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The problem with Apple IDs

Kirk McElhearn | Aug. 27, 2013
You use your Apple ID to buy music, movies, apps, and more from the iTunes Store. But Senior Contributor Kirk McElhearn says that Apple IDs are significantly flawed, and have been for a long while. Here's what he says Apple needs to fix.

Splitting Apple IDs
On the other side of the fence, we have the need to split Apple IDs. This, admittedly, is a bit more complex than merging accounts, and usually occurs in two common situations. The first is break-up or divorce. If a couple has been purchasing content using a single Apple ID, and then splits up, the exes may want to divvy up their movie and app collections. The only real option now is for them to both use the old Apple ID and create a new one for the future—which leads us back to the problem of maintaining multiple Apple IDs.

The other common case is when a parent initially buys content for children, who later grow up and become old enough to have their own Apple IDs. (This has happened in my own family.) The child wants to retain content they bought under the parent's account, and the parent will likely concur—especially if they no longer want to subsidize their progeny's music, movie, or app habit.

In both cases, if more than one person is using a single Apple ID, only one of them can use iTunes Match. That is, folks who share an Apple ID can put only one iTunes library in the cloud, making the service unusable for the sharer with different music tastes. (Or requiring a merging of iTunes libraries.)

Splitting an Apple ID is obviously a bit more complicated, as it would require that users be able to decide exactly which content they want to retain, and which items to transfer ownership of to an ex or child—or would require extraordinary measures like Apple and the content providers being willing to let the split accounts retain separate copies of the content.

Bequeathing content purchased from Apple
We're still in the first generation of buying digital content, but I've already had several questions from people asking what happens to someone's iTunes Store content after they die. My recommendation is that spouses or children record Apple IDs and passwords just as they would any other important information, and, if one person passes away, their heirs can use that account information to access the content. But Apple should offer a way to pass on content linked to a deceased person's Apple ID.

The fine print
I was surprised to find that Apple has no terms and conditions specific to Apple IDs. When you create an Apple ID, Apple has you check a box stating that you "have read and agree to Apple Terms of Service." This links to the Apple Legal page, which leads you to many long legal documents, but none that specifically discuss the creation of an Apple ID, nor any rights or responsibilities relative to that Apple ID for either Apple or customers. And Apple's iTunes Store Terms and Conditions says nothing relative to managing Apple IDs.


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