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. Alex says:

    I experienced this as well.

  2. Martin says:

    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?

    Burn aa CD and Backup, Backup, Backup.

  3. Leon says:

    I got hosed when my drive died a while back, after re-purchasing like 80% of my library. I decided find a backup solution, what I realized is that I would not plug my MBP into a USB drive to actually do the backups, so that made an external drive pointless.

    I went ahead and signed up for a remote backup service, BackupRight ( ) is the only one with a Mac OS X client and is affordable for a decent sized iTunes library.

  4. Dave says:

    I understand the free ones and demos. I wonder if the songs are from one label? Maybe they set this policy and Apple are abiding by it?

  5. minime says:

    Come on… If you don’t care to protect your investment, why should anyone else care?
    It’s like that you left your one-year-salaries Armani suit or your iPod in the yard and then complain about the rain that destroyed them. This time was a $50 loss, next time maybe will be your memories or your job.
    And why do you expect Apple to help you? Do you also expect Sony to replace the TV that you broke or Canon to replace the printer that you tossed out of the window?
    Backup, backup and then backup more. If you don’t backup, you don’t deserve to have a computer.

  6. Jenkinator says:

    That’s lame. It’s not usually Apple’s style to do things half-assed. Either all the music should be redownloadable, or none. Although, I guess something is better than nothing.

  7. I realize the importance of backups. The point of this article was to point out something that I think most people did not know, and something which seemed very odd to me. I do not see why certain songs/albums that are still sold through iTunes cannot be redownloaded. I am not knocking Apple’s redownload policy, I think it is very nice of them. However, I think there system needs a bit of work.

    And as I said, I had these backed up on my drive (and another computer), I was just too lazy to manually go and find them all, so I decided to test out the redownload feature, and I was surprised by what I found. Just thought I’d pass the info along. I exaggerated my plight a bit, as I am not out $50 really (just time), but many other people would be.

    -The Doc

  8. Mark says:

    I read the point of the article to be the fact that Apple tells you they will replace your “one-year-salaries Armani suit or your iPod” that you left out in the rain (thanks for the analogy, Minime!) but then when you show up to get the replacement, they tell you that you’ll only be getting the pants… or you’ll be getting a 1GB Shuffle instead of the 60GB one you had.

  9. RanmaChan says:

    You realize you can download “Here Come the ABCs” from as high quality DRM free MP3s for the same cost (or less) than iTunes…

    Shame on you for supporting DRM when you could have given your money directly to the artist.

  10. Nate says:

    I think the reason some of them have been “modified” is the videos are now a higher resolution. Apple probably doesn’t want people redownloading entire seasons of The Office trying to game the system. Since your version is the lower resolution they somehow know that and don’t let you get the higher res version.

    As for music being modified I have no idea…

  11. Andy C. says:

    That’s funny, I think most people are under the impression that you can’t re-download at all. I think it’s mighty great of Apple to allow you to do this, and given that it’s being offered at all and not being advertised as a feature (I’m pretty sure Apple’s policy actually states the opposite), I don’t think you should expect anything but a ‘best effort’ on their part.

    I think if there is any little secret at all, it’s that Apple will make exceptions to their policy to keep their more careless customers happy. Your article should be about the perils of not maintaining a proper backup, not criticizing a feature that Apple officially doesn’t support or advertise, that they only offered you in good faith because they felt sorry for you.

  12. Andy,

    I feel the article actually IS a warning to people to back up their stuff. I agree (and point out) that Apple does not advertise this service, nor do they have to offer such a service. It is, however, a fairly well known “fact” on the internet that they offer this service.

    I consider this to be a glitch with the iTunes store that I think most people would never know about until they have the unfortunate need to use Apple’s generous redownload feature. Obviously, Apple knows what songs I have bought, and they could see those tracks are still for sale on the iTunes store, so what is the problem? I think this article should serve as a reminder to all to back up their stuff.

    -The Doc

  13. basscleff says:

    Funny, I read the title and thought is was my article!
    I used the same “dirty little secret” monicker, however for managing ipod hard drive space 🙂

    thx for the article 🙂

  14. Chris says:

    Tough shit, learn to back up your stuff.

  15. Simon says:

    How ungrateful can you get ?

    I can’t actually believe you’re complaining about a gift from Apple not being good enough. That’s what it is – a gift:

    – They don’t promise to do this, anywhere on the site

    – It’s not part of the contract or agreement you have with them

    – There’s no way you ought to be “relying” on it. Yet you complain.

