but I'm not.

Anyone else realize how easy that would be to fake? Just open your m4a, type your name in a random spot, take a screenshot, use Paint to circle your name in red, and post it on the Internet.