Insuring iTunes: are your digital downloads covered?
Not all insurance policies will protect your music
Consumers building up extensive collections of digital music and movies should ensure their downloads are protected by their home insurance policy and will be replaced if the computers keeping them are damaged or stolen. Many insurers do not cover digital possessions, it has emerged.
The days of popping down to your local record store and browsing through the racks are fading fast. Music downloads are quickly becoming music buyers' favoured medium, with online collections increasing in size rapidly.
Many users don't back up their collections, and even if they do, disasters like a house fire are as likely to destroy spare copies as much those used every day.
So what happens when your latté gets knocked over your laptop, or your server is stolen? Like your other possessions, you would hope your insurer will cough up to cover the cost of re-downloading the songs. But while some insurers will now protect you music downloads this way, it pays to do your research because there is a real divide between insurance policies that cover downloads and those that don't.
A recent report by unofficial consumer watchdog Which? found that out of 46 insurers, fewer than half covered music and other digital downloads in their policies.
Privilege Insurance last year calculated that the average Briton would have to pay £257 to replace their music downloads. It estimated that that cost will rise £25 each year as digital music collections grow.
Almost a quarter - 24 per cent - of music downloaders have had their entire collections lost.
Register Hardware underwent the pain of several insurance companies' automated phone systems to discover that some are already willing to protect downloaders from the costs of digital disaster.
For example, we spoke to Churchill Insurance and found that it would cover up to £1,000 worth of downloads in addition to cost of replacing the host computer itself.
Similarly, Privilege Insurance told us it would cover any value of music downloads. Unlike Churchill, however, Privilege said it would expect claimants to prove they owned the downloads with purchase receipts. So make sure you keep physical copies or forward emailed receipts to a web-based email host.
Churchill said it would take download claims "in good faith" without requiring download receipts.
Sadly, there are still some insurance companies that remain behind the times.
Even though "change happenz", Zurich wasn't prepared to insure music downloads at all, and JS Insurance, which has a specialist computer insurance division, also told us it did not cover music downloads in any policy.
Before applying your John Hancock, then, it pays to read your insurance policy's small print to find out if it covers your music downloads.
24% have already lost their music collection ?
I'd be surprised that 24% had lost it to fire, really I would. So let's just admit that these people have lost their precious music because they failed to make the required backup - as usual.
Well it's the normal process, people. You buy a PC, you have a friend who knows about them tell you how to do things, you don't do what they tell you and one day, inevitably (hey, we're talking Windows, right?), you learn the hard way - the same way everyone learns - that they were right.
And once you've learned your lesson, you do your backups (well, mostly, right ?). I fail to see why insurance should cover this, it's a case of education, not loss. If people are smart enough to do their backups properly, they don't need insurance.
And if your house goes up in smoke, you're going to have a lot more to worry about than your music collection.
The Darknet Solution
This is a problem that has confronted my friends and myself before - hard drive crashes and computer theft had cost us many months of downloads. A bit of research into VPNs - Virtual Private Networks - provided us with the perfect solution.
A number of us here have set up a "darknet" - a VPN that allows us to connect and share all our media files over the internet, but only with each other. This darknet has grown as friends of friends joined in and added their own media collections to the system. We now have currently over 30 computers on the darknet scattered all over our city, and with everyone copying everyone else's media collections on a continuous basis, its no problem for any of us to recover lost media files if something does go wrong.
Those of us with hacking skills routinely strip any DRM from everybody's media files, so NONE of our media is encumbered with DRM - as soon as someone acquires a new DRM'ed file, we hack it to a free format and redistribute it across the darknet, telling the original file owner to take the DRM'ed one out of the loop.
Of course this is "illegal" i.e. against the biased and self-serving laws forced on us by the copyright cartels, but since by definition a darknet is a closed loop and all new members are vetted by our core group before being able to access the network, there's not much the cartels can do about it. Besides spreading the cost of obtaining media files, it gives everyone peace of mind in knowing that if anyone's computer is damaged or stolen, they can easily get back their media collection from the rest of us.
If you have friends around the place, you should be considering doing this with them. It takes a little effort and work to get the VPN up and running, but once it's in place you can share your media with your friends safely and securely without worrying about being busted, and you'll never have to worry about losing your media files again.
MSN Music redownload confirmed
One of my friends just called, and, believe it or not, had to get a restore of music he'd downloaded from the (now defunct) MSN music download service yesterday.
He was successful, after about 90 minutes on the phone with Microsoft, requiring (as he put it) "...a DNA sample to prove who I am...". But, he was issued a one-time logon to the archive and was able to restore his entire purchase list.
This may prove to be an exception, however: MSN is still existent, although the music store is now gone. It may be much more difficult to get content when the provider well and truly goes T.U. - as I discovered when TV Guide killed off the Rocket eBook. They gave the customer base a couple of months to download their content and back it up, then destroyed the archives.
So, the morale of the story is make consistent copies and keep them archived off-site, and be sure to update the archives every year or so as the technology transitions and hardware is rendered obsolete. And DON'T consider an on-line repository "safe" - all it takes is one lawsuit or a revision to copyright legislation and THAT could become inaccessable!
(Me? I keep a couple of hard drives with backups of our home RAID server in our safe deposit box at a bank in the middle of the Mojave Desert, and rotate the volumes out every year or so...)
Forget the fireproof safe - they aren't !
In general, forget fireproof safes - there is no such thing as fireproof.
The majority are only designed to protect paper, and do this by generating moisture to stop the paper burning even though it reaches high temperatures. Media will simply be destroyed by the heat.
There are fire safes designed for magnetic media, but check the specs very carefully - they only control the temperature for a short time and can only survive a certain amount of physical abuse while hot. If you are on the third floor and the fire safe ends up in the basement then it might be damaged to the point where it stops giving protection. Even if it isn't, if the fire brigade don't cool it off quickly enough then you still lose your data.
Realistically, is there really anyone so lonely that they don't have a single friend who would store them a hard disk (preferably two) for an off-site backup ? It's not an onerous task and it really isn't transferring a burden to them - OK you have to trust them to not give it away, but it probably doesn't need any more security than they already apply to not have their telly etc nicked ! It's only there as a recovery thing if your house goes up in smoke - if they accidentally wipe it or whatever then unless they do it when your house catches fire you can simply re-copy everything next time roound.
Since they are probably in the same situation, the logical answer is to do a swap - you store their off-site backup whicle they store yours !
progress passing me by
Such byzantine DRM and risk-management concerns are major reasons why I, for one, have yet to get on the download express. I still purchase CDs. They are ripped and burnt for daily use (and loss!) and then stored as archives. Should a disc be scratched or lost or should the HDD crash, it's a simple matter to rip or burn again. Such tangible media are covered by my homeowners should the whole lot go up in smoke, and no DRM or proprietary hassles with a download "service".
My digital photos are backed up regularly with all other data to a supplemental HDD. Should *that* go up in smoke, well, then, they're lost but so would be my decades' worth of celluloid pictures. There are limits to the time and effort I have available for what I consider reasonable risk management.
The comments on USB external HDD and a fire safe are good points indeed and I may yet go that route.
Should the day come when all is online, no more tangible media, and we're still cursed with DRM, then I guess that's when I become a satellite radio subscriber.