    Have the guts to take some personal responsibility for your (lack of) action in not backing up your music. Had you wandered into a record store, and asked them to restore to you all the CD’s you had bought because your house has just been burgled, you’d be laughed at. Loudly.

    It’s people like you who are responsible for companies deciding just to ignore customers issues, because it’s less hassle. They wouldn’t have to put up with this crap if they didn’t give you back *anything*, but if they give you back as much as they (probably legally) can, you bitch and moan. For shame!


  16. jayhoward says:

    Hey Minime, you sound like a real nice person. Nothing like telling other people they’re assholes for not being as fastidious as you in backing-up. When you hear someone died of cancer do you say “tough luck, they should have done a better job of looking after their health?”

  17. Simon,

    It is people like you who do not read an entire article (or anything other than the headline) before commenting that are the problem with internet forums.

    Again, I know Apple does not have to do this, I know they don’t say they will do this, but the fact remains they DO do this, and so why shouldn’t they fix their system to work perfectly? We are huge fans of Apple and feel they consistently put out great products. All I am asking is for them to take a look at how their redownload system works, and fix these bugs so ALL of your purchased music can be redownloaded.

    I’m sure it is not their intention to swindle the customer, and they are very straightforward with their “Backup your downloads” messages.

    You can look at my take on this as receiving a gift from Apple (like a new TV) and being ungrateful that it only gets 300 out of the 400 possible channels. I look at it as, Apple probably meant to give me a working TV capable of receiving all 400, and something went wrong.

    I think Apple should know about it. If you are going to do something, do it right. That’s always been Apple’s moto IMHO, and I think this needs to be addressed.

    -The Doc

  18. WHINER says:

    WAH! It isn’t a ‘dirty little secret’, it is life. Be lucky you can redownload ANY of the songs. Go buy a CD and lose it. I don’t think you would be going back to the store for a free replacement. It is YOUR responsibility to protect your iTunes library, not Apple’s.

    Grow up and learn to be responsible for yourself. Doing so will make the world better for everyone.

  19. DaveD says:

    Leon… I checked out the site you suggested. Nice idea, but the max backup is 15G (personal) and 50G (business). Um, my iTunes library is already ~180G and growing. My solution was to upgrade to a nice 2 terabyte RAID5 drive and use it’s ethernet connection into my wireless router.

    This is my new setup. The old one was a 250G firewire drive that I would plug directly into my Mac. With the new setup I’m good for years with space, the drive is available to everyone on my network (behind a firewall and password protected of course) and the RAID5 protects me from drive failures. It has an iTunes server on it, so except (for now) videos, I no longer need to use my computer’s drive space.

    Sure, it cost a pretty penny, but I consider it an investment. Sure, I still have to back things up. But with the right backup tool I just schedule incremental backs once a week in the middle of the night.

  20. Frank says:


    It is people like you who do not read an entire article (or anything other than the headline) before commenting that are the problem with internet forums.”

    Absolutely! What a jerk. He should pile that huge helping of shame all over himself.

  21. David says:

    I think this is retarded, and I think many of you fail to realize the reality of this situation. Read the details on what you are actually purchasing from apple. You are buying a license to listen to use that piece of content. Not buying the actual song or the file. In fact even if they didn’t send you the song, you would still own a license to listen to that song. The bandwidth cost to apple is next to nothing for each song you download. You should be able to download the song as many times as you like to as many computers as you move itunes to period the end. You are buying a license to listen to the song, and who are they to tell you where you can and can’t listen to it. They are stripping away your rights as the user of purchased content, and you are all just taking it from them and even praising them for doing something that they SHOULD already do. They know you purchased the song, they know you have the right to listen to that song. The worst case scenario on their part should be to charge you a redownload fee for the extra bandwidth; which IMO would be VERY little to them and probably shouldn’t cost you more then $20 for however much music you bought from them. I will NEVER buy a piece of content sold in this way from any content seller. If I buy a license to use a piece of content, I should be able to watch/listen to it in whatever form I want to and on whatever piece of plastic they deliver it on. The content industry needs to grow up and stop acting like spoiled little brats who count you lucky to own their content. We are your customers. We demand a certain amount of respect, and that means not selling us a license to use something we already own a license to use. That is just plain WRONG

  22. Anon says:

    I had about $200 of itunes music that i had bought, but then my laptop got stollen, i ended up finding the person who took it, and got the laptop back, but everything on the computer was erased. Only after this did I find out that the music I paid for cannot be recovered, despite having a clear record of purchase. Makes you wonder why we pay for music rather than just downloading it for free

  23. Jaybird says:

    I believe this may have something to do with the licensing/contract the Artists and/or Labels have with iTunes. The songs “belong” to them, iTunes/Apple is just the middleman. Apple has to pay the owner for each download (or redownload). The “owner” of the song could be using a new distributer/different band mambers/etc. so there should be a different distribution of payment since you downloaded a song originally.
    iTunes allows (and 7.x suggests) you burn your songs to CD as you buy them. Backing them up this way results a a few really cheap CDs lying about but avoids all the other hassels. Really easy/fast/cheap.

