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What You Should Know About iTunes' 56-Page Legal Terms

CNN has an interesting article about what you’re agreeing to every time you mindless just click pass the iTunes Terms and Conditions. What I’m confused about, however, is how the author could possibly neglect to mention that this very topic was the subject of last week’s widely-reported episode of the hit TV show South Park. I mean, seriously. Are you @#$%ing kidding me, CNN??

OK, anyway. It’s still an interesting topic:

Two digital-media attorneys contacted by CNN say that customers of iTunes, Apple's online marketplace, should still be aware of what they're agreeing to -- and what legal rights they may be giving up.

Because the iTunes terms are essentially a contract, people should treat them as such and give them more than a cursory glance.

Key clauses of the iTunes terms

1. Genius: The terms state, "When you use the Genius feature, Apple will use this information and the contents of your iTunes library, as well as other information, to give personalized recommendations to you."

"Some people would say, 'Oh my god. They can look at my play history,'" he said. "If you care [about that], you should disable it."

My take on this: Complete non-event. Obviously Genius looks at your play history. That’s how it works.

2. Loss of purchases: The terms state, "Products may be downloaded only once and cannot be replaced if lost for any reason. Once a Product is downloaded, it is your responsibility not to lose, destroy, or damage it, and Apple shall not be liable to you if you do so."

Grossman said that there is no leeway on this point, and that anyone who tried to take Apple to court over a lost digital file would lose very quickly.

My take on this: I’ve had to contact Apple Support on occasion and ask for a redownload on a purchased item. They have complied, and quickly, every single time.

3. Licensing: The terms state, "You agree that the Service, including but not limited to Products, graphics, user interface, audio clips, video clips [and] editorial content ... contains proprietary information and material that is owned by Apple and/or its licensors, and is protected by applicable intellectual property and other laws, including but not limited to copyright."

That sounds confusing. Handel explained it this way: When we buy something from iTunes, we are paying for the license to listen to music or watch a movie on our iPhone or other Apple device. But we are not buying the product itself and so we can't actually own it, he said.

So this one is actually somewhat interesting since Apple markets its songs “purchases” as what customers want—i.e. to “own” their music—and compares it to “renting” music via a subscription service, the latter of which Apple of course does not offer. As it turns out, your iTunes purchases do not connote ownership.

People are never going to read these contracts and, contrary to the experts contacted by CNN, that suggest to me they’re not legally binding. Because, after all, for a contract to be legally binding, both parties need to understand the terms of the deal. That is not the case here at all.

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