iTunes’ Dirty Little Secret: Not All Tracks Can Be Redownloaded - Macenstein

iTunes’ Dirty Little Secret: Not All Tracks Can Be Redownloaded

Posted by Dr. Macenstein

[DISCLAIMER: I have added this disclaimer to the head of this article in hopes people will actually read it before posting comments. This article is not in any way bashing Apple, nor criticizing their generous redownloading policy. It is merely meant to point out what I see as a glitch in their system, and to serve as yet another warning to those folks who do not already backup their iTunes purchases.]

We’ve all heard the horror stories of people whose hard drives have crashed and lost all the music they had purchased from the iTunes store. All seems lost until they contact iTunes support and are elated to find out that Apple will allow for a “one time” redownload of all their purchases from the iTunes store. It would seem Steve Jobs has truly smiled down upon them and blessed them. All is right with the world, and they have learned the valuable lesson of “always back up your stuff“.

I recently had the pleasure of going through this routine. I actually HAD backed up most of my stuff, but due to some hard drive errors, iTunes could not seem to find many of my songs (there was a gray circle next to most tracks), and I had to keep double-clicking each one and manually re-associating them. I was able to restore the songs I had “ripped” from my own CDs fairly painlessly, but oddly enough, it was largely those purchased Protected AAC files that iTunes could not find more often than not. Being lazy, and having heard about Apple’s redownload policy, I figured, “OK, let’s remove them all from the library, and redownload them”. It will be easier.

After contacting iTunes support I got a prompt response within 12 hours which read:

“I’m sorry to hear the titles you purchased from the iTunes Store with account “———–” were lost. I know how upsetting that can be, so Apple will let you redownload (at no charge) all the titles you purchased on this account that are still available. Please note that you may download your iTunes Store purchases only once, so this is a one-time exception.”

Ok, sounds great. However, as I read on, I learned the dark secret of the iTunes store, namely, not all songs can be re-downloaded.

“I examined your purchase history and found that the iTunes Store has modified or removed the following titles since you purchased them, so they could not be added back to your account:

“Vortex (Demo)”, “Nunca”, “Little G’s Halloween”, “Trust Me”, “She Is”, “Vienna”, “All At Once”, “Little House”, “Look After You”, “Dead Wrong”, “Hundred”, “How to Save a Life”, “Fall Away”, “Heaven Forbid”, “Buffalo Burrito”, “I Wanna Be a Soap Star – Finale Sneak Peek”, “Pay Me My Money Down”, “Pilot”, “Superman Returns: Exclusive Premiere Scene”, “Wound Up”, “Savin’ Me”, “Sweet Sweet Baby”, “In Da Club”, “Can You Find It?”, “L M N O”, “D Is for Drums”, “Goodnight My Friends”, “Here In Higglytown (Theme to Playhouse Disney’s Higglytown Heroes) [Bonus Track]”, “I C U”, “Q U”, “Pictures of Pandas Painting”, “The Vowel Family”, “Z X Y”, “Letter Shapes”, “Fake Believe”, “Alphabet of Nations”, “Rolling O”, “Fake Believe (Type B)”, “Clap Your Hands”, “Who Put the Alphabet In Alphabetical Order?”, “E Eats Everything”, “Flying V”, “Letter / Not a Letter”, “Here Come the ABCs”, “Alphabet Lost and Found”, “Go for G!”, “D & W”, “C Is for Conifers”, “Tú y Yo”, “Lazy Sunday”, “Lazy Sunday”, “Scandalous”, “Photograph”, “Wounded Feet”, “Gimme Just a Little Sign”, “Right Here”, “Closer to You”, “Satellites”, “Stop the Music (Featuring Scribe)”, “I’ve Told Every Little Star”, “Forever for Her (Is Over for Me)”, “Little Ghost”, “Take, Take, Take”, “U Must Be”, “Stars and Boulevards”, “Galang”, “Hands Up”, “Demon Days (Album Sampler)”, “I Won’t Say (I’m In Love)”, “One Evening”, “Q U”, “Telescope Eyes”, “Street Official Mixtape, Vol. 5”, “Title and Registration”, “Everyday”, “When I’m Gone (Sadie)”, “Louis XIV”, “You’ll Never Guess Who Died”, “Gotta Get Up from Here”, “Pressure”, “Broken Promises”, “Drive Away”, “Yesterday Never Tomorrows”, “What You Want”, “Funny Little Feeling”, “Lost Control”, “On Your Porch”, “Welcome to My Life”, “Shallow”, “Shine It All Around”, “Merrano of the Dry Country (Dramatized)”, “Mad World”, “Street Official Mixtape Vol. 4”, “Long Ways”, “Gotta Get Up from Here (Radio Edit)”, “Surfin’ U.S.A.”, “Good Golly Miss Molly”, “Long Tall Sally”, “The Girl Can’t Help It”, “Tutti Frutti”, “Jenny Jenny”, “Lucille”, “You’ve Got a Friend in Me”, “Every Ship Must Sail Away”, “Bombs Away”, “Based On a True Story (Mama Told Me)”, “Good Ol’ Love”, “Staring At the Sun”, “Wishing You Were Here”, “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy”, “Come On, Let’s Go”, “Beginnings”, “Honesty”, “Just You ‘n Me”, “Make Me Smile”, “Soup”, “A Spoonful of Sugar”, “Jolly Holiday”, “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”, “Chim Chim Cher-ee”, “Step in Time”, “So Far so Good”, “You Don’t Have to Be Strong”, “Where Did I Put That Thing / Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo (The Magic Song)”, “James”, “Take Me Away”, “So Far So Good”, “Brother Down”, “I’m a Man”, “I Don’t Wanna Lose You”, “What’s Love Got to Do With It”, “Better Be Good to Me”, “Land of 1,000 Dances”, “Let’s St!
ay Together”, “Private Dancer”, “Show Some Respect”, “Steamy Windows”, “We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)”, “What You Get Is What You See”, “Growing On Me”, “Givin’ Up”, “I Believe in a Thing Called Love”, “Love Is Only a Feeling”, “The First Cut Is the Deepest”, “1999”