  24. Maddan says:

    Blame the labels not Apple if you don’t like the policy. When it comes to the iTunes store Apple is just a reseller and can only do what the labels allow. Steve Jobs has already asked the four major and other RIAA labels to give up ther demand for DRM. Some Windows Media protected songs can’t be backed up at all.

  25. Anonymous says:

    Big surprise. Just one of the reasons I despise Apple and anything to do with them. I opened an iTunes account for my wife because she got an iPod (in spite of my protests) and wanted the simplest way to set it up. First song we tried to buy wasn’t available as a single track – only the whole album for $9.99. Same with the second one. I went to napster and bought both tracks for .99 each.

    I also lost my hard drive twice and went back to napster twice and redownloaded my purchased tracks instantly without any intervention. I think you can redownload up to five times.

    Bottom line – Apple is the anti-Christ.

  26. chad says:

    this happened to me as well…but if you still have the songs on your ipod, after you get your library all set back up with what you can download from apple…plug your ipod into a different computer and transfer purchases…then get it to where you only have the songs that you were unable to re-download from apple on your ipod
    then hook it up to the original machines with your freshly redownloaded music and it will ask you if you want to transfer…hit yes and all is good in the world again 🙂

  27. GraphiX says:

    you people i swear are not from this planet

    you for one are actually buying restricted crap in the first place
    and then when something goes wrong you can’t do anything about it
    as the DRM or apple stops you re-downloading the songs you paid for.

    so isn’t it easier just to say right apple if you wont give me a replacement
    for the songs i purchased as many times as i want because hdd dont last forever and soon cd/dvd burners will be locked so tight with DRM it won’t allow you to burn anything un-licenced (thats the future)

    so if a company your supporting and legally buying music from instead of downloading un-licenced contents totally un-restricted which you can re-download at anytime without any cost from p2p or torrents or newsgroups

    if a legal company says no sorry, then use your brains people say
    **** you then i’ll just go get it else where…

    are you people seriously sheep?? from the coments i’ve just read
    do you not understand YOUR DOING! apple and the legal services a favor buying them legally instead of getting em pirated and they treat you like this o’come on they should be bending over backwards to keep you as a customer just if it not to stop you going back to p2p/torrents/newsgroups.

    they should be rolling out the red carpet for anyone deciding to go legal
    not throwing crap in the way all the time

    if they told me what they told you then i’d write them a letter saying ok fair enough then if i cannot get my music from you legally as i have tried to be a full loyal customer and law abiding citizen and your treating me like this then your pushing and forcing me to go back to p2p and torrents.

    come on sheep!! baaa get in ya pen

  28. Simon says:

    Doc, you misunderstand me. I read your entire article, and that’s what made me think you’re being incredibly ungrateful. If Apple had once, ever, told you they would act as a backup service for you, I’d be right there alongside you, decrying their behaviour. String’em up, say I!

    But, they didn’t. And when you were in extremis, they went above-and-beyond the call and helped you get back as much as they (again, I say, probably legally) could.

    And for that, they get an internet article on their “dirty little secret”. Sucks to be Apple, huh ? Now if it were my business, and someone did that to me, the first question I’d be asking would be “Why on earth am I trying to help these people ?”, and I’d probably conclude that it wasn’t worth the bad-mouthing on the ‘net. As they say, no good deed goes unpunished.

    So, there you go – let’s all criticise (see the “Apple is the anti-Christ” post above) Apple for trying to help you. In future, they should just do what they say they’ll do dammit. None of this “extra-help” stuff.


  29. Simon,

    If you think the words “it seems they have some work to do in ensuring their customers are not left out in the cold when tragedy strikes.” is the same as “String ’em up!, then I think I see where the problem is here.

    What I was hoping to point out is that there are people who have made it widely known on the web that if you lose your music library through theft, hard drive crashes, or plain old incompetency, Apple will allow for the redownloading of your music.

