Apple deleted songs from rival services from users’ iPods

“Apple deleted music that some iPod owners had downloaded from competing music services from 2007 to 2009 without telling users, attorneys for consumers told jurors in a class-action antitrust suit against Apple Wednesday,” Jeff Elder reports for The Wall Street Journal.

“When a user who had downloaded music from a rival service tried to sync an iPod to the user’s iTunes library, Apple would display an error message and instruct the user to restore the factory settings, Coughlin said. When the user restored the settings, the music from rival services would disappear, he said,” Elder reports. “Apple directed the system ‘not to tell users the problem,’ Coughlin said.”

“Apple contends the moves were legitimate security measures. Apple security director Augustin Farrugia testified that Apple did not offer a more detailed explanation because, ‘We don’t need to give users too much information,’ and ‘We don’t want to confuse users,'” Elder reports. “Farrugia told the court that hackers with names like ‘DVD Jon’ and “Requiem” made Apple ‘very paranoid’ about protecting iTunes. Updates that deleted non-Apple music files were intended to protect consumers from those system break-ins. ‘The system was totally hacked,’ he said.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Apple did, in effect, warn consumers via a widely-reported statement:

We are stunned that RealNetworks has adopted the tactics and ethics of a hacker to break into the iPod, and we are investigating the implications of their actions under the DMCA and other laws. We strongly caution Real and their customers that when we update our iPod software from time to time it is highly likely that Real’s Harmony technology will cease to work with current and future iPods.Apple, July 29, 2004

And, besides, although removed from iPod, the songs purchased via rival services remained in iTunes, did they not? All songs are removed from an iPod after a restore to factory settings.


  1. I remember this. And if the iPod was reset to factory settings, doesn’t that imply that only the songs on the iPod were lost? In fact, they weren’t really lost. They were still in the user’s Music Library on their computer, were they not? I’m sure the plaintiffs’ attorneys can twist the facts in such a way as to influence jurors unfamiliar with iPods and how they worked in 2004 against Apple. That’s unfortunate.

  2. Yawn. Anyone that was around when DRM music came about had to know there would be growing pains around any kind of songs that were not ripped off a CD or DVD or bought from the iTunes store.

    And now we have iTunes songs with no DRM and iTunes Match which will match anything* you upload to the cloud and allow you to download a legit and higher quality version of it if your files aren’t as good.

    *That’s in their catalog—I still have a few albums that haven’t made their way to iTunes.

  3. Do I get this right?

    Apple was (forced to) using DRM. RealNetworks did implement their own DRM, and hacked their way so that their DRM worked on iPods as well. Apple updates their software, including their DRM, and renders RealNetworks hack unusable.


    Why should Apple be responsible for this? RealNetworks misused an unsupported hack.

  4. Sheesh. Apple deleted your songs if you tried to sync with a different copy of iTunes on a different computer – even if the computer and songs were your own. This approach ensured that songs were not being copied and shared. If Apple and the recording industry had not taken this approach, Napster would still be ruling music distribution.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.