Tuesday’s iPodBlog entry,
iTunes and the 7-burn limit, seems to have inspired as many questions (and comments) as it answered. I’d like to round out that entry by responding to some of those questions and concerns.
If you make a change to a playlist after iTunes tells you that you can’t burn any more copies, then burn seven copies of the modified playlist, and then reverse those changes (subtract the track you added to modify the playlist), will iTunes still prevent you from burning additional copies of the original playlist?
In short: Is iTunes smart enough to keep track of the burn count of more than one playlist?
Yes, it is. Although Playlist’s accountants will shriek when they receive the bill for the blank media I’ve burned through in the past couple of days, it had to be done. I burned Playlist A seven times, altered it by removing a track, burned the altered Playlist B seven times, put the removed track back in place, attempted to burn Playlist A again, and iTunes gave me the “nuh uh” dialog box.
Ah, but what if you simply change the order of the tracks in the playlist?
Nope. iTunes doesn’t care about track order. Shuffle their order after you’ve burned seven discs and iTunes refuses to burn another copy.
What if you simply copy the tracks to a new playlist?
No joy here either. iTunes knows if you’ve been naughty or nice even if you delete the tracks, reimport them, and put them in a new playlist.
What if you change the names and/or the ID3 tags of the tracks?
No again. iTunes doesn’t seem to care what the files are called or what you’ve done to their tags.
Would adding a non-audio file—e.g. a PDF booklet—to a playlist make the playlist new in iTunes’s eyes?
That would be a negative. From all appearances, iTunes looks only at audio tracks.
If I wanted to burn more than the seven copies of a playlist that iTunes allows, couldn’t I just create a disk image with Apple’s Disk Utility and burn that image to as many discs as I like?
No. Disk Utility can create a copy of the CD from a disk image, but it will do so as a data disc rather than as a Redbook audio disc. Such a data disc won’t show up in iTunes nor will it play on a CD player.
Toast Titanium 7, however, can create a disk image that you can then use to create Redbook audio CDs within Toast. This method puts an end to the seven-burn limit.
If I wanted to burn more than seven copies of a playlist and don’t want to use Toast, could I burn one CD, import the tracks on that CD with iTunes, and then burn more copies?
You could. This is a well-known method for getting around Apple’s (and everyone else’s) digital rights management (DRM) scheme. Some people suggest that converting the audio formats multiple times during the process—from AAC to AIFF (for the original CD rip) back to AAC (reimporting the burned CD)—degrades the audio quality. You could lessen the effect by reimporting the CD in a lossless file format—AIFF, .wav, or Apple Lossless.
What about creating a new user, copying those files to the new user, authenticating that new user (to allow them to play Apple’s DRM) and then burning new CDs with the new user’s account?
What if I delete iTunes’ support files (iTunes Library, iTunes Music Library.xml, .plist files, etc.)?
Both will work around the seven-burn limit because iTunes uses these support files to keep track of how many times you’ve burned a playlist. When you switch to a new user, that new user’s account uses different support files. When you remove iTunes support files it creates new ones that don’t contain the number-of-burns information.
What was the point of this article? This whole article was devoted to instructing people as to how to further violate copyrights, legally and ethically, using iTunes. There is no conceivable “personal use” or “fair use” that would require these methods.
I can’t think of a good reason why anyone would need to burn more than seven copies of the same playlist. The fact that so many people seemed to be in the dark about this subject makes it clear that very few of us have ever hit that seven-burn limit and I was largely interested in how iTunes goes about its business in this regard.
Just so you know where I stand on the non-technical issues, I believe that giving copies of purchased music to friends is both unethical and illegal if—and yes, Jeff, I’m talking to you—those friends don’t own each and every track on the CD you’ve given them. I know it’s common practice for people to create mix CDs and pass them out to friends (and I believe Apple accounts for that by allowing you six more burns than you really need), but just because everyone does it doesn’t make it right. Regardless of what you think of the RIAA, stealing their wares is one of those “two wrongs” things.
Then why write the entry?
Because I’m intrigued by these kinds of puzzles, because I couldn’t find this information elsewhere, because I believe in the free flow of information, and because anyone who wants to rip-off music by the metric ton can do so far more easily than by rejiggering iTunes playlists.
Steve Jobs was right on the money when he opined that “Piracy is not a technological issue. It’s a behavior issue.” It’s the dirty little secret of audio DRM that as long as audio travels down a wire it can be intercepted and copied.
You want to stop piracy? Watch your behavior.