iTunes 4.5 and DRM

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{"There seems to be some confusion about what iTunes 4.5 changes about digital rights management (DRM) in regard to songs purchased from the iTunes Music Store -- so much so, in fact, that I've had to update this entry twice to get it right (I hope). Here's what I "," know:


Programs such as "," that once stripped away the DRM protection placed on files sold at the iTunes Music Store no longer work if you upgrade to both iTunes 4.5 and QuickTime 6.5.1. When you run a protected file through FairTunes, you see a message indicating that the file won't be converted correctly unless your computer is authorized to play that song. If your Mac is authorized for the song, you can attempt to convert the file to AIFF, Wave, QuickTime, System 7 Sound, MuLaw, or AVI format. Regrettably, the resulting file has no sound.

If, however, you upgrade only iTunes and leave QuickTime at 6.5, FairTunes works as expected.


OK, let's talk about the legal and moral issues around this.

When you upgraded to iTunes 4.5 and accessed the iTunes Music Store, you were presented with a new license. Among other things, when you agreed to this license you gave Apple your word that:


And, may I add, ","

The difficulty here is that you may unwittingly violate the terms of this agreement with Apple's own software. If you install iTunes 4.5, QuickTime 6.5.1, and the iMovie 4.0.1 update, you can import purchased music into iMovie and export it via QuickTime as a DRM-less AIFF file. And, of course, if you burn purchased music to CD, you then have the opportunity to re-rip it in a form that lacks protection.

I'm the last person on earth to suggest that Apple plug these holes (as, in an earlier version of this entry I believed it did). The ability to purchase "your song" and plunk it into the background of your wedding video is wonderful. I'd just like to see iTunes' license tag on a "for the purposes of piracy and general bad-hattedness" addendum to deal with issues of intent.

On the moral front, I'm completely behind Apple's contention that stealing music is bad karma. Ripping off music is just wrong, no matter how you cut it. The difficulty is that there are one or two very good reasons for converting protected files. I already mentioned using your purchased songs in iMovies that you make for non-commercial purposes. Here's another:

When Steve Jobs unveiled the iTunes Music Store, he put forth the idea that other music services weren't successful because they were too restrictive -- they didn't allow you to play your music on the devices you owned.

I agree.

Were I to lose my mind and purchase an MP3 player other than an iPod, I'd like to be able to play the music I purchased from the iTMS on that inferior player. Similarly, I'd be tickled if I could use such music streaming thingamabobs as Slim Devices' wireless MP3 player,",", and TiVo's ",", which allows you to stream music files from your Mac or PC to a TiVo DVR. Without manipulating my purchased music, I can't, because none of these devices support protected AAC files. Until they do, I'd like the opportunity to make my music playable in a compatible format -- with a clear conscience, if you please."}

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