There’s nothing quite as scary as opening your hard drive and seeing all your files are just gone. Everybody has experienced that panic, the sensation that all your work, or something you love, has just vanished. Now imagine that it’s your life’s work as a composer, and you have an idea of James Pinkstone went through with Apple Music.
Pinkstone relates his agony on a blog post where he explains that after he subscribed to Apple Music, iCloud Music Library was automatically enabled. It went through his files, found “redundancies” on his hard drive, and later erased 122 GB of music off itself, including much of Pinkstone’s own compositions. Adding insult to injury, Pinkstone found that rare demos and remixes had been replaced with more common versions of songs, and that songs he’d saved as WAV format were converted into MP3s.
Fortunately, Pinkstone had backups of his music, but he notes that if he hadn’t, his only option was to redownload everything from Apple Music, a process that would take thirty hours. He also claims that an Apple employee he spoke with doesn’t subscribe to Apple Music for precisely this reason, and that she got multiple calls from people who tried Apple Music, canceled their subscription, and discovered all their music had officially ceased to exist. Nor is this an uncommon problem, as it turns out.
This is troubling on a number of levels. First off, you won’t find any mention of this happening to you, should you subscribe to Apple Music, unless you dig deep into the Terms of Service. When you do find it, you’ll learn that as far as Apple is concerned, if it deleted your files off your hard drive and you didn’t think to download them before you canceled the subscription, tough luck. Nor will you find any mention of iCloud Music Library on Apple Music’s main website, or even any language explaining why your files are deleted. You will find terms that state Apple can remove things from Apple Music whenever it feels like it, though.
Secondly, Pinkstone has every right to wonder just what the heck Apple is doing with his music. It’s not clear, browsing Apple’s legal language, what it does with original files that it finds on users’ hard drives. It’s unlikely Apple will decide to start streaming Pinkstone’s work, of course, but the option appears to be there.
Finally, the broader implications of this are uncomfortable. Apple has always had the attitude that it knows what’s best for its users, but deleting files off a hard drive, especially files that user has paid for, and doing it automatically, is violating a boundary. Especially when this file deletion means Apple can hold your music for ransom at $10 a month. Apple users have every right to wonder how far Apple will go.
So, if you’re considering subscribing to Apple Music, back up your files before you do. Otherwise, you may find yourself in a situation without your precious files.