March 12, 2009

Are you kidding me?

I just went to download a song from iTunes, to find yet another "the terms have changed" notice, as seems to happen every few months. You can't proceed without checking a little box that says, "I have read and agree to the iTunes Terms and Conditions." Except that the terms are just obscenely long, and of course they don't give you a diff, tell you what's changed; they know, as everyone knows, that nobody actually reads these. How could you? Can they possibly be enforceable under those conditions?

And they're not even trying. I tried to select the text so I could get a word count on it, and it wasn't selectable. So I clicked the "printable version" link, which opens up the page in a browser window. The "#SERVICE" part of that means it skips the top of the page (which is part of the text I'm supposed to have read). On the linked page, the top section is dated "Last updated: January 27, 2009", while in the corresponding section of the iTunes terms, it is "Last updated: February 23, 2009". So apparently, the two versions have been out of sync for about three weeks now, and nobody noticed. Unsurprising, and yet absurd.

Still, having grabbed the printable version (however out of date), I can get some stats on it. It is 23 pages in length, with the text alone clocking in at a whopping 110 kilobytes. And what are the contents of this dissertation I'm supposed to claim that I read in sufficient detail to agree to it? Well, it's divided into five main blocks that each have a somewhat different organisation but which collectively are parent to some 112 sections—and some of those are further subdivided, as follows:

Terms of sale:
no helpful numbering, but with 29 labeled sections
Terms of service:
24 numbered sections (several with lettered subsections, one of those with 16 roman-numeraled sub-sub-sections, and one of those with four double-lettered sub-sub-sub-sections)
Gift certificates:
16 numbered sections
App store terms and conditions:
34 numbered sections (several with lettered subsections, and one of those with roman-numeraled sub-sub-sections)
9 lettered sections
Get that? And out of those 112 sections, more than a hundred thousand bytes of stuff, something has changed.

So let's play ball for a moment and suppose that I actually read this. You know what happens if you spend more than a couple minutes at this sisyphean task before clicking the checkbox and then clicking Continue? Yup, that's right.

[Session Timeout: Your session has timed out. Please try this operation again from the beginning.]

What makes this truly exquisite is that the left-pointing triangle in the upper-left there is greyed out. That means you can't even back up to the thing you were trying to download; you have to re-search for it from scratch. Nevermind the fact that my Apple ID still is visible in the upper right of the iTunes window, and when I do go back to the main iTMS home screen, the "Just For You" is in fact just for me; despite knowing precisely who I am and that I'm still the same person as before, they throw out my entire session for the grave crime of actually trying to spend some time reading the splatter of legalism that they vomit at my screen at fairly regular intervals.

I really need to find a different source for my online music. And my music players. And my computers. Apple has really been working very hard to turn away someone who's been a Mac fan for nearly two decades and an Apple user almost since birth. Smooth move, Apple.

"For more than 100 years this country has gradually extended rights, privileges and respect to more and more groups. To block a further extension you have to do better than cite tradition and the wounded feelings of those who already enjoy such status." --Eric Zorn

Posted by blahedo at 2:14am on 12 Mar 2009
Try The little downloader is very nice, the music is not DRM encoded (so you can transfer it/play it anywhere without having to FIDDLE WITH IT first), the rates are just as cheap as iTunes (and sometimes cheaper) and the selection gets better by the week. Best of all you don't have to read any friggin' license agreements. Though personally I find the 'not DRM encoded' and 'Amazon keeps track of your order history' the best, because it means that should my hard drive crash with un-backed-up music on it, I have a list RIGHT THERE of what I've bought so I can replace it. Posted by Larathia at 8:58am on 12 Mar 2009
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