Apple Finally Allows iPhone-Ers To Nix That U2 Album They Never Wanted From Their Phones

from the me-three dept

In the wake of the somewhat confusing move by mega-band U2 to release their latest album for free on iTunes, we noted the comments from frontman Bono, who rushed to decry the concept of free for music and who insisted that because he was paid it didn’t really count as free. These comments must have been especially confusing for those that suddenly found the band’s album in their iTunes cloud account, despite never having requested or wanted it there. Indeed, given some of the comments reacting to the promotional move, it seems the problem with free might not be on the content producer’s side, but on the consumer’s instead.

If you’re trying to convince me that the stuff I store in my cloud is safe, don’t open up my cloud without permission. It’s easy to imagine Apple’s thinking here: What’s better than a free gift? A free gift that you don’t have to go get! But a gift on my doorstep is one thing. A gift that you left in my house, after letting yourself in, is something different.

Indeed, and it’s not difficult to understand why some reacted less than favorably to the free album. First, despite Bono’s insistence to the contrary, this was indeed the use of the concept of free as a promotional tool. Perhaps not for U2 as much as Apple, but that’s what it was nevertheless. The problem wasn’t that the album was free, but that the album appeared unbidden in the repository for a service that feels quite personal to the consumer. These were our cloud accounts that Apple invaded to leave their free stuff. You know what it’s called when someone leaves you something you didn’t want for free in your domain? It’s called litter. And, in this case, it was litter that you couldn’t even clean up. Just browse through a few of the reactions on the site to get a sense:

And, just like that, Apple is walking back the “gift” by actually writing some code to delete the “gift,” which, until that happened, was unremovable (though you could hide it).

It should take a couple steps, but it shouldn’t be that difficult. Head over to this page, which Apple put up this morning. Now you can make your collection Bono-free, or just “Songs of Innocence”-free, or whatever. The only catch appears to be that if you decide you do want your new free U2 album, you’ve only got a month to change your mind: After October 13, the only way to get it from iTunes will be by actually spending money.

Think about this for a second. For the first time in history, it seems, someone had to write some code to deliberately remove free music that was forced upon people. Like it was malware. How many people expected the digital music revolution to end up here?

Look, it’s a great thing to see musicians and distributors continue to experiment with this sort of thing, but it’s also important that lessons be learned as they do so. Today’s lesson is that the internet is a back-and-forth, not simply a distribution channel that can be used to force products into the consumer’s space. Perhaps next time they’ll get this a bit more right.

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Companies: apple

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Comments on “Apple Finally Allows iPhone-Ers To Nix That U2 Album They Never Wanted From Their Phones”

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The Real Michael says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The only reason they gave it away for free was so that they could claim a half-billion listeners, i.e. all iTunes users, which is disingenuous on its face. No doubt U2 was well compensated in advance. Apple could’ve left the option to download the album at leisure, but instead chose to force it on people (which also raises privacy concerns).

I find it amusing that they’re having difficulty giving it away for free.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It’s the principle of the thing. Call it petty, but as many people actively dislike U2 as those who would actually buy & listen to their music. Not having the ability to remove that from the list of music you have stored must be pretty annoying for those who truly despise the band.

Plus, I’m not sure if the addition of the music actually counted towards the usage cap on your iCloud account. If so, your service capacity being automatically reduced by something you didn’t ask for and don’t want but can’t remove is a valid complaint.

Anonymous Coward says:


Amazon doesn’t like the version of 1984 on your rented kindle…so they remove it…just like that.

Apple thinks that because they showcase U2 on their stage, you will like it on your rented iDevice.

slightly related…but …
some guy paints his car, and the manufacturer gets upset…

another guy sells stereo speakers, and that manufacturer gets upset…

some guy adds functionality to the PS3, and all of the sudden, no PS3’s function correctly (where correctly is what is advertised on the box)…

what kind of world do we live in where we rent paid property?

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Amazon doesn’t like the version of 1984 on your rented kindle…so they remove it…just like that.

Heh. That’s the main reason why I de-DRM anything I purchase for my Kindle (also everything my wife purchases for hers) and save them to a USB drive for safe keeping.

It’s also in case I end up getting a non-Amazon reader in the future. I’ve never had to re-purchase my entire dead-tree book collection whenever I got a new bookshelf in the past and I’m not going to start now.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: no one wants u2's bs no more

it will be interesting to see metrics of this:

– how much was illegally downloaded (without owner consent)
-how many devices were brought back into compliance / uninstalled
– how many people actually cared
– how many man hours were lost cleaning up this malware
– how much U2 actually lost due to this

Does DRM get the 6 strikes law? or does that only apply to us who want to spend cash for a product?

Mark Wing (user link) says:


I like how some folks commenting about it on the Internet are saying things like “stop whining, it’s free” or “you should be thankful to have it” and so forth. Spam is also free. So is the junk mail they attach to my door, except that no one is saying “You should be thankful we hung that crap on your door.” Because that’s all it is: spam. Just because some people want advertisements for penis enlargement doesn’t mean it’s OK to push it on everyone. I guess the folks with a small penis will never understand that.

Rich Kulawiec (profile) says:

Nice security hole you've got there, Apple

The forcible insertion of this U2 album into users’ storage provides an existence proof that it is possible for one or more someones to make alterations to the contents of any user’s account without the user’s knowledge or permission.

That’s a massive security hole and it was apparently designed in by Apple. Its existence reduces the attackers’ problem considerably, as they don’t need to create the hole: they only need to figure out to exploit it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Nice security hole you've got there, Apple

Problem is that when involving an online account, any data that cannot be used with an irreversible hash is ultimately going to be at the mercy of the people running the server. That includes purchase lists. There is no technical way to solve that. It is just a matter of policy and trust.

Zonker says:

RIAA & Bono in the not so distant future:

We need to pass the “Stop Online Purchasing Act” which will make it illegal for anyone to delete the “free” albums we forced onto their music devices and purchasing their own. We can’t keep making money from Apple/Amazon/Google if people keep deleting our works. If music “merchants” could buy and listen to the music of their choice, then artists would suffer as nobody would have to listen to the songs the music service providers paid for.

Support the artists and stop “merchandising” today!

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