Home » Apple » Apple Stole My Music. No, Seriously.

Apple Stole My Music. No, Seriously.

6 May 2016

From Vellum:

“The software is functioning as intended,” said Amber.

“Wait,” I asked, “so it’s supposed to delete my personal files from my internal hard drive without asking my permission?”

“Yes,” she replied.

. . . .

I had just explained to Amber that 122 GB of music files were missing from my laptop. I’d already visited the online forum, I said, and they were no help. Although several people had described problems similar to mine, they were all dismissed by condescending “gurus” who simply said that we had mislocated our files (I had the free drive space to prove that wasn’t the case) or that we must have accidentally deleted the files ourselves (we hadn’t). Amber explained that I should blow off these dismissive “solutions” offered online because Apple employees don’t officially use the forums—evidently, that honor is reserved for lost, frustrated people like me, and (at least in this case) know-it-alls who would rather believe we were incompetent, or lying, than face the ugly truth that Apple has vastly overstepped its boundaries.

What Amber explained was exactly what I’d feared: through the Apple Music subscription, which I had, Apple now deletes files from its users’ computers. When I signed up for Apple Music, iTunes evaluated my massive collection of Mp3s and WAV files, scanned Apple’s database for what it considered matches, then removed the original files from my internal hard drive. REMOVED them. Deleted. If Apple Music saw a file it didn’t recognize—which came up often, since I’m a freelance composer and have many music files that I created myself—it would then download it to Apple’s database, delete it from my hard drive, and serve it back to me when I wanted to listen, just like it would with my other music files it had deleted.

. . . .

1. If Apple serves me my music, that means that when I don’t have wifi access, I can’t listen to it. When I say “my music,” I don’t just mean the music that, over twenty years (since before iTunes existed), I painstakingly imported from thousands of CDs and saved to my computer’s internal hard drive. I also mean original music that I recorded and saved to my computer. Apple and wifi access now decide if I can hear it, and where, and when.

2. What Apple considers a “match” often isn’t. That rare, early version of Fountains of Wayne’s “I’ll Do The Driving,” labeled as such? Still had its same label, but was instead replaced by the later-released, more widely available version of the song. The piano demo of “Sister Jack” that I downloaded directly from Spoon’s website ten years ago? Replaced with the alternate, more common demo version of the song. What this means, then, is that Apple is engineering a future in which rare, or varying, mixes and versions of songs won’t exist unless Apple decides they do. Said alternate versions will be replaced by the most mainstream version, despite their original, at-one-time correct, titles, labels, and file contents.

3. Although I could click the little cloud icon next to each song title and “get it back” from Apple, their servers aren’t fast enough to make it an easy task. It would take around thirty hours to get my music back. And even then…

4. Should I choose to reclaim my songs via download, the files I would get back would not necessarily be the same as my original files. As a freelance composer, I save WAV files of my own compositions rather than Mp3s. WAV files have about ten times the number of samples, so they just sound better. Since Apple Music does not support WAV files, as they stole my compositions and stored them in their servers, they also converted them to Mp3s or AACs. So not only do I need to keep paying Apple Music just to access my own files, but I have to hear an inferior version of each recording instead of the one I created.

. . . .

If you’re wondering why Apple hasn’t been sued yet, it’s because the iTunes Terms of Use vaguely warn of this issue, then later indemnify Apple and preclude any litigation from users who’ve been boned.

. . . .

I recovered my original music files only by using a backup I made weeks earlier. Many people don’t back up as often as they should, though, so this isn’t always an option. Amber relayed to me that she’s had to suffer through many calls from people who cancelled their Apple Music subscription after the free, three-month trial, only to discover that all of their own music files had been deleted and there was no way to get them back.

So my files were temporarily restored; but the only way to prevent this from happening over and over, according to Amber, was to cancel my subscription to Apple Music (which she herself doesn’t use due to the above-listed reasons) and to make sure my iCloud settings did not include storing any music backups.

. . . .

[E]ven in my most Orwellian paranoia I never could have dreamed that the content holders, like Apple, would also reach into your computer and take away what you already owned. If Taxi Driver is on Netflix, Netflix doesn’t come to your house and steal your Taxi Driver DVD. But that’s where we’re headed. When it comes to music, Apple is already there.

