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Bug in iTunes Match may switch 'explicit' and 'clean' songs

updated 08:00 pm EST, Thu February 2, 2012

Apple said to be working on a fix

A flaw in iTunes Match may inadvertently replace "explicit" tracks with "clean" versions for some users, according to reports by Cult of Mac reporters and corroborated by users elsewhere. A later update on 9to5Mac indicates that at least one user has heard back from Internet Software and Services head Eddy Cue's office that acknowledged the issue and said the company is working on on a fix.

The "clean" and "explicit" tags on songs in the iTunes Music Store are there to help buyers determine which version of a song they want (as in the case of Cee Lo Green's recent chart-topping hit "Forget You," which started off as a more explicit song) or help parents prevent children from accidentally downloading music laced with profanity or graphic sexual terms. Though the tags are provided by Apple, it is the record companies that generally do that tagging themselves, and they who determine which songs are "explicit."

The flaw, however, appears to originate in the iTunes Match software, ignoring user preference and replacing the stored "cloud" version of a song that might be "explicit" with the "clean" version. The local copy on a user's computer is not altered unless the user replaces it with the iCloud version. The iTunes Match service has proven popular with users, offering a way to both backup music purchases (whether from iTunes or not) and access large libraries using mobile devices, saving users from having to "swap out" music and use up valuable storage space for songs.

The service, considered an "add-on," goes beyond the free iCloud's automatic "cloud backup" of iTunes purchases and offers to store a user's entire music library (including up to 25,000 songs iTunes can't immediately match) regardless of size or source of the music files. The service costs $25 per year, provides access to the user's music on any of their authorized devices with an Internet connection, and uses the high-quality 256kbit AAC iTunes copy of a song if available, even if the source file was ripped at a lower bitrate.

The bug has been around for at least a couple of weeks, and has primarily been reported by rap music fans, though profanity or explicit lyrics are often found in other genres as well. An unnamed engineer responded to a complaint from one user, saying the company is investigating the issue and working on a fix. However, he offered no temporary workaround for the issue. Whether the user's original intention was retained and is simply ignored or whether users will need to indicate to iTunes Match which version they'd prefer was not specified. [via Cult of Mac]





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Comments

  1. juraiprince

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +3

    It's happened to me...

    ...as well! Luckily I had a back up of the original track. But I have not gone through all my songs with explicit lyrics as of yet. A serious bug that needs to be addressed ASAP.

  1. doctor9

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +1

    In addition...

    I've found different versions of songs I originally had. Since iTunes may not carry the original album a song came on, it will use a version found on compilation or greatest hits album. But at times, these are "radio" edits or abbreviated versions of the song instead, lacking arrangements or extended segments of the song.

    Like juraiprince, I'm lucky in that I have a back up of my songs prior to iTunes Match.

  1. chas_m

    Moderator

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +1

    Don't see the problem

    Since iTunes Match *doesn't* replace the songs on your hard drive. In some cases, the substitution doctor9 refers to is a bit obvious, isn't it? Say you have a copy of an R.E.M. song from a live album iTunes doesn't carry, it's (of course) going to replace it with the version it DOES have, since its the same song.

    For the purposes of listening to iTunes on mobile, I can deal with that sort of replacement. The type referred to in the article itself is clearly a bug and I'm glad to hear they're on it.

    If you (let's say) prefer the Van Morrison vocal of "Comfortably Numb" found on the live version of "The Wall" to the original Pink Floyd vocal of the same song as found on the original version of "The Wall," just put that song on your iPod the "old-fashioned" way and don't download the iCloud version. Simple, really.

  1. doctor9

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +1

    Not the same at all...

    REM's "Losing My Religion" live IS NOT the same song as the one on "Out of Time"...no reason to assert or justify that solution. Plus iTunes Match uploads your songs it can't match, so I don't believe you'd have that mistake in the first place. A live vs. studio version is too obvious a difference for Match.

    In addition, I'm not going to go thru my 9000+ song catalog and upload to my iOS device any song Match has switched or avoided. What's the purpose of having Match if I need to do this chore?!

    But the issue I spoke of is different. I'm speaking about substitution of songs that appear to be the same but are not in their arrangement; iTunes Match should have better identifiers of the song's metadata (length, date, album, etc.). For example, remasters or remixes of a song.

    It's not a widespread issue for me and 90% of the time it's right, so I'm not upset. But it does seem to be a bug in iTunes Match's solution.

  1. facebook_Samuel

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Feb 2012

    0

    This bug has been around forever...

    I reported this to Apple when iTunes Plus came out. I've had songs the were 'explicit' upgraded to 'clean'. Apple just gave me the credit to buy the 'explicit' 256 bit versions. I think it's more of a catalog issue than a software bug.

  1. facebook_Sean

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Feb 2012

    +1

    This is not a new issue

    I have emailed Apple 10 times since November 2011 about this issue. It makes me SUPER SUPER mad.
    This service should be called iTunes Bait and Switch. Not iTunes Match. once you enable the match service you can no longer put songs from your computer on the iPhone. A censored version is NOT the same as uncensored.
    This is not a Bug as your article claims, its total BS. Apple has known about this from day 1 and they have no answer or solution to the problem.

  1. Kees

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +1

    Simple solution

    Stop offering "clean" versions. You either listen to the song the artist wrote or you don't.
    Profanity is never going to go away completelly, but by accepting these cleaned substitutes, you are actually activelly contributing to the proliferance of bad language you object to.

  1. facebook_Joel

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Feb 2012

    0

    Not the 'D' too!

    It might be more a catalogue issue?
    When I upgraded my songs to iTunes plus, my Tenacious D - Pick of Destiny was 'upgraded' to the Clean version. Looking on the store though it seemed the explicit version was gone, the tracks were even marked explicit but were clean, so I chalked it up to Apple matching against the album name the Publisher had given them. So now the album on the store does not say it's explicit and it is indeed the clean version (but tracks are not marked as such).

    I went into my Library and made two albums, one was the old explicit version that I transcoded to Apple Lossless from the Protected AAC, I used Atomic Parsley to even add the [Explicit] tags. The clean version I was upgraded to, I added [Clean] tags to those so I wouldn't mix them up. iTunes Match matched most of the (Clean) album, but it uploaded three tracks?!

    But the explicit album I didn't change the album title and it said 'Purchased' for the iCloud status, rather than Matched or Uploaded?! So I just renamed the album "Pick of Destiny [Explicit]" and reimported, now it says Matched on all tracks, but it is still the clean version that plays on my iPhone. If only it would upload the damn album - will I have to rename it to something completely different to 'fool' iTunes into uploading it?

    I wanna here the cuss words! Much funnier.

  1. facebook_Joel

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Feb 2012

    0

    lo and behold

    I spoke too soon, I deleted all local tracks of Tenacious D on my phone after the re-upload it indeed was the explicit versions (yet still iTunes says its matched and the album though is not available in the store as explicit).

    So perhaps for those with troubles, rename the album so it doesn't have the exact same name as the clean version that is sold?

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