    What I have never read was anyone pointing out that while Apple will indeed let you redownload your collection, there is a good chance a portion of the songs you bought will NOT be able to be redownloaded even though they are still for sale. Since there is no obvious explanation other than Apple saying the files were either modified or deleted from the store (and neither appears to be the case) I consider this to be a glitch in the iTunes system.

    I am not saying people should not back up their stuff.
    I am not saying Apple’s redownloading policy is not generous.
    I am not arguing that Apple should even feel obligated to offer this service.
    I think they are very clear in their warnings that backups need to be made.

    What I AM saying is Apple IS offering this service, so why shouldn’t it work correctly?

    I do not see the argument on your side why I should be happy Apple offers a semi-functional restore system, when it could offer a perfect one. It’s all “0’s” and “1’s”. With proper coding, this system should work well.

    We are Apple fanboys here too, and understand the need to rush to the defense of anything Apple-built, but please tell me your rationale for why it is a good thing that Apple can restore all of your music in a pinch, but will likely only restore 80-90% of it?

    How does that help Apple or the consumer?

  30. Doug says:

    I have to agree with Simon here. When I upgraded to iTunes 7 from 6, my library magically disappeared. Same problem as above; my ripped CDs were found, but couldn’t find the protected ones. I never knew about the ability to get the collection. And I did fall behind on my backups, something I wish I did do. But I was ever so grateful for getting 98% of my collection back. And the 2% that I wasn’t able to get, you know what? Who cares. I just either rebought it, or ignored it. A song is only 99 cents. Rebuying a few songs is not the end of the world. The fact I got 98% of my collection back was an incredible feeling of joy that Apple would even do this. I did not bother me. I don’t see it as a flaw. Who cares? Why does this bother you so much?

    Granted you have about $120 of songs not redownloaded but again, its your fault for not backing up just as its my fault for not backing up. If your hard drive crashes you don’t write a letter to Seagate and ask them to recover your data, would you? Just be happy with what they got, it is not a flaw, because this is a very special service that Apple does just to make your day a little better. Even if you got 90% of your songs back, it is better than 0%!!!

  31. ejonesss says:

    can you just re purchase them.

    if it is a really favorite song can you just pay $0.99 again and download them.

    also it makes you glad that there are ways to strip the drm via “” with qufairuse and myfairtunes both of witch are windows only programs

  32. Edified says:

    Sorry man, but that’s why they say backups are your responsibility. If anything you should be fighting for better licensing.

  33. Anonymous says:

    Great article, the fact of the matter is, is that most people DON’T backup their computers. And you are right, if you are offering a service, it should be complete. I don’t think that this is so much of a matter of looking a gift horse in the mouth, but simply doing a job 100%. There might be some reason as to why some songs aren’t available for download, but I don’t think tha Apple did it on purpose. It is somewhat the same as going to an all you can eat chinese buffet, and after your first helping being told that you can only go up and get the spring rolls and wantons and not the chicken balls and fried rice.

    And to Anonumous, don’t you think that Napster’s redownload service is the same if not worse? I mean you’ve lost your HD twice…seriously?!…and now when you can only do that three more times before you are S*** out of luck.

    And besides, Mr. Bill Gates, I’m sure your wife Linda, was just trying to send you the message that your Zune player sucks.

    And what is Bill Gates—oops sorry— Anonymous, doing on a mac forum if he thinks that Apple is the Anti-Christ?

  34. Zac says:

    I am sure other people have mentioned this, but, the fact that they let you redownload any is an exception to the rule, as they mentioned. This is why iTunes warns you to back up your music after you download it, and why iTunes actually has a very nice back up feature now, right under the file menu. No one should ever be depending on an exception to the rule.

    The bottom line, is that the whole premise of this article is misleading. iTunes’ redownload policy doesn’t have a dirty little secret, the redownload policy is that there are no redownloads. Therefore, any redownloads you did get go above and beyond the policy. I don’t know why Apple only restored part of your collection for you, but I am pretty sure I don’t care. All of my music is backed up.

  35. marcel says:

    I don’t understand why anyone is upset about this.

    If one buy’s a cd in a WreckaStow (record store) and that one leaves the cd in the car, behind the window, and the sun destroys the cd, does that person also complain in the WreckaStow to get a new cd? I don’t think so!

    If that same person, with this same cd (wich isn’t destroyed yet), throws away this cd in the garbage, does this person then go 2 the WreckaStow and complains there and ask for a new one? I don’t think so.