Link to the rest at Vellum and thanks to Niki, who says its lessons may apply to authors who save material to clouds, for the tip.

PG has been dealing with computer files for a long time and experience losing important files has lead him to believe that you can never have too many backups. On more than one occasion, PG has lost a file and discovered that his primary backup system didn’t have the file (or the latest version of the file) either. A secondary backup system has saved him.

Cloud backups are great with the right cloud services provider (PG patronizes a couple of different clouds in case one has problems). Backups on external hard drives sitting next to your computer are great and backups on external hard drives that spend most of their time far away from your computer are great.

Yes, this costs more money than not having any backups, but the costs involved in reconstructing even a single important file are much higher than expenses of several years of backup services.


79 Comments to “Apple Stole My Music. No, Seriously.”

  1. I’m not even on iTunes, and this makes me want to back up everything this very moment.

    I will never understand why people don’t get angrier with Apple when they do things like this — just as I will never understand why Apple decided to do it in the first place.

    • “I will never understand why people don’t get angrier with Apple when they do things like this”

      They drank the cool-ade …

      “— just as I will never understand why Apple decided to do it in the first place.”

      Control — and once they have you you can’t leave without losing all your stuff. Sadly Windows 10 seems to be Microsoft’s try at doing the same thing …

      • the Other Diana

        This is why I won’t upgrade to Windows 10–and I hate Apple with a passion.

        I don’t like OTHERS being in control of MY stuff.

        I don’t do cloud back up either. Snort. People have this false confidence that it’s secure. It’s not.

        • I agree, Diana. I detest Apple. Something you can do on a Windows computer three or four different ways, you can do only ONE way on a Mac– the way *they* decide is best.

          My dad’s blog recently crashed. It was a simple fix– open a chat window to the hosting company, tell them the site had crashed and one minute later, it was up and running again. But I had to do it for him. Why? Because his Mac browser locked him out of the host’s site. According Safari, the Mac browser, the site “was not secure.” This, a major, well-known hosting company.

          With any other browser coupled with an antivirus program, you get a warning with the option to continue to the site. With Mac? Nope. You get locked out. After all, Apple Knows Best.

          • So your Windows browser lets you connect to a site with an expired/invalid encryption certificate (and that is presumably handling your credit card info) and you think that’s a feature?

            Umm.. okay.

            It has nothing to do with “viruses”.

            One questions why a “major, well-known hosting company” was operating with an invalid SSL certificate. If it was really them. You don’t know that it was, nor (even if it was) who was reading your data while it was in transit between you and them. That’s kinda the point.

            • No, it warns and blocks — but gives you the option if you really think you need to go there.

              As far as invalid SSL certificates go, the list of large companies that have let theirs expire at one time or another is longer than my arm. (And we won’t get into the false positives or sites being blocked ‘for your own good’ we see from time to time.)

              It was fun a couple years back with me on a netbook and a friend on a Mac finding Apple’s walled garden protecting him — even from sites that had current certificates.

              “Apple Knows Best” is fine for those that need to be wrapped in bubble-wrap when on a computer, but some of us can read warning signs and decide for ourselves what’s ‘too dangerous’.


              Those with a clue can ignore the above rant, it was from a silly excuse for a writer that crowd sources his editing and used the output of a 3D art program for his cover — obviously a screwball …

              • You do know that you can install Chrome or Firefox on a Mac, right? I’m a Chrome man, myself.

                “As far as invalid SSL certificates go, the list of large companies that have let theirs expire at one time or another is longer than my arm”

                Yeah, it happens. If it does, it’s probably a good idea to wait until they fix it rather than just proceeding despite the warning.

                Especially if the site has your credit card info.

                • You did I hope notice she said “According Safari, the Mac browser, the site “was not secure”. Nowhere did she say that the other browser gave her any warnings or have any issues with the site in question — right?

                • Yes, she also said the other browser gave her a warning.

                • Read it again. She said “With any other browser coupled with an antivirus program, you get a warning with the option to continue to the site.” She did not state that she got one on that site, just how the other browsers react to a possible problem site.

                • Now you’re just spinning. Unsuccessfully.

                • Yeah, and I see you’re adding plenty of counter-spin below …

                  I think we’ll just have to agree to disagree on the goodness of or in certain fruity companies …


                • You made the claim. The burden of proof is on you.

