I had a thought the other day, how does iTunes get its album artwork? I guessed it was some kind of web service so fired up Fiddler to see if anything was getting thrown around. And sure enough iTunes was throwing a HTTP request to some server, that looked something like this (this is somewhat simplified since you can also pass CDDB information which presumably increases the chances of getting a correct hit).
Put that in your browser and you’ll see an XML document is returned. It’s in Apple’s favoured XML format and it looks like there is a URL in there that can be used to retrieve the album artwork. Unfortunately, plugging that URL into your browser won’t return the image… At this point I kind of lost interest because I didn’t actually have any use for getting hold of album artwork (unless I wanted to automate the process for iTunes but I’m not that anal about getting artwork). But I did have a bit of a look round the web and found these two articles on doing the same thing. And it would appear Apple are pretty keen on people not downloading artwork via their own code. Dunnow why, copyright issues I guess, but it looks like even if it is possible to hack the system, Apple will change the way it works to stop your code working.
If you do want to download artwork, I suspect Amazon Web Services is going to be a better approach.