What happens when you download iTunes past purchases with a different account?

iTunes 10.3 sync notice

I can answer that question for you. Apple locks up your past purchases for 90 days, and you can forget that Monopoly game get-out-of-jail free card. But that's OK.

It was a big day for Apple yesterday, announcing iCloud and new push sync features from iTunes Store. It's a big day for Apple customers, now that iTunes 10.3 is available -- with purchase sync in beta. The utility is simply amazing for what Apple intends for it -- but also for how customers might choose to use it.

The purpose is sync -- driving your content to all your devices. Plain, pure and simple. So the music (videos or ebooks) on your home Windows PC can be the same as on your Mac -- or iPad, iPhone or iPod touch. Apples pushes the content from "iTunes in the Cloud" out to your computers or devices, removing the hassle of setting up shared repositories on the home network or disparate libraries on different machines.

But the service also makes past purchases available. So if you've accidentally deleted or lost content, Apple now makes that available to you. iTunes in the Cloud matches your library against the record of your past purchases, presenting the option to download missing content.

Six Principles

There's a magical quality about the push sync that fits my six principles of good tech product design. I started with four, in 2004, and added two more about two years later. A new product must:

1. Hide complexity

2. Emphasize simplicity

3. Build on the familiar

4. Do what it's supposed to do really well

5. Allow people to do something they wished they could do

6. When displacing something else, offer significantly better experience

Each of these easily applies to iTunes in the Cloud:

1. Hides complexity by using sync to match up past purchases with your library, rather than force you to upload the content, like Amazon and Google do.

2. Emphasizes simplicity by using iTunes account ID and password to enable two-way syncing from the cloud among the devices.

3. Builds on the familiar by using same iTunes client people are accustomed to.

4. Does what it's supposed to very well in my testing -- and it's beta.

5. Allows people to get their content where they want without fuss -- the service does it for you.

6. Displaces manual management of content by doing the task for you. It's a "Duh, why couldn't I do this before?" experience.

It's not Stealing

But there's another way to use the service, which could foster piracy -- log into iTunes using a different account and sync up that library. I tried to do that today, but not to steal content but to consolidate it. My daughter buys her own music (using my money, I might add) using a different Apple ID. Both our computers are "authorized" to the other's account, so we can watch purchased movies without streaming from one Mac to the other.

I thought: Wouldn't it be wonderful to use iTunes in the Cloud to consolidate the libraries, my syncing up past purchases into a master library. Since I've already got 12,000 songs (taking up nearly 93GB storage) and 1TB drive, my library seemed like the best place.

So I logged into my daughter's account from my PC and started the process of matching up libraries. It's not stealing. Back in the day, before storing all the CDs in the garage, we kept them together for the whole family to use in a single cabinet. It's not stealing, but it could be. Roommates or friends could log-in to each others' iTunes accounts and sync up libraries back to the cloud.

Clearly, Apple has thought of this, which is why I got this warning: "This computer is already associated with an Apple ID. If you download past purchases with your Apple ID, you cannot auto-download or download past purchases with a different Apple ID for 90 days."

Well, I stopped right there. I could sync the libraries in the future, after I got mine in order. Apple doesn't stop you from syncing past purchases using different IDs, it just removes the benefit for 90 days as a piracy deterrent. Smart.

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