                  That is not “spin”. It is a fact.

              • “friend on a Mac finding Apple’s walled garden protecting him — even from sites that had current certificates.”

                Can you give an example of one of these sites?

                • As that was years ago and I’ll be just as likely to buy a mac just to test their garden as I am to let MS ‘downgrade’ my system to winblows 10, nope.

                  If you’re rose-colored glasses won’t let you see or smell the rot of the apple, good for you. The rest of us applaud your ability to see only the positive things in the negative lights shining on them. (and no, MS is no better, but I still have work-arounds for most of their tricks!)

                • So you don’t have an example, then.

                  “If you’re rose-colored glasses won’t let you see or smell the rot of the apple, good for you. ”

                  No, I’m just looking for some factual confirmation of your claim. Apparently you have none.

            • Well, yeah, Tony, when I type in the address of my login page, I’m PRETTY sure that’s the actual company. And yes, I do expect my computer to give me the final say of whether or not I go to any given web page. Not decide for me, thank you very much.

              And no, Chrome and Webroot had absolutely no problem with the site– which is why it was me on my Windows computer who had to fix the problem and not my dad on his hand-holding Mac. Allen wasn’t spinning. He read my comment as I intended.

              • “Well, yeah, Tony, when I type in the address of my login page, I’m PRETTY sure that’s the actual company. ”

                What makes you “pretty sure”? The fact that what you’re seeing looks like the page you are expecting?

                The domain could’ve been hijacked. It happens all the time — that’s one of the reasons that we use SSL in the first place.

                Reason two is that your data passes through any number of other computers on the way to your company’s computer. Without any encryption, anyone who has control of any of those other machines can read your data without you being the wiser.

                When you opt to connect to a site with an invalid certificate, you absolutely do NOT know that a) it is the real site and b) even if it is, whether someone else is logging all your transactions (including your login credentials).

                • Look: I don’t know why your father’s Safari was complaining about the certificate.

                  Maybe it was invalid.

                  Maybe your father’s Safari was out of date and didn’t recognize a new Certificate Authority.

                  There are other reasons. None of which have anything to do with Windows v. Mac.

                  You said you were using Chrome. To be a fair comparison, you should have tried a current version of Chrome on the Mac. Alternatively, if you wanted to compare default browsers provided by the OS, you should have compared a copy of Internet Explorer of the same vintage as your father’s Safari.

              • What was this “major, well-known hosting company”?

                • P.S. the fact that you even mention Webroot indicates that you don’t really understand the issue here.

                • Tony, it’s clear you’re an Apple fan. That’s fine. I was only expressing my opinion of how I feel working on the Windows platform vs. Apple. I’m not trying to change your mind– you have a right to your own opinion. But please don’t insult me and try to tell me what I do and don’t understand. And really, my webhost is my business and isn’t germane to the discussion. I assure you, it isn’t one that requires “scare quotes.”

        • And sometimes you get blocked invalidly. Every once and a while, my Gmail account gets rated as unsecure. At least with Windows/Foxfire I have an override option. Windows 10 didn’t actually delete anything when I updated (relabel some file folders, yes, but the files were still there).

    • Felix J. Torres

      Apple knows better than you, by definition.
      Theirs, of course.
      Put up with it or do without.

      The days of no alternatives to the LaserWriter are long gone so I usually do without.

      (Yeah, I’m dating myself. But that was the last time I willingly gave money to Apple.)

  2. I got off iTunes a long time ago. Music Bee does everything iTunes did (except the store) and so much more. My life has been better since getting off iTunes.

  3. As PG says, backup backup backup!

    A second thing is to never (ever never) use their default directories. Make a new one and put your stuff in it. This keeps the robots that just check the default directories from finding it.

    Oh, and on backups, daily or weekly do a backup to a drive that ‘does not’ stay connected to your computer! This helps save you if the virus you just picked up likes deleting/encrypting any file it can find. (I alternate between two myself, even/odd weeks so even if I lose the one I was working on the second is only a week out of date.) I make a folder with the date as part of the name and dump ‘all’ my work stuff in it. Yes, that means I have the same file dozens of times, but if it took a while to notice some type of corruption, you might be better able to find ‘when’ you got hit and recover from it.