Now say what you will about my music taste (and for the record, a lot of these were purchased for my parents and kids) but this seems ridiculous to me. First of all, I can understand if a “purchased” song or movie was one of iTunes “free downloads of the week” and was therefore no longer available. That would be understandable, although not preferable, and a good 40% of these missing tracks ARE indeed freebies that I have never listened to after the first time, so I am not all that bent out of shape about losing them. Some were also free games and movies, like the “Vortex Demo” and “Little G’s Halloween” or the “I Wanna Be a Soap Star – Finale Sneak Peek” (I am a sucker for free stuff).

However, 4 tracks I bought from The Darkness, “Growing On Me”, “Givin’ Up”, “I Believe in a Thing Called Love”, “Love Is Only a Feeling”, cannot be redownloaded. Neither can the entire “Simply the Best” album by Tina Turner (a gift for my mom) or They Might Be Giants’ “Here Come the ABC’s” Album (for the kids). Some Disney songs from Mary Poppins are also out. Numerous random other oldies but goodies, like “Surfin’ U.S.A.”, “Good Golly Miss Molly”, “Long Tall Sally”, “The Girl Can’t Help It”, “Tutti Frutti”, “Jenny Jenny”, “Lucille” are also lost forever.

The real annoying thing about this is that all the songs I purchased that cannot be redownloaded are still available on iTunes. I could go buy “Here Come The ABC’s” right now. I am not sure what “modifying” Apple has done to these songs to make them unable to be redownloaded, but I think it is something that iTunes users should be aware of. Anyone relying on iTunes’ redownloading policy as a safety net in lieu of frequent backups is risking losing quite a bit of money. I’d guess I’m out around $50 or so, and I haven’t purchased all that much music from iTunes. People with larger purchased libraries risk being out substantially more. (Well, OK, for the record I technically DO have all these songs backed up on an older computer, so I am not out anything except my time, but in theory most people using this redownload service would not).

You will not find a mention of the possibility that certain tracks will not be able to be redownloaded on the iTunes site, but to be fair, you won’t find a mention that Apple will let you redownload your library at all. It seems this is a hidden feature Apple has added to be nice, knowing their constant warnings to users to back up their purchases will likely go unheeded, at least until the first crash. So while we should be thankful Apple allows for this emergency redownload service, it seems they have some work to do in ensuring their customers are not left out in the cold when tragedy strikes.

As a side note, it appears it is quite likely that the hard disk corruption I experienced is more than likely due to upgrading to iTunes 7.1 last week (the timing is certainly coincidental). There have been numerous reports of people’s iTunes libraries dropping songs and having library files corrupted as well as a result of the latest update (although I do not have Limewire installed, as seems to be the casein many of these reports).

[UPDATE 2:] Apple’s response

In response to my inquiry as to why some of the music I bought which is still for sale on iTunes cannot be redownloaded, I have received the following e-mail response from iTunes support. I have read it 3 times now, and am still not sure it provides an answer, especially since some songs were purchased as albums, some as individual tracks, and according to my receipts, the pricing seems unchanged. But I post it here for the sake of those who were sure Apple had a good reason for the system working the way it does. To me it still sounds like they have a generous redownload policy which is flawed by some bad code in the way iTunes evaluates your purchases, but I suppose only Apple knows what “modified” means, and they apparently intend to keep it that way.

