Bruce Vs. Apple

September 3, 2012

HE MAY HAVE beaten the bad guys and gotten the gal in Die Hard, but that’s small change compared to his latest exploits. In a case of yippee-ki-yay Vs. Apple, Hollywood legend Bruce Willis is to take the company to court over who owns his digital music collection once he kicks the bucket.

It isn’t hard to see why the actor is so pissed either. Like many parents, Willis, 57, wants to leave his sizeable music collection to his daughters Rumer, Scout and Tallulah. Sounds like a nice fatherly gesture that’ll give his girls something to remember their old man by right? Wrong.

Under iTunes’ terms and conditions, customers really only ever ‘borrow’ tracks for the duration of their natural life instead of owning them outright. Outrageous, eh.

In layman’s terms, this means that any music purchased off of iTunes is worthless when the owner becomes worm-food. As you’d expect from an action hero such as Willis, he isn’t taking this lying down and has asked advisers to set up a trust to hold his downloads (which supposedly include The Beatles and some Led Zep) to get around this nonsense.

Technically, Apple can freeze users’ accounts if they suspect them of sharing tunes with others, effectively rendering a music collection that cost its owner large sums of money totally useless. So all those songs, books and movies you’d bought from Apple over the years are not actually yours. You’re only paying for the right to use them while you’re still alive. Once you start pushing up daisies all bets are off.

If like Bruce (and a growing number of others) you find this both moronic, petty, and offensive, you’re not alone. Being able to download a single music track instead of buying a whole CD with a clear conscience for what amounts to petty change may have seemed pretty cool at the time, but once this sort of idiocy is factored into the mix, it’s enough to give anyone pause for thought. Thank goodness there are plenty of other legit alternatives out there.

Buying a CD and ripping it makes a hell of a lot of sense as you get to own a physical copy of the music you’ve just paid for (another rule of thumb that any audiophile will confirm, is that if it is round and shiny, it’ll usually sound miles better than its low-res downloaded equivalent).

What really adds insult to injury are the wounded tones that the music industry adopts when talking about piracy. Well here’s some news, most of us don’t want to break the law and risk being sued back into the dark ages, but thanks to bullshit like this, many are taking their chances with illegal downloading, regardless of how well intentioned they may have originally been. That’s right, nonsense like this from the music industry is in effect driving people to piracy, even when they want to spend money on music and do the right thing.

So what possible use is a dead person’s music collection possibly going to be to anyone, let alone Apple? S.F.A., essentially. Downloaded music is simply a copy of data from the world’s biggest photocopier, the internet, and as such is essentially worthless – unless of course you want the children of a recently deceased person to pay again for downloading it, even though their hypothetically deceased parent had already coughed up the moolah to do the downloading when they were alive.

So there you have it. Here’s hoping Willis wins because this sort of blatant greed just sucks so utterly it isn’t funny. PAT PILCHER

UPDATE: His yippee-ki-yay-ness has confirmed that the rumours are in fact untrue and he isn’t really looking go launch a legal ICBM at the Apple campus. This said, even if the rumours didn’t pan out, the burning question of “what happens to my data when I die” still needs to be answered. Thank goodness for sites such as Deceased Account, which usefully list all the big on-line services that don’t have any policies for dealing with the accounts of deceased users.

Most services that do have policies, including Twitter, allow family members to close a dead user’s account but don’t provide them with access to the user’s data. Facebook, which probably has to deal with this problem more than most, now offers a feature to turn a dead person’s profile into an online memorial. Pretty thoughtful huh?

As for the music people download from iTunes, the rules for how Apple handles music rights might suck totally but are in fact  determined by the music industry. Guess the moral of the story is to read the EULA (end user licensing agreement) for services like iTunes, even if doing so will turn your brain into silly putty.

Pat has been talking about tech on TV, radio and print for over 20 years, having served time as a TV tech guy and currently penning reviews for Witchdoctor. He loves nothing more than rolling his sleeves up and playing with shiny gadgets.

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