No, Apple is not adding DRM to songs on your Mac you already own

Serenity Caldwell, writing for, addressing the FUD flying around the internet on Apple Music and DRM:

Yes, Apple Music has a DRM component. Yes, it sucks, but it’s similar to every other streaming service. No, it does not overwrite the files on your Mac to make all your music DRM-laden. For those Googling in a panic, here’s the deal.

Great post. At the heart of this issue is the thought (incorrect) that Apple somehow adds DRM to any of your music files. Back up your music collection before you get started and you’ll still have all your music/video files, in their original state.

  • dreyfus2

    This post makes little sense. What is it? Apple does not add DRM to existing files, or do I need to back up to keep my original collection? It can’t be both.

    And just to be clear… iTunes 12.2 DID replace some of my own music with DRM versions, it actively deleted my own files from my own computer without my consent. And there are quite a few people all over the internet with identical issues.

    There is no FUD here, just banana software that should have never been released without a fat BETA label.

    • You should read the article linked to.

      The gist is, Apple Music adds DRM because labels don’t want you recording the streamed songs and then cancelling your subscription and having tons of music. Music purchased from the iTunes Store does not have DRM.

      As for deleting your music, you need to read the article linked to and see if anything in it matches your situation and if the workarounds will get your music back the way it was. Serenity Caldwell has done a lot of the heavy lifting with the help of some other excellent troubleshooters, and there are some good tips and reasoning in the article.

      • dreyfus2

        I have read Serenity’s article and it does not help at all. Wherever she says something, she keeps a loophole about software bugs. I do not care how it is supposed to work (even Apple can’t explain it anyhow), but what it does.

        I really do not give a shit what labels want. iTunes did delete some of my own files (even lossless ones, which can’t possibly be confused with anything downloaded from iTunes, because they don’t even have that), or replace them with DRM versions, often not even the right track. It even deleted some iTunes purchases from before the days when you could re-download. I do not have multiple iTunes libraries, so there is absolutely no chance of any confusion. As a matter of fact: a total of 78 GB of files just vanished from my iTunes library within 30 minutes of installing 12.2.

        I make no claim whatsoever that Apple did that intentionally; I am sure this is not the case. What makes me downright sick is the usual army of apologists who believe Apple can’t do any wrong, when it is plain obvious that their software is buggy as hell.

        I can restore and eventually re-rip most things. But the fact is that my library never had a single issue since 2003, and that this is the first time ever that any Apple software put my property at grave risk. There is no excuse for that. I expect better from them.

        • Sounds to me like you’d rather be angry than actually understand the article.

          You did have a backup of all that before you turned on something new, right? Because I never turn on anything new from any company, Apple or anyone, before I back up fully if I truly care about my stuff. And that is especially if said new thing is going to be playing with my libraries of stuff (music, photos, documents, whatever) in order to sync everything among my devices. It doesn’t matter what company it is or its track record — shit happens.

          • dreyfus2

            Of course I do have a backup, it might not be 100% up to date (as my library is around 13 TB, I do not really do a full daily backup), but that is completely not the point.

            No software deletes files without somebody programming it this way. And there is absolutely no excuse for releasing untested software (12.2 was not even given to developers for testing) with such functionality. This is an absolute no go. All other streaming services can handle that without messing with your local files.

            And it is quite clear that iTunes (at least the Mac version, I do not have a Windows computer) is the only weak spot here. On both my iPhone and my iPad turning on the iCloud Music Library did result in the OS asking me to replace or merge libraries. I chose “merge” and it did exactly the right thing. Unfortunately there is no way to simply restore own files from iDevices (they only allow for the transfer of iTunes purchases). The Mac version did not ask anything and automagically started to screw up my library. This is most likely a bug, but it is one that should not exist in a release version at all. It can happen, but there really is no need for every Apple disciple to jump out of his cage and claim FUD, when the problem is real.

            I am certainly not happy about the work involved with getting everything back up and running. But I understand Serenity’s article well; problem is just that what she writes is wrong. She claims things to be non-existant that happened right before my eyes… how can that help?

          • Lots of people are not having the issue you claim, possibly due to the amount of music you have, and Serenity’s article lists several reasons behind why and gives ways to fix it. You really are coming across as someone who just wants to stay mad.

            Besides, if you have 13TB of music, why would you even try to get that into a Cloud service that says you can only have 25,000 songs besides iTunes purchases? Seems like a round peg and a square hole issue to me. I know if I had that much, I probably wouldn’t be using iTunes to manage it and probably wouldn’t sign up for services like this or Google’s that want to upload and handle everything. But, I guess that’s just me.