Apple’s iTunes Support response:

“Dear ___,

“I understand you are concerned that you did not receive some song that were removed or modified and the content is still on the iTunes Store for purchase and I know how this can be confusing. I would be glad to address this concern.

Content on the iTunes Store is always changing. Pricing and album changes with the record company can prompt some of these changes.

In your situation, Apple had let you download all of the content you had originally purchased based off of your purchase list. If content had been removed or modified, it would be saved under a different location and would not be issued as a re-download.

I am sorry I am not able to tell you what has been modified on all of the content you are not able to download. If you have any other questions about this, please review the iTunes Terms of Service.”

58 Responses to “iTunes’ Dirty Little Secret: Not All Tracks Can Be Redownloaded”
  1. eckndu says:

    i got all of my 200$ purchases back, excepting one video, disco inferno, which is to graphic maybe so they pull it out of the store.
    pretty happy about it

  2. Jasko says:

    Plenty of other companies offer infinite multiple downloads – Apple already limits you to the authorized computers, so what’s the problem? If I get to my Dad’s house and want to play an album I bought on iTunes, why shouldn’t I be able to authorize his PC and download my album?

    eMusic offers unlimited redownloads.

    I know music is bigger than PDFs and carries a greater bandwidth cost, but as a new iPod owner (twin 80GBs for the wife and me) and the recent buyer of several albums from the iTunes store, this story and others like it are making me rethink my music buying decisions. I think I’ll be back to eMusic.

  3. Hmm funny, they wouldn’t let me re-download them at all! They said that was “only for important people” – aka only for people who could bring them lots or lose them lots of customers.

    I may just go to the Zune, now.

  4. janet says:

    Look, it probably costs apple what two cents to let you redownload a file they have a copy of. It’s not like you’re asking them to give you a cd. They could charge a nominal fee to let you redownload something you’ve already bought. Plenty of people backup and then when their hard drive bellies up, find out the backup is unreadable. And here is the place you bought hundreds of dollars of stuff from, still with copies of it and knowing you bought it, and they say tough luck.

  5. Dave says:

    To folks like Martin at the top, who are saying things like, “That you can redownload your purchased music at all is a pretty nice thing. Can you imagine what your local CD store would say if you went in and told them that you had lost the CD you bought from them last year and requested a new copy for free? ”

    Consider that if you had a CD you bought, and when it played, it magically destroyed itself and all your other CDs… would you still say the same thing ? “Tough luck, you played the CD of death, just buy new stuff”

    It sounds like this guy was hit with a bug in the iTunes software update… it’s not like he was negligent, or that he was gaming the system. Through no fault of his own, his iTunes were gone.

    Now, if Microsoft sold you a Zune, and you bought tracks from them, then they sent out an update that deleted everything in your music folder. Wouldn’t you get angry at MS for doing this to you ? Wouldn’t you expect that they replace the damaged files ?

    Have we become so conditioned to not “owning” anything that we “buy” that even when someone loses hundreds of dollars of tracks through no fault of their own, we can so quickly yell out “tough luck, you deserve it, just pay to rent some more music!”

    p.s. It’s not any physical object like a CD we are talking about here either, it is NOT like losing CDs in a fire. The songs were lost even though they were used in a manner consitent with normal use, and the guy did nothing wrong.

    p.p.s. For you “make a backup” folks… some people might consider that theft, you aren’t paying for the right to make copies after all…

  6. Dave says:

    I love the analogy here… “What I am saying is, what if you bought a bunch of cds at WreckaStow, and then lost them all in a flood. ”

    What a better analogy would be, considering that it may be the iTunes updates (which you are required to load) that did this is, “what if you bought a bunch of cds at WreckaStow, and then a week later the owner of the store broke into your house and burned your entire CD collection, but he warned you when you bought them that this might happen”

    I would take it further, but I think the analogies to physical property here just don’t hold up. The economy of “things” is much different than the economy of data. After all, you didn’t purchase the “CD” here, you bought the right to have a copy of the data on your computer… so what ends that right/rental agreement here ??? Apple should do like eMusic and allow you to pull the songs that you purchased the rights to at anytime.

  7. LOL says:

    I can’t believe how many blockheads there are. What happens when you CAN’T backup your CDs because iTunes says it can’t find your CD Burner? It’s bs.
    Don’t even start with “it’s your fault for not backing up.” Sometimes it’s not the user’s fault that they lost hundreds of songs.
    May I point out that other services allow you to REDOWNLOAD what you bought from them? So much for the mighty Apple. After reading this, I will never EVER use the iTunes store. EVER.

  8. michael says:

    I was told that its not that they don’t want to reissue the missing items but that once an item has been modified the pathing is different. Think about like when you use photobucket to post a picture on myspace. if you modify the picture and post it back the URL will be different. same principle.

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