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Apple Isn't (Intentionally) Stealing Your Music, But You Might Want To Back Up Your Library

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

"Apple Stole My Music. No, Seriously." That's the alarming title of a blog post by composer James Pinkstone who claimed that some of his files were deleted when he signed up for Apple Music. Now others on the internet, including Snopes, a fact-checking site, disputed that claim and called the situation a combination of user error, confusing interface and possible glitches in the software. Laura Sydell reports on digital culture for NPR. Thanks very much for being with us, Laura.

LAURA SYDELL, BYLINE: You are welcome.

SIMON: So does Apple Music steal anybody's music?

SYDELL: No. No, it doesn't steal anybody's music, at least not on purpose. But there are a lot of features that could potentially go wrong with this software. For one thing, they have something called iTunes Match. So if you have something in your old collection on your computer, it finds a match on its servers. This way when you go use other devices, it will reach into its Cloud and say, oh, Laura owns that song. We can play it back from our server.

This can be confusing and create problems, I think, because iTunes does go into your computer, look for these matches. And there is some possibility that there could be some kind of glitch which maybe erased some songs on this gentleman's computer by accident. But I would not say that Apple in any way would intentionally delete something on your computer.

SIMON: But, I mean, if a lot of unintentional deletions occur, it's the same thing, isn't it?

SYDELL: Well, (laughter) I suppose it is. I want to say that part of the issue may simply be what we're talking about when we're talking about iTunes. This is a piece of software that first came out in 2001. And it has been built upon and built upon and built upon. Initially, all it did was organize the collection, right, on your computer.

And most recently, they introduced a subscription service. So this is this $10-a-month service. And this service has a different kind of music file. So when you buy the service, you can download stuff onto your computer as long as you pay the subscription. If you decide you no longer want to pay that $10 a month for Apple Music, everything you downloaded from the music service will disappear because you didn't own it. You rented it.

SIMON: Is there also a generational difference in that people of a certain age figure they can buy a piece of music and it's theirs versus people of a new generation who are comfortable with the fact that they're only renting it?

SYDELL: You know, I want to say yes and no (laughter). We should remember that right now, one of the things that is coming back with a vengeance, Scott, is vinyl (laughter) good old LPs.

SIMON: Yeah.

SYDELL: You remember those, right? You're old enough. But young people are buying them. So obviously there is some desire to own something. Yet at the same time, you have young people who've been used to going out on the Internet, going to YouTube and hearing any song they want.

SIMON: What's the moral?

SYDELL: (Laughter) Backup, backup, backup. You can get yourself a spare hard drive. And if you want to make sure that, you know, the music you actually purchase, say, from the iTunes store or from CDs you ripped, I would back them up on a hard drive. Or if you really want to be safe, Scott, I'd buy yourself some LPs.

SIMON: (Laughter) What are they? Oh, yeah, I've read about them.

SYDELL: Yeah.

SIMON: Laura Sydell, thanks so much for being with us.

SYDELL: You're welcome.

SIMON: And late last night, Apple told NPR that it had received a few complaints from users who had files deleted. The company says it's still trying to find the cause. And they will release an iTunes update next week with new safeguards. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.