    So this ‘discussion’ is useless an only put’s a bad light on iTunes, but only because the ‘user’ is to lame or dumb 2 backup his own shit!

    So, this person has a 0-day brain capacity, or this user don’t know shit about computers and this person cannot read
    Apple (iTunes) gives users a warning when a cd is downloaded, 2 backup the music, so what part of that statement does the user not understand?

    Come on….

    The Netherlands

  36. Vsx1 says:

    When my wife took out OS X on my iMac some time back, I called Apple to see if I could download any purchased music and they no. Period. Nothing. No redownload policy was ever mentioned. I only had about a dozen tracks to download…nothing. I was SOL. Shortly after, I bought a LaCie external FW HD and keep very close tabs on my music. Backup your purchased music…your ears will thank you for it.

  37. Cliff says:

    I can’t believe the number of suckers who buy over-expensive DRM-ridden crap from this rip-off merchant…..

    a plague on all your houses.

    support fair use by only downloading DRM-free material.

  38. Marcel,

    Your argument makes no sense. What I am saying is, what if you bought a bunch of cds at WreckaStow, and then lost them all in a flood. The store then told you, “Don’t Worry. We’ll replace them all for free, one time.” They don’t have to do that, but they do, and it’s a very nice thing.

    You get all excited, and very humbly say thank you, but when you get to the store, there is some new guy working there who doesn’t know understand their system.

    He says “Well, according to our records, we can’t find six of the cds you bought, we must not sell them anymore, but you can have the rest of them though”. And you say, “Oh, thanks. But you know what? I see them right there on the wall. You actually DO sell them still. Can I have them?” and he says “I don’t see them in our system, so I guess not”.

    For the LAST TIME, I am NOT saying Apple isn’t being nice to offer the redownloads. I am only saying that since they ARE offering us the opportunity to redownload our music, why not get the system working correctly?

    -The Doc

  39. Working Correctly says:

    Working Correctly? Just an opinion. Have you even bothered to contact Apple about this? I see an article with opinion words like “it seems”. Feel free to contact Apple and get their side of the story before you start writing inflamatory titles that include words like “Dirty Little Secret” implying that Apple has gone out of their way to specifically design the system like this. Oh, and considering your choice of words, don’t be surprised if people take you to task for them. After all, that is their opinions as well.

  40. NightPhoenix says:

    Wow! Dr.Macenstein…. I bet you regret writing this one.

    Ought to be more carefull about your article titles if you don’t like the come back

  41. NightPhoenix,

    Ha ha, well, yes, it seems I am in the minority here with my opinion, although I still think most people do not understand the point I was attempting to make. At the very least, hopefully now some folks have been scared into backing up their iTunes purchases more regularly.

    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).

    Would the possibility that it was Apple’s own software that caused this problem in the first place change your opinion at all about whether all currently available purchased tracks should be able to be redownloaded?

    I’ll assume not, as the overwhelming majority here seem to think “Back up your stuff” is the answer to everything, and Apple should take no further responsibility beyond delivering the files to you.

    I agree with you that iTunes is the best legal music download service out there, however, competing services have a better (and actually publicized) redownloading policy while charging the same amount for downloads.

    -The Doc

  42. Observer says:

    Begggrs cannot be choosers dude.

  43. Edgar says:

    the title of the article is a disservice to the content
    it is misleading and not appropriate.

    noting that the author has made several attempts to reiterate
    his/her point shows how the article is not clearly written otherwise
    he/she would not have recieved so much flak in these follow up

    please think different! before trying to grab a headline with a
    sensational article title….

  44. Jay says:

    Dr. Macenstein:

    Thank you for your article and insight. The only real “issue” here is “Could Apple please explain why some songs are exceptions to their re-downloading policy?”.

    Just ignore the flaming; those folks seem to miss, again and again, these facts:

    1). You DID backup your songs, and
    2). The corruption and loss of songs MAY be caused by iTunes 7.1 installation. Therefore that corruption may not be your fault, and maybe there’s an installer bug which Apple knows about – hence a generous re-download policy (?).
    3). You’re just trying to let people know that despite Apple’s generous policy of allowing re-downloads, it’s not 100%…..for some strange policy reason.
    4). You explained that perhaps the “Dirty Little Secret” article title was a good eye-catcher, but not the best choice of words. Fine.

    But something good came out of this: People are discussing many alternative ways to back up their songs and data, and others are learning how to get back the majority of their lost songs. Thank you for that.