  4. Partition your drive.
    External hard drive.
    Off-site storage.

    • the Other Diana

      Flash drives
      CD or DVD (burn to a disk)

      Now that I think about it, I should get another computer that will never connect to the internet so it will be “clean” of viruses and it can also work as yet another backup.

  5. the Other Diana

    On a side note- my kindle has (twice this week) decided to lock all of the books I purchased from Amazon. Even the KU books that I downloaded were locked.

    I had to de-register and re-register TWICE to get my stuff back. If Amazon is going the way of Apple- be afraid. Be very afraid.

    This is why I don’t like companies managing my stuff. When they do updates in the background-it can really mess you up.

    I back up on hard drives, physical disks (DVDs) and flash drives. I also store those physical items (DVDs, Flash drives) in separate areas.

    You can never be too careful when it comes to backing up your valuable items (photos, music, WIP).

    • Hi Diana
      have you asked the famed AMZ customer help for an explanation of why this happened to you?
      The answer would be interesting for everybody, I think.

      • Felix J. Torres

        Haven’t heard of it happening to Kindles but last week the Fire HD8.9s (including mine) were subjected to an “upgrade” that deregistered them.
        I had recently backed up and cleaned mine so the only thing lost were the browser bookmarks but it was a pain to manually recreate them..

        They sent out an email last weekend acknowledging their fault and issued $5 credits.

      • the Other Diana

        They wouldn’t tell me what the problem was. I know it shouldn’t have happened to my device (or they didn’t expect it to) because when I logged in to do the chat with tech support, I saw a note about the 8’s where it said de register and re-register. Funny how it happened to me twice and nobody offered me a credit. Or Two.

        GRRR. I’m not lovin’ Amazon these days 🙁

  6. I wrote 50% of my novel on paper…boy does it take long to make a back up of that!

    • They have them new-fangled devices called copy machines now …

      (They’re not just for taking pictures of your backside with! 😛 )

  7. I saw this, but I didn’t get what happened. Or maybe how. Or that it did. I feel like there’s something missing somewhere, besides the files.

    I say this because I use Apple products, including iTunes, iTunes Match, and Apple Music. My music library is about 300gb or 50k songs, and it’s stored primarily on an external hard drive connected to my home network.

    The folder on the hard drive with my music (labeled, simply, music) remains untouched. All the files have remained right where they are, despite not only that I use both iTunes Match and Apple Music but also discontinued my Apple Music service for a couple of months not long ago. I recently rejoined.

    Still fine.

    Maybe it’s because it’s stored externally, rather than on my laptop?

    Regardless, agree with everyone here. Back up often and in many places!

  8. Whew! I purchased a smartphone very recently – December 2015. (I’d been using a flip phone. Yeah, I know, behind the times.) I considered getting an iPhone, but was not sure I wanted to enter Apple’s walled garden for phone service, even though my laptop is a Mac. This post makes me glad I did not.

    • But depending what you purchased, good luck keeping up with Android updates. Carriers and manufacturers simply don’t offer them. And lots of the latest and greatest Android phones ship with a not-current version of Android installed, with a promise of upgrade sometime.

      • Sounds like there is no good option, then. What’s a person to do?

        • I wouldn’t fret it.

          Primarily what Will is talking about as far as “keeping up with Android updates” is that Google continues to release new versions of Android with additional enhancements, primarily to take advantage of newer features offered by the newest phones.

          The carriers (AT&T, Verizon, etc.) tend to wait 6 months or more before pushing these out to different phones on their networks, and sometimes only doing so with the most modern Android phones. The main reason they do this is testing and ensuring compatibility across a broad lineup of Android phones of varying vintages and capabilities. So in a lot of cases, rather than borking older phones, they focus on the newest ones.

          Apple, on the other hand, deploys iOS updates to all its phones. The downside – often mentioned by people – in doing so is that it often renders previously perfectly good older Apple iPhones less-usable, because they’ve been given a new-and-improved version of iOS whose features exceed the capability of these older phones.

          There is no perfect solution for anyone.

          If you have an Android phone, all of your apps will receive frequent updates. You will also receive periodic security updates from your carrier.

          It’s the new and improved versions of the Android Operating System that you will be delayed with.

          Here are the kinds of improvements offered by each iteration of the Android OS. A lot of it is stuff that many or most people will probably not ever use or miss if they don’t immediately get such super-cool features right away.


