When DRM Sucks

A couple of weeks ago my younger brother asked me to buy some songs for him from the iTunes store. So I thought this would be no big deal. Normally I buy, download and burn the songs to a CD and also put them onto his iPod shuffle for him. Well, that wasn’t the case this time. I had some issues and thought I would share them.

The music was bought and I transferred it over to my PC because the iBook doesn’t have a CD buner. No big deal. I get the tracks into iTunes on the PC and put them into a playlist and click on burn, no luck. There is an error that it can’t find a burner. The drive was being recognized by Windows as well as Nero. I got to thinking about it and I decided to disconnect the hard drive that was also on the same cable as the CD/DVD burner. Ok, first of all. I know it’s probably not wise to do that but I needed to connect the drive to the computer and it worked, so shush! Anyways. After taking my computer case apart, unplugging the hard drive and getting it all put back together again I turn the PC on and I still get the same error in iTunes. The drive is still being recognized by Windows and Nero but not iTunes.

I then realize that Nero is not displaying the drive as a CD or DVD Burner. I don’t know what the deal with that was. I’m still having issues copying CDs or DVDs. I’m thinking that I’m either needing to re-flash the optical drive, re-install Windows or buy a new DVD burner. But anyways. That’s not why I am writing.

Once I finally got the music over onto the PC and found out that I was not going to be able to burn the music using iTunes, I needed to try and burn it using Nero or something else. Of course you can’t do that without removing the DRM from the music! So I found myFairTunes, a Windows only application. DRM Dumpster does the same thing for Mac users but you’ll need a CD-RW drive and disc. Also, the software is not free. I removed the DRM, converted the tracks to MP3 format in iTunes and tried to burn the music using Nero. Of course I thought the music had burned succesfully because it went through the entire process and said it was successful. However, looking at the CD after it came out of the drive you can tell that there was nothing on the disc. When you put it into a CD player it makes the blank disc noise and when you put it back into a computer it says it is blank.

My point to this entire entry is that DRM is only making it harder for people who actually purchase music. We all know that. However the music industry still does not understand that fact. Thankfully, iTunes is now offering DRM free music. Also, fortunately, there are amazing companies like Magnatune who are against DRM. Magnatune allows you share the music you purchase with 3 people and they also let you license the music for videos, podcasts and other productions under a Creative Commons license.

The issue I had isn’t the only reason DRM needs to be sent to the dumpster. People want to buy music players and put their music on it. When a player is tied to one music store and one DRM format, you can’t do it. Maybe one of these days this will be a thing of the past and our descendants will look at us like we were crazy for using DRM (along with many, many other things).

iTunes isn’t so bad

The title of this article may be shocking to some of you. You’re probably worried that I’ve became an Apple fanboy now that I have my very own iBook G3. The other day I was thinking about the iTunes Store and then today I saw this article written by Apple’s very own Steve Jobs.

Fair Play earns it’s name

A long time ago I absolutely refused to purchase any music from the iTunes Store. Why? I would always fuss and complain that the music on there is full of DRM (digital rights management) and that you couldn’t do what you wanted with the music.

Well, that is partly true. The music does have DRM on it but, really, it’s truly one of the most lenient DRM models out there. Why? First of all, you can play your music on up to 5 computers. If you get to the 5 computer limit you can now login to the iTunes store and de-authorize all of the computers and start over (you don’t have to ask anymore). I don’t have five computers to play music on but this is most certainly a welcome change.

I also did not know until I read in the press release (the one Steve Jobs wrote) that your music can be played on any iPod. I guess that means you could put the music that you purchased onto anyone’s iPod. I don’t have an iPod, so I really don’t know about this but I assume it is correct since Mad Dog himself said it!

Also, if you absolutely refuse to have the DRM on your music, you can burn the music to a CD and rip it back to your computer without the DRM. You can import the music in AAC or MP3 format. Out of being annoyed by the fact that the music I bought had DRM on it, I’d always do this. Lately, however, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s a waste of my time. I would usually wind up burning a couple of tracks to a CD-R and then re-import the CD using something like Windows Media Player. I’d then have to tell Windows what the song was and if for some reason it couldn’t find the information in the online database I would have to manually enter the ID3 tags. This, truly, was a waste of my time. Don’t get me wrong, I think burning your music to a CD is a great feature. Especially if you’re wanting to play your music in a car stereo. I don’t have a car and don’t go places often so for me it was becoming a waste of time and a waste of a blank CD!

PayPal Integration

If it wasn’t for the fact that iTunes purchases can be made using PayPal, I would not be making purchases on iTunes. I don’t have a credit card and I refuse to have one. I transfer money to my PayPal account and then I go into iTunes and go on a shopping spree (depending on how much I transferred!).

My friend Steve Harris mentioned earlier when I was discussing this with him that it is a great idea for parents. They could give their kids an iTunes allowance via PayPal. They could also go to the store and buy an iTunes Store gift card and let their kids buy whatever they wanted on the iTunes Store.

What I’d like to see

The iTunes’ podcast aggregator: I like it and it does work really well, but, there is one problem that I have with it. If I have to re-install my operating system, go to another account or use another computer, I lose my podcast subscriptions. I know you can export your subscriptions, but, I always forget. For a long time I’ve been using a service called PodNova to subscribe to all my podcasts. My list of subscriptions stays on their website and if any of the above happens, I can still access my list of podcast subscriptions without a lot of hassle. I haven’t done this, but, I could use their service and subscribe to the giant feed that they provide to you so you can plug it into any podcatcher and it will supposedly download all the latest enclosures, but, you don’t really get the same type of organization that I and many other people expect. I’ve just been using the PodNova client (based on Juice). I install the application, sign in and there are all of my subscriptions waiting for me.

Think about this: if you have iTunes on your computer you more than likely have an account with Apple. I think Apple could do the same thing that PodNova is doing but make it even better. One way to make it better is if I go to another computer and open up iTunes, I could login and only the latest episodes that I have not listened to or watched would download instead of the last entry for every single subscription downloading.

Another reason I am loving iTunes!

After I finished writing this entry, I decided to go and have a look around on the iTunes store because I’ve been wanting to get some new music. I saw one of the coolest things. STAR TREK EPISODES! They don’t have Voyager (although I already have all the Voyager episodes), The Next Generation or Deep Space 9, YET! I hope they will soon! But, I’m very excited! They have The Original Series (TOS) and Enterprise.