Sometimes I worry about iTunes. Specifically, I'm concerned that Apple [AAPL] and its iTunes team are making lousy decisions when it comes to censorship. I can't recollect any point at which I asked the technology firm to decide what I or mine could watch, read or listen to - I have Parental Controls for that. Now comes the grim news that iTunes Match users uploading songs containing explicit lyrics are seeing the tracks automatically replaced by sanitized versions.
Who watches the watchmen?
A Cult of Mac report later confirmed by Mashable's tests reveals songs uploaded to iTunes Match with explicit lyrics are being automatically replaced by the clean version of the song. What's weird is that the same thing does not happen when matching music you've purchased through iTunes
Apple has reportedly described this as an "error" it is scrambling to fix, but somebody somewhere made the decision for this to be the nature of the machinery.
That self-appointed cultural censor needs to understand that their particular choices as to what makes something good or bad are not necessarily shared by everyone else on the planet. iTunes Match is a curator of people's precious collections -- you need to be able to rely on the $25 per year service.
Protection for who?
The issue here isn't that iTunes is choosing to protect music fans from making a purchasing decision that they might regret -- as a service it could argue it had that right -- but because iTunes is choosing to censor people's collections after they have acquired the music elsewhere.
Worse yet, it sanitizes music that wasn't even purchased from iTunes in the first place.
Music is a wide church and there will be many music fans who love things others find offensive. Last time I looked attempts to enforce a standard aesthetic across the creative industries continued to fail. As they should. Diversity keeps the planet interesting.
Mashable tested the claims by ripping an explicit version of Jay-Z's The Black Album to iTunes Match, where it was promptly replaced by the clean version. Music from Kanye West and Ice Cube was also affected. Myself? I don't dare check what's been done to my Public Enemy, NWA or Ice-T tracks.
An engineer from Eddy Cue's iTunes team has allegedly acknowledged the issue and promised a fix, but that seems a weak response to me. After all, it's not the first time Apple's iTunes team has attempted to censor cultural reality. I am however hoping this will be the last.
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