          • Thanks, Matthew. That’s reassuring. Honestly, all I use my phone for is phone calls, texts, and a calendar/date book.

            I’d like to get my music onto it, but not sure I really need to, since I generally don’t listen to music while I’m out and about.

            The music on my old iPod (which eventually died because replacing the battery – which requires opening the case, not designed for easy battery replacement – broke the home button) all came from CDs that I own. No need to finagle with iTunes. 😀

            (My current phone is an inexpensive LG Lucky.)

    • My daughter and her iPhone are a mind meld. She wouldn’t trade it for anything, uses it for everything from GPS on the Appalachian Trail to keeping sleep data from the Jawbone for the sleep doctor.

      It works for her – she’s never once wished she were on another operating system.

      If I get a smartphone upgrade, I would want that.

      I’m a Mac person. I don’t struggle – I just go with the flow.

      • I’m currently resisting the latest upgrade of my Mac OS. I purchased Photoshop just before it went to the cloud-based subscription. My understanding is that the latest Mac OS will not run the version of Photoshop that I own. I do not want to purchase Photoshop all over again at this time!

        For now, I can click “decline” when I get the pop-up urging me to update. Eventually, that will create so many other problems that I will have to click “accept.” But not yet. 😀

        I’ve used a Mac for decades. Obviously I’ve been very happy with my computers. But I’ve been in this exact same position before: OS slowly growing outdated, but my version of Photoshop orphaned.

        Of course, this is not an Apple problem, per se. Just the perennial problem of navigating updates to software created by different companies that don’t update in sync. 😀

        • You might consider switching over to GIMP. I’m no power user, but from my (extremely) limited experience, it looks like GIMP does much of what Photoshop does… and it’s free.

        • N.E. Montgomery

          On photo and image editing programs for Macs, there’s also a new set of pro-level programs called Affinity. Only $40, and I think way more user friendly than either Gimp or Photoshop. I’d actually installed Parallels and Windows to run my ancient Paintshop Pro on my Macs, and this is ever so much nicer than firing up a virtual just to edit images.

          Affinity is in the app store.

  9. I downloaded iTunes once. Uninstalled it roughly 5 minutes later, because damn. Amazon Music is easier to use (in my opinion). I have all my songs, including ripped from CD or free indie downloads, saved via Amazon, my internal hard drive, my external hard drive, and my car’s hard drive.

    I love the fact I have a car with a freakin’ hard drive I can load music files onto, because I don’t listen to regular radio or whatever that satellite radio is.

    Everything else is backed up the same way, except instead of Amazon cloud, it’s Dropbox. Before hard drives became reasonably priced and cloud storage was a thing, I burned backup CDs, and then DVDs.

    I have WAY too many backup CDs/DVDs in storage, and even a couple of floppy disks from the Dark Ages of being online (I’ve been online since 1994… or 1993? Can’t remember which. Heck maybe it was 1992!).

    • Nice to hear I’m not the only one using Amazon Music. 😆 It can access both my iTunes and Amazon downloads on my iPhone.

      But yeah, to chorus everyone else: BACKUP! BACKUP! BACKUP!

      Heck, I still have the floppy disks from my first four novels.

      • But do you still have a working floppy disc drive?

        This is at least a half serious question. I still buy all my music on CDs so I have physical copy – though Amazon now does the ripping for me (and the back-ups are scattered around off site on 64 Gbyte USB sticks) – but I can see the time coming when PCs will no longer have CD drives and my physical copies will be useless. A bit like my few remaining VHS tapes now my last VHS recorder has died.

        • Yep! When I went shopping for a new laptop a year and a half ago, none of the ones I wanted had drives beyond the standard hard drive. So I bought an external floppy drive and an external DVD/CD drive. My hubby borrows the floopy drive more than I use it, but I still burn CDs of my books in addition to an external hard drive and a multitude of flash drives for backups.

          Check around for VHS players. My hubby picked up a DVD/VHS combo player cheap for me because I still have a ton of movies on VHS too.

          Or get the necessary software to make digital copies of your VHS collection. My hubby did that for VHS recordings we can’t replace, like our wedding, honeymoon, and his rock band’s farewell performance.

