Lawyers say iPods deleted songs not purchased from Apple

Songs on iPods not purchased through Apple mysteriously disappeared on some devices, say consumer advocate lawyers in the current suit against the company. The plaintiffs are looking for Apple to pay $350 million for damages in the suit — which was actually filed years ago — but under current law, the damage payout could be tripled.

News of the latest development comes from the Wall Street Journal, which adds that the song deletion allegedly happened between 2007 and 2009. According to lawyers on the consumer side, [company]Apple[/company] iPods would show an error, telling the user to restore factory settings when trying to download music from rival services. In doing so, music from those services would be deleted without any notice to the consumer.

iPod Classic

Logically, this makes some small amount sense to me, however. I’m not defending Apple here and I have no horse in this race, but it’s fairly common that when you factory restore a device — particularly some 5 to 7 years ago — all of the data can and will likely be deleted.

In this case, that would be the music files; even those purchased from Apple wouldn’t be on the device if the reset was a full wipe. Of course, when reconnecting the newly restored iPod to a computer with iTunes, the music stored there would then transfer over to the iPod. I’d be curious if, in this situation, whether only Apple-purchased music then synched over from iTunes. And if the factory settings restore maintained data — but only music purchased from Apple — that’s a different story entirely. And not a good one.

Either way, it doesn’t look good for Apple, which reportedly didn’t tell consumers about this behavior and the missing songs. A security director for Apple, Augustin Farrugia, said Apple declined to explain missing tunes to customers because “we don’t need to give users too much information. We don’t want to confuse users.”

I doubt this case hinges on this particular aspect, either way. Still, it’s becoming clearer that Apple was very protective of its iTunes music service against rivals at the time. And I’m sure additional testimony in the near future will shed more light on the case of the missing songs.