DRM still sucks, even after it's dead

I tried to upgrade all my DRM-encrusted tracks on iTunes to DRM-free iTunes Plus versions so I could also play them on my other MP3 players. Unfortunately, Apple won't let you upgrade songs you got for free. That stinks.

In January, Apple announced that all songs in the iTunes Store would be free from DRM. As part of the announcement, the company said that previous DRM-encumbered purchases would be upgradeable to DRM-free versions, with a higher bitrate as well. This isn't just a point of principle with me--I have a Zune player that automatically adds all the songs in my iTunes library, including AAC files, but which cannot see or play DRM-protected songs.

Today, while doing some shopping for songs I love but don't own (or have only on--gasp--cassette, which I can't digitize because of the way my stereo's set up), I finally got around to upgrading my previous DRM-encumbered purchases. iTunes found three of them, and let me upgrade to DRM-free versions for 30 cents a track. So far so good. Then, I went to buy "Bela Lugosi's Dead" by Bauhaus. iTunes told me I already had it in DRM-encumbered form, and asked me if I'd like to convert to iTunes Plus. Say what? I thought I did that already. But when I actually tried to convert it, iTunes said my conversion process was finished. I looked further, and found there were about 20 songs that iTunes wouldn't let me upgrade. Why not?

Psych! Fooled ya!

I had to do some digging but found the answer in this MacWorld article: these were all free songs I'd received through promotions, mainly when I bought concert tickets through Ticketmaster and for the Monterey Jazz Festival. It's not like these songs were never paid for--presumably the promotional partners paid some fee to Apple, thinking that these free downloads would create positive associations in their own customers' minds. (Ticketmaster can always use more good P.R.) But now I'm stuck--either I pay full price for a new download or accept that they'll never leave my iPod.

I wouldn't have minded so much if Apple hadn't tempted me by offering me the chance to upgrade, only to dash my hopes when I actually tried to complete the process. That's an annoying bug, but the policy itself is the real offender.

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