      • You’re not the only one! I love Cloudplayer. 🙂

        • N.E. Montgomery

          Me three! Just took a loooong drive up into areas with no signal, but I’d downloaded my playlists to my phone and we had awesome tunes even in the backcountry.

    • Reality Observer

      Uh, yeah… Sure a site that depends solely on advertising from Apple is going to be honest and up front about any problems there.

      • As opposed to some random guy on the Web, you mean?

        If Apple were doing what he claims, it wouldn’t be just him screaming. It would be thousands of people.

  10. Wow. I’ll stay away from iTunes.

  11. I’m not a big music listener (too many books), and when I do listen, it tends to be the old-fashioned way: CD.

    This is not persuading me to “upgrade”.

  12. Laura Montgomery

    If I got all outraged at every outrageous thing I read on the internet I’d be outraged way more than I’m up for. But, after reading this, I’ve got to say I’m feeling kind of outraged.

  13. Near as I can figure out, here’s what happened:

    Him: “Apple Music, upload all my music to Apple’s cloud storage.”
    Apple Music (not “iTunes”): “Okay, done! All your music is in the cloud.” (it was supposed to know which songs were his original work how, exactly?)

    Him: “Apple Music, delete this song (not “remove from device”, the other option).
    Apple Music: “Are you sure?” (puts up this dialog box)


    Him: “Yes, delete it.”
    Apple Music: “Okay, done! This song has been deleted.”

    Him: “Apple Music, I don’t want to pay for my cloud storage any more.”
    Apple Music: “Okay, done! Your cloud storage has been deleted.”

    Apple’s fault. Totally. Obviously.

  14. iTunes has been buggy in various ways for years. Example: I can’t delete junk music (my daughter doesn’t call it that, she calls it HER music) that got loaded onto my iPod by mistake. I’ve taken my device out to the geniuses several times and their answer is, “Maybe you can wipe all your music off and start from scratch?”

    No, thanks. I’ve got quite a few tunes I can’t replace, and I am not restoring my iPod to its original clueless state. The last few “upgrades” have made the whole thing go skawapity several times, and it’s still not fixed. I no longer install any of the upgrades — learned that lesson too late!

  15. But the OP’s files weren’t in the cloud — they were on his hard drive, which I assume was/is a desktop with a digital audio workstation somewhere in the picture. How do they justify going into someone’s private storage and deleting anything, match or no match?

    • “But the OP’s files weren’t in the cloud”

      According to him.

      I think he probably did click “Yeah, put everything in the cloud” when he installed it, which may be the default (that’s the whole purpose of installing Apple Music, after all. Putting your music in the cloud is what it does).

      • His complaint seems to be that when it was put in the cloud, Apple converted the songs to a lower quality format, then deleted the original lossless files.

        Also, Apple’s servers sometimes mix up multiple versions of a song and delete the supposed duplicates.

  16. DropBox, ten thumb drives and a bucket.

    Let DB back up everything, and also send it to local drives of all five computers I use.

    Back up to thumb drive every week.

    Throw thumb drive in bucket.

  17. Oh, and a wonderful exemple of why some readers (I’m one of them) are particularly vocal against DRM, and for format interoperability.

    So Yes, as a reader,you’d better make sure the ebooks you “bought” are backed up, in their “un-encombered” version if they had DRMs…

  18. P.G.

    Yup, they dun that to me too. Never going to play with them again.

    Apple is rotten to the core.


  19. James F. Brown

    Apple: All your music now belong us.

  20. The other important point is that depending on the Cloud for anything is a fools game. Does anybody remember hurricane Sandy a few years ago, and how close the server farms in New Jersey were to being wiped out.

    Over the next twenty years, the Cloud will fail at least three times. Files will either be lost outright, or corrupted such that they still show up on the drive, but cannot be read.

    Plus, look at YouTube. It will also be wiped and refilled many times over the next twenty years.

    If you are not writing about a “Cloud Fail” in your near future novels, then you are not writing close enough to the edge.

    Losing key data should impact your story. There should be forensic guys trying to salvage what they can from a file in hopes that they can solve the crime.

  21. Does anybody remember hurricane Sandy a few years ago, and how close the server farms in New Jersey were to being wiped out.

    Were they backed up on mirror sites away from the weather?

    • Were they backed up on mirror sites away from the weather?

      Which is, of course, the very definition of the cloud rather than “a single server somewhere else.”

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