dotunderscore by Brian Hough

The curious case of Apple and the free U2 album

Lots of wildly different opinions out there regarding Apple and U2’s decision to push the band’s newest album to all users’ iTunes accounts, free of charge and automatically. Most are definitely negative in nature - and rightly so, I think - but there are the likes of Peter Cohen, who writes:

But the inordinate amount of actual anger directed at Apple and U2 over this is so disproportional to the actual event, I’ve started to wonder about the mental state of some of those complaining. It’s really been off the charts.

If you fall into that camp, let me speak very plainly: I have no sympathy for you. I have trouble thinking of a more self-indulgent, “first world problem” than saying “I hate this free new album I’ve been given.”

I can’t say I agree. The issue isn’t that Apple has given everybody a free copy of U2, and it isn’t even that they added it to people’s accounts without permission. I think most people are bothered by the fact that the album is showing up in iOS’s Music application automatically, on equal footing with people’s legitimately acquired music. It gives the perception that we aren’t being offered the album, but rather that Apple went in and “downloaded” (really streamed over iTunes, but the perception is there) the album onto everyone’s devices.

I happen to like U2 a fair bit, so this doesn’t really bother me on a personal level, but the principle of it certainly does. What if Apple decided to put Taylor Swift’s Red in everyone’s Music app?

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