iTunes 4.5 has been out for a couple days, and it’s certainly a big refinement of 4.0. Of the new features, I think iMix is the most interesting, because it acknowledges one of the driving forces behind SongBuddy — that people who listen to music can drive the market. I would like to see them rewarding people who post iMixes in the same way Amazon rewards people who drive sales through recommendations, but I doubt their razor-thin margins would support a referral program.

The other big thing is that iTunes 4.5 reduces the use of music that you’ve spent money on (notice I didn’t use the word bought). As Jim Heid explains: You can now burn a playlist containing purchased music up to seven times (down from ten). And the old workaround of simply changing the playlist slightly does not work. LawGeek picks up on what this means: So after one year and 70 million songs, $0.99 now buys you less rather than more — seven hard burns instead of ten soft ones. What will Apple “allow” us to do with the music we “buy” next year? three burns? one? zero? If you don’t like the new rules, can you return your song to Apple to get your money back?

The problem with DRM is that you don’t own anything it protects. You’re renting, and the contract can change at any time. As a general rule, owning something is a far better choice than renting, but what happens when that isn’t available? Where can I buy a copy of the iTunes Exclusive Beastie Boys – Ch-Check It Out? By supporting this market, people are supporting the erosion of their rights as consumers.

So what can be done? Well personally I’m boycotting the iTunes Music Store until they start selling music until renting it. I’m not spending a lot of time (outside of this post, I guess) advocating that other people boycott it, I simply realized that the store is a bad deal financially and politically. However, if you do enjoy shopping there, you would do well to consider what changes Apple might make to the terms of use in the future, and what your options are if those changes affect you negatively. If you don’t want to lose more rights, be sure to let them know what you think before they change the terms of the deal again.

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