            Oh, you also may want to post your issues on the iMore article itself. Serenity may have an answer for you or be able to further explain or even go to her contacts and figure something out for you. If you don’t come out like gangbusters and call her useless or something, anyway.

          • Anecdotes don’t equal data. Other reports I’m seeing, for the most part, says the fixes Serenity gave are fixing their issues. I think the fact you are dealing with 13TBs of music is atypical and you may be experiencing other effects of the bug. Have you contacted Apple? Did you post on Serenity’s article itself to see if her contacts had any other information for you?

          • dreyfus2

            The fixes Serenity gave do not recover deleted or overwritten files (and she does not claim that), so they are really not applicable to me. My only option is to do a full restore of my last backup and then making sure to keep the iCloud Music Library off until iTunes is fixed.

            And even anecdotes are data, not quantifiable data for sure, but still data. And other sites do report the truth:

            “At the moment iCloud Music Library is potentially dangerous to turn on. Users have complained about it creating duplicates, assigning inaccurate metadata and artwork, and/or restoring previously-deleted music. For people with large, carefully-tagged iTunes libraries, this can create chaos and undo years of work. In our own experiences, we’ve also run into some major issues in enabling the feature.

            More seriously the option is in some cases not only deleting playlists, but causing the files in them to disappear.”


            And they deserve praise for not being blue-eyed and sweeping problems under the carpet.

          • dreyfus2

            P.S.: Yes (sorry, forgot that), I have contacted Apple and they asked for more details. I am in the process of preparing a spreadsheet with altered and deleted files for them…

          • I would be interested in what Apple say and do, dreyfus. I’m not trying to be ornery or anything 🙂 (Although, I admit to having a fairly bad week, and some of that might have come across.)

          • dreyfus2

            No problem. Their first reaction was to suggest I take my Mac Pro and the two Pegasus RAIDs to the Genius Bar. Besides that being slightly difficult (130 miles with that much luggage on a bicycle is maybe beyond me, but the health app on my Apple Watch would certainly experience the mother of all blowouts). They then told me to provide some more details about what actually happened to help them investigate the issue, so I agreed to prepare some sheets listing album details, origin etc. and what happened to them, plus some screenshots of completely messed up albums and metadata. They hinted at some compensation, but no details. I assume this went to somebody above basic support. Let’s wait and see.

            I do not say that there can’t be bugs. They happen everywhere. What really strikes me is the reaction in most Apple-related media and many forums. I have been using computers since 1981, and I have seen pretty much every bug conceivable. I never had a bug anywhere that deleted files. If MS Word would automatically delete corporate documents, Illustrator would delete artwork, or an Exchange server would auto-delete emails… hell would break lose, and absolutely no MS or Adobe user would blame the users. Yet, if Apple releases the mother of all bugs, far too many people make a huge effort to keep any blame from Apple. I know that Apple often gets blamed for nonsense, but this is not Antennagate or Bendgate, this is a software that hundreds of millions of people use and trust actively deleting files. I do not consider that a minor issue at all.

  • We’re used to simplicity and straight-forwardness from Apple yet with anything related to iTunes we’ve been receiving mostly marketing speak. It has taken with Apple Music a couple of articles by Serenity Caldwell in an attempt to explain to us what all this confusing mess means. She should be paid by Apple for doing their job for them.

    This is a rat’s nest. There are THREE different syncing options in iTunes now that under a lot of circumstances will be activated simultaneously, and exactly what did what BEFORE Apple Music came into play was confusing and painful enough.

    I appreciate her explanation of Apple’s intentions with how these three syncing services work together and where DRM comes into play, but there’s no FUD here as to what has occurred. I have Apple Music disabled on all my devices for reasons that are outside the scope of what I’m trying to say here, but as the resident Apple guy for my circle of friends I’ve been inundated with questions on how to fix their problems.

    There have been people who haven’t deleted a single file from their libraries in iTunes who have had music replaced with DRM copies. Apple obviously doesn’t intend this to happen, but it has happened. I watched a friend update to the newest iTunes and did nothing but go through the painful setup process for Apple Music, find out he didn’t care for it after the For You stuff was filled with music he didn’t like (and genres he said he didn’t like during the setup process which is another bug), and disable it through iTunes’ preferences. When playing music later he found random files in his music library replaced with DRM copies and an error message saying Apple Music needs to be enabled to play the song. He never downloaded a single track to his computer from Apple Music. He had iTunes Match and iTunes in the Cloud turned on, but as the computer was the computer with his music library on it none of the files on it needed to be downloaded.

