Apple stole my music? What?

Over the years there have been a number of complaints regarding how Apple protects the services it sells through iTunes and now through Apple Music. I too have run afoul of their surprising requirements to move purchased music or even stored music (that is stored in and by iTunes) from one computer to another. Now I see posts from folks claiming that Apple Music deleted or stole their music.

So, I read a couple of the complaints, then dialed up and read their take on the complaints, and then I looked at the website and their description of what Apple Music does and how it does it.

Let us start at the end of this story and Apple Music. This is a service aimed at providing a convenient solution to the problems people like myself have had with iTunes; it will gather up all of your music into your icloud account using their “match” system to identify which songs you have pruchased and / or added (perhaps from CD’s or other music downloads) and convert them to a single format. Any of your devices, once logged in to your account, then have full access to play back or download for off-line playback any of that content. Sounds wonderful, right?

What could possibly go wrong? Well, for most folks, nothing; however, if you happen to favor a particular version of a given song, there is no way (yet) to guarantee that Apple Music will store that version. Thus far there have been some issues with Apple Music picking what it deems to be a superior version (newer, recorded at higher sampling rate, etc.) and storing that version for you instead of your favorite version. I suspect that versions already stored in Apple Music’s master store are favored in this situation over other versions. A second issue appears to be the result of a combination of settings in your local copy of iTunes combined with the efforts that iTunes in conjunction with Apple Music to remove duplicates, unlicensed media, replace damaged copies, etc. The result is that some “song files” may be moved to your recycle bin. The combination of these attempts to improve your iTunes stored music seems to have really upset some folks.

It seems to me (and, I believe, Snopes’ report on this issue agrees) that much of the problem is the result of misunderstandings on the part of many users. Apple’s website has a pretty clear description of what Apple Music will do when you choose to use the service (assuming the user chooses to read that description before agreeing to the terms of the service); combine that with a little common sense, and I think most folks will see that Apple Music behaves as described. If you don’t want “that” done to your devices, and stored music, don’t agree to use the service and don’t use the service. It should not affect your choice that the service is free for 3 months; if it, in its normal operations, is likely to mess up your music, don’t start it. This appears to be where most people get caught; they want to try it even though it looks like it does some stuff they don’t need or don’t want and, sure enough, a mess results.

In a far more general sense, I caution users considering any service that automatically helps organize, store, or backup, anything you do with electronic equipment to make certain you understand what that service will do. If you don’t understand, find out or get help understanding BEFORE you turn “it” loose on your devices.

Similarly, if someone calls you and tells you there is something wrong with your computer and they will fix it for you, think twice and maybe ask yourself a couple questions: How did they know my computer has issues and how did they get my phone number? Who are these people and why should I trust them? Odds are extremely high that someone calling you “out of the blue” and offering to fix your computer are scamming you and will make a mess of your computer while taking your money. As always, the private data on your computer is valuable to you; protect it by backing it up and storing the backup safely and don’t invite scammers to “help” you.