As parents come to realize the limitations of their Apple ID and
Google Play strategies, they are frustrated. All the apps, songs and
movies they've purchased are quarantined in their own accounts. When
the kids branch out to their own devices, they pretty much just have
to start over, with limited workarounds.
"It's a pain," says Carmen Rivera, a publisher's assistant at
Chicago Magazine, who is trying to figure out how to share her
digital content with her 18-year-old son, Neiko.
She handles the situation the way many parents of teenagers do: He
has his own Apple ID and the freedom to download any free content he
wants. He can also listen to his mother's music - everything from
Jeff Buckley to Beethoven and Mozart - on her iTunes account through
But he can't take any of it into his account permanently, and
whenever he wants songs or apps of his own that cost money, he has
to clear it with Mom first, because he needs her credit card. If she
uses her ID, that new material belongs to her. She can also buy
directly for his account, but that means she has to watch that he
doesn't sneak purchases.
"It's extremely frustrating to casual users and advanced users
alike," says Mike Wehner, a writer for The Unofficial Apple Weblog
"It's an opaque system and, goes against Apple's message - it's not
very intuitive. And there's really no built-in solution, which is
what everyone is looking for."
Apple spokesman Ted Miller says that while you can have up to 10
devices on the same ID: "You can't transfer between Apple IDs and
you can't merge Apple ID accounts."
The issue is largely "a technical question," and policies regarding
Apple IDs and transferring are laid out in the company's terms of
Experts have their own theories, though.
"It's partly a technological issue but more significantly a
licensing situation," says Eric Slivka, editor in chief of
MacRumors.com. "On the topic of simply merging two Apple IDs, Apple
CEO Tim Cook and his representatives were telling customers two and
a half years ago that Apple was working on a solution. But so far -
As for how Google handles things, it's pretty much the same.
A spokesperson for Google confirmed that, "for everyone who has a
Gmail account - which is what you use when you use Google Play - all
your music and apps are associated with that email address."
Ditto for Amazon.
"They don't own the content they're selling, they're simply acting
as the middle man," TUAW's Wehner says.
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One way around this dilemma is to separate the IDs of family members
as early as possible and to share anything desired through iTunes.
For Lisa Buckser-Schulz, an attorney from Westchester, New York, she
switched her son to his own Apple ID shortly after he turned 12. He
can still share her music; they know each other's passwords (which
is non-starter for many parents).
And he can get his $20 allowance in an Apple gift card to buy his
own apps and music - necessary because he doesn't have his own
credit or debit card. Lately, he's been purchasing classic rock such
as Journey and Foreigner, along with blues and jazz.
But the process is not always perfect. Even though they can share,
there have been times when they've both had to purchase the same
songs separately, Buckser-Schulz says.
For music and movies, another way to go is old school - buy hard
copies, digitize them and upload them to the desired devices. Or you
can purchase the content from third-party sources and access it via
Apple has a resource link for how to share music between different
accounts on one computer (http://support.apple.com/kb/ht1203).
Also, you can easily log into a different Apple ID on an iOS
device to download previously purchased content, but as soon as you
switch back to your own account, that content cannot be updated or
"It's more of a trick than a fix," says Wehner.
It's not just families with kids who have this dilemma. Shared
content under an Apple ID also comes up in divorce proceedings.
That may sound trivial, but the content could be a significant asset
in some households, and in community property states, the question
of how to divide a Taylor Swift album in half presents all sorts of
"Our concept of property is expanding, because 15 years ago, we
didn't really have any idea of what property was on the Internet,"
says attorney Bruce Givner, a partner at Givner & Kaye in Los
Until the rules change, most families are just stuck with the system
as it is.
Rivera says her son knows he can't keep her music when he gets
older. "What's mine is mine," she says.
(Editing by Beth Pinsker and Bernadette Baum)
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