Online Music, Deleted Files

I find it diffcult to be certain whether the scenario in the article is an entirely accurate account of what happened, and if it is, whether it’s due to a mistake or a misunderstanding on the part of the author. Working in tech support, my experience tells me that is as likely, as if the scenario would be the result of nefarious practices by Apple. Still, it raises important questions about the services we use, what we use them for, and how we approach them.

Apple Stole My Music. No, Seriously.

By James Pinkstone, May 4, 2016

“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.

People laugh at me for still preferring to buy music on actual CDs, and movies on actual DVDs and BluRays, especially when I say that I have a 900+ movie library built up over the last decade and a half (my music CD collection is somewhat more modest), all physical copies.

My first reason for doing so is that I prefer the feel of handling the physical medium. Like old vinyl records, though I never gathered a great many of those before compact discs took over. A music album to me is a thing, an object, not just an intangible jumble of tracks on a pocket-sized jukebox. It just feels different, and better that way. I know this is a dinosaur’s point of view in an age when music listening is done one song at a time, picked at random from a virtually endless mountain pile of individual songs, and the idea of an actual ‘album’ is something children of today would have to ask their parents or even their grandparents about.

My second reason for buying music CDs is that, although I usually end up ‘ripping’ the songs onto my computer, in order to play it on, yes, my iPhone, the audio on the CD is still pristine, uncompressed. It’s as straight as a WAV file, with its original quality intact. If I prefer a different ‘ripped’ format, I can just ‘rip’ it again from the original — whereas if I bought an MP3, which through lossy compression has lost some of that original quality, and re-compress it to another format, that recompression will introduce more quality loss. Like making a tape recording of a tape recording, if you like, and if you’re old enough to remember doing that.

Back in the when, I bought most of my music on vinyl, and later on CD, but recorded over to tapes to play in my car or on my walkman. If I needed a second copy of an album, or I wanted a mixtape of individual tracks, I would make another tape recording from the vinyl or CD original, rather than copying the already copied tape. Why? Because every time you copy something, the new copy sounds inferior to the original. Not extremely so in the first copy, but a copy of a copied tape would always have more noise and less dynamic sound. Same thing with a recompressed copy of, say, an MP3 file. Until online music is generally available as uncompressed or lossless-compressed files, I’m not buying downloadable albums.

But that’s me nitpicking. Others may not care as much.

My third and possibly most important reason for buying physical media is summed up in this quote from the article:

“One day, you won’t buy a movie. You’ll buy the right to watch a movie, and that movie will be served to you. If the companies serving the movie don’t want you to see it, or they want to change something, they will have the power to do so.”

This is already very real! The “one day” in question is now. Music and movies regularly get pulled from online services on the whims of artists, studios and lawyers, and the service provider has no choice other than remove those pieces from their streaming libraries, rendering them as inaccessible as if you’d never bought and paid for them, unless you happened to also download and keep a copy for yourself. “One day” this may apply to something you bought.

If a lawyer or other representative for the entertainment industry comes knocking on my door, demanding that I hand over any number of items that I have bought on physical media, on the grounds that the RIAA or MPAA no longer want me to watch or listen to them, they’re going to have something of a hard time, and would they please get off my property before I kindly help them off it.

On the other foot, once you buy a song, an album or a movie, and download to your computer, you are responsible for keeping those files safe. You may be able to re-download at need or leisure as long as the items are still available with your provider, but if they decide to or are forced to remove them, that access is gone. As with everything else, if it’s important to you, back it up!

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