Where's Apple's integrity?

When we say people and groups lack integrity, we mean that they're corrupt and deceitful. Similarly, when computer scientists say that a file lacks integrity, they mean it's been corrupted: unintentionally or maliciously modified. Apple's recent decision to impose Digital Restrictions Management -- the favorite anti-feature of proprietary format developers -- on many music fans lacked integrity, and took away the files' integrity as well.

Apple Music, Apple's subscription music service, allows listeners to upload their music to Apple's "iCloud Music" servers, regardless of the song's origin. Apple markets this option (also available in another paid service called iTunes Match) as a simple way to move music across devices, but users may be tempted to think of it as a backup service. If the user subscribes to Apple Music, iCloud Music saves storage space and bandwidth by checking to see if it already has a DRM-encumbered copy of the song in the Apple Music library, and doesn't upload the non-DRMed version if it does. When Apple Music users try and retrieve their non-Apple Music songs (which rightfully ought to be DRM-free) from iCloud Music, they end up with the DRM-corrupted versions instead.

Although some Apple apologists point out that Apple is not DRMing files on your own computer, they don't understand that Apple is DRMing Apple Music subscribers' non-Apple Music songs uploaded to iCloud Music. Perhaps they're confused because, separately, some iTunes Match subscribers also reported DRM in their "matched" songs on their matched devices, an unintentional bug that Apple recently squashed.

In 2009, Apple removed DRM from its iTunes library with much fanfare. Users purchased songs with the understanding that they could listen to them as long, often, and far into the future as they wished, and on the device of their choosing. Now, Apple is infecting those very same songs with DRM when Apple Music users try to upload and retrieve them from iCloud Music. If the user loses the original file, they must keep paying to keep listening.

Integrity involves keeping your word, and Apple has failed to do so. Whether intentionally malicious or purely incompetent, Apple's behavior lacks integrity, even from a DRM-moderate standpoint. Storage, online or off, should have and maintain integrity-- in all senses of the word!

You can visit defectivebydesign.org/apple to learn more about Apple's digital shackles and take action.

I'm an intern at the Free Software Foundation, which runs Defective by Design. Learn more about our internships.