Why Apple wiped some of your iPod songs without telling you

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Interesting nuggets of information tend to come out of Apple trials, and this week’s iTunes class-action courtroom drama is no exception. The plaintiffs claim Apple would delete songs downloaded from rival music services when iPod owners synced their devices to iTunes over a two-year period from 2007 to 2009.

Apple didn’t deny the claim raised by attorney Patrick Coughlin in U.S. District Court Wednesday. Security director Augustin Ferrugia said Apple would remove songs to prevent users from syncing malicious files to their computers, according to a Wall Street Journal report from the courtroom.

But the problem, Coughlin argued, is that Apple didn’t tell users which songs were potentially harmful. Instead, the company would push an error message telling the user to restore factory settings on the iPod and remove the offending files in the process.

“We don’t need to give users too much information,” Farrugia offered by way of explanation.

Why this matters: The Apple-knows-best policy may come back to bite the company, even if its actions were in the interest of protecting iTunes from hackers. Plaintiffs are seeking $350 million in damages over claims that Apple violated California antitrust law by preventing iTunes music from being played on non-Apple devices and vice versa. If Apple did remove rival services’ songs from iTunes libraries without disclosing what it was doing, as Ferrugia indicated, the company might have to pay up.

The class-action suit has been in the making for more than a decade—Apple actually removed DRM from iTunes five years ago, so class-action status only covers iPod purchases from September 2006 to March 2009.

We expect to hear more fun facts when Eddy Cue, Phil Schiller, and videotapes of Steve Jobs appear in court this week.

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