    I’ve always been told the more you overthink the plumbing the easier it is to stop up the drain. I think it’s time to consider that there’s less FUD going on here and more people’s discovering major bugs in iTunes because there’s three syncing services that operate simultaneously.

  • tabascocat2

    I’ve probably missed the point here, but I’m confused. Isn’t the point of cloud services the fact that you don’t have to keep physical or local copies of your data? If this is the point, or a point of cloud services, (which maybe its not), then wouldn’t the situation where music you have uploaded to Apple Music, then deleted the local copy, then downloaded, wherein you end up with DRM’d music actually kind of be super confusing to the consumer and basically the opposite of the reason to use cloud services?

    • dreyfus2

      That really depends. I, and I am certainly not alone in that, want my uncompressed files at home where I have the equipment that can really make use of them. Uploading anything to iTunes Match (or now using iCloud Music) gives you compressed files and in some cases (the matching is not 100% accurate, you e.g. get different versions of a song) faulty.

      The point of the cloud service for me is (would be) access to my music when I am not at home, and compressed files are plenty sufficient there. What I absolutely do not want is Apple removing my local files without asking.

      I also seriously question some of Apple’s decisions here. Why remove Home Sharing from iTunes? Why do I have to waste internet bandwidth to stream music that is in my house already? Why can’t I keep syncing my own files to my iDevices once iCloud Music is turned on? iTunes has a huge catalog, but I do have stuff they do not have. Why can’t I listen to that on my own devices any longer (unless I go through tons of hoops with disabling – syncing – re-enabling / merging…)?

      Apple did create a mess here, and they made some deliberate decisions that are hard to swallow. Worst of all, they did neither communicate those, nor warn you about them a single time anywhere. I would have never installed 12.2 if I had any idea about it messing up my library and the way I use it.

      I do not mind people liking it (that is absolutely fine), I just do not need anybody telling me that what they want is what I want.

      • James Hughes

        Dreyfus, Thanks for the multiple lengthy posts. I have not updated iTunes yet and thanks to your posts and others, I won’t be. I guess it’s a good thing I have been too busy to get to updating yet. The fact that Homesharing was disabled alone makes this update a no go for me. I am streaming an album right now that I ripped from an owned CD that I can’t get on iTunes. In all the years I have been using Apple products, and that means since System 6 by the way, I have NEVER seen anything like this, at least not with this many overlapping problems. Good luck and please post any new developments. For now I am going to wait and see. Which I never usually do.

        • dreyfus2

          Thank you. What I am really not getting is why they were so careless in this case. Normally they got a lot better at these things. Looking at e.g. the iWork transition or the move from iPhoto to Photos, they did everything carefully. Betas, leaving the old apps on the computer, not enabling anything that could be dangerous like library migrations by default etc. Just the way it should be. And here they put the users of their (by far) most used application at grave risk for really nothing. Completely unnecessary, IMHO.

          BTW, just to be clear (I did not break it down previously): Home Sharing does still work for videos, and it is (at least for now, as the Apple TV software has not been updated) still working as before on the Apple TV, even with 12.2 – the only thing missing for now is access to Home Sharing from iOS devices and other computers. I personally used this a lot, and I have no real interest in streaming things from the internet which I already have available locally. Especially since my local copies are in many cases of better quality. I really have nothing against the Cloud in general, but having it as the only option when it does not even offer any benefit strikes me as wrong.


  • freedonuts

    So this story on The Loop was total bullshit? iCloud Music Library adds DRM to your matched files

  • flydrive

    That article makes light of the important issue however. iTunes Match scanned the music you had and any copy you re-downloaded was DRM free. The new service also appears to scan the music you have however any copy you re-download is not DRM-free. That’s a change and I wouldn’t say it’s an expected one. People will stop paying for iTunes Match at some point when they sign up for Apple Music and find unexpectedly that the new service, which costs more than the old one, doesn’t provide the cloud backup of all their music, DRM-free, which the old one did.

    Nor does it make much sense. Since the whole Apple Music thing gives you access to everything whether you already owned it or not, whilst you keep subscribing, what’s the point of it scanning your collection in the first place? If it does scan your collection and knows what music you started with, why does it not, like iTunes Match, provide DRM-free copies of that music and only apply DRM to music which is provided ethereally as part of the subscription service?

  • Jkay

    It must hurt Shawn King to see a link to iMore on here.