    So can you help us get some answers from Apple? That’s what this is all about.
    — Jay

  45. Jay,

    I have not heard back from Apple’s iTunes support yet on why those songs cannot be credited back to my account for redownload. I will post their response as soon as I get it. And thanks for somehow being able to glean the meaning of my article. I was beginning to think I had written it in Chinese, thus the confusion.

    -The Doc

  46. George says:


    Great article, and the title is okay, too.

    I get the point you are making, and agree.

    I’d write more, but I’ve got to go find a blank CD, and back up my iTunes purchases! (and then do one more for good measure)

  47. Slacker says:


    Good article, very informative. I agree with the points you’re making, you’re not criticizing Apple’s policy just pointing out to the (many) people who rely on this feature as back-up, that it is not 100% safe.


  48. Jay says:

    Dr. Mac,

    I love most of your articles but on this one I think you’re way off base.

    it sounds to me like apple is not trying to be unhelpful here. Something in the server or with the music that the labels gave to apple changed, they tried to give you back all of the stuff you bought and couldn’t.

    So you lost a few songs. The key here is the YOU lost the songs, not apple. you had ’em, should’ve backed ’em up, lost ’em, now their gone.

  49. Simon says:

    Sorry Doc – I’ve been sick or I’d have replied sooner…

    Re: your compare/contrast of my last post’s first paragraph – you’re missing out a rather large ‘if’ at the start of the sentence. You don’t get the ‘String ’em up’ response from me unless Apple had given you some form of guarantee they’d restore your files. You get the one I’ve been espousing to date. Your comparison is bogus.

    I understand you found something out that wasn’t perfect, for you or anyone who uses iTunes. I get that. The problem (I think) mainly lies in the general tone of your argument:

    – Hey guys, if you don’t back-up your itunes music, and then you use that totally-cool free-redownload ability from Apple, it turns out there are some tracks they won’t supply, well 95% is better than 0%, huh ?

    – iTunes has a “dirty little secret” – they may not give you back all your music if you lose it.

    Two different ways of presenting the same information. Yours veered significantly to the latter method, and you’re catching flak because of it. Even chimps have the concept of “fair play”, and the basic feeling here is that Apple are playing fair (more than fair, by their T’s and C’s). That’s the reason (IMHO)people are reacting how they did.

    The whole “Well it’s Apple. It ought to be perfect” is a bit of a strawman as well. Just because you *want* Apple to be perfect, doesn’t make them so, and criticising them because they’re not seems a little OTT to me…

    I’ve alluded to legal reasons twice now, once in each post – the rumour is that Apple can provide (without paying their suppliers another fee) a re-download to a user, but only if the digital content is unchanged. If the content is changed, they have to pay the record company again.

    So let’s think about how the content could change… If you’ve ever been in a rights-management meeting, you’ll understand just how complex and byzantine these are. Small-but-significant changes are frequently negotiated. My guess is that new rights-management could require a new digital asset in the iTunes database, and therefore the “same” song is actually internally different.

    There’s also the possibility of re-encoding, say if complaints are received about the music, and even just internal re-organisation of the assets. There’s doubtless other things I’ve not thought of…

    So, dragging this kicking and screaming back to the point, assuming that the legal agreement with their suppliers (the record companies) rests on language like “a free re-download may be issued if the content is unchanged”, (which was probably put in there to stop someone redownloading the ‘greatest hits’ version when they originally bought the ‘singing-with-a-cough’ version), Apple may view *any* change as legally questionable. You don’t futz around with legal risks when it may (legally if not ethically) violate the contract ultimately supporting several billion dollars of Apple revenue.

    And, of course, they never promised to help you anyway. They’ll go so far (as far as I suspect they legally think they can), and not further.

    In summary – had you presented your argument without the “dirty little secret” slant, I think you’d have got a lot more support; Apple are probably doing the best they think they can; and I still think getting back *some* of your music is better than nothing. IMHO, Apple ought to be getting credit for that, but all you’re doing is criticising them for not giving you more.

    (and no, I don’t work for iTunes/Apple, but I have worked in the movie/audio industry before, so I know something of rights-management and its complexities)

  50. Donald N says:

    I hate to say it but you are at fault here, Apple did note in their iTunes software to periodically backup your purchased music assuming that if you lose it, you lose it forever. For some of your songs to be recouped, what more can you ask for? I lost years and years of digital photos after an unfortunate hard drive crash due to a Windows XP flaw/limitation, I had no one to blame but myself for not backing up, even though I did switch to a Mac.

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