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DRM-free tracks can be traced to original owner

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Apple's much touted DRM-free music download service launched yesterday under the moniker iTunes Plus.

But apparently such freedom comes at a price as the computer giant failed to highlight one important point: customers using iTunes Plus will have their username and email address embedded in each DRM-free track they download.

According to speculation on Slashdot and elsewhere it seems Apple has done this possibly to monitor the volume of tracks uploaded by its customers onto peer-to-peer networks.

In other words, the firm headed by Steve Jobs has given itself a built-in copyright insurance policy whereby illegally shared music can be traced back to the original owner.

But, seeing as such information can be easily spoofed, proving copyright has been infringed could be tricky for Apple.

Arstechnica.com, which spotted the hidden user account details, said that Apple already embedded account information on DRM tracks. But this was obviously not a major issue for files encumbered by digital rights management.

Apple signed up EMI in April this year. The music giant is the first of the so-called Big Four to join the DRM-free party.

Its extensive catalogue which includes music from the likes of Sir Paul McCartney, Frank Sinatra and Coldplay is now available via the iTunes Plus service with each AAC encoded track costing $1.29 to download.

EMI CEO Eric Nicoli described the DRM crossover as a "tremendous milestone for digital music" and reckoned "consumers are going to love listening to higher quality iTunes Plus tracks from their favorite EMI artists with no usage restrictions."

Jobs said: "Our customers are very excited about the freedom and amazing sound quality of iTunes Plus.

"We expect more than half of the songs on iTunes will be offered in iTunes Plus versions by the end of this year."

El Reg is awaiting a response from Apple to clarify why the data is stored in this way. ®

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