How to kill the DRM in your old iTunes Store music purchases

“In 2009, Apple finally decided to drop DRM from the iTunes music library,” Roberto Baldwin reports for Wired. “That didn’t help much with songs purchased before that decision, however. Fortunately, if you still have these crippled tracks sitting in your library, there’s an easy way to kill the DRM with a few steps.”

“It used to be that most digital music was riddled with DRM. Terrified music labels essentially decided we were all thieves and couldn’t be trusted,” Baldwin reports. “Because of that paranoia, when the iTunes store launched, all the songs were wrapped in DRM. Basically, if you bought music between 2003 and 2009, these songs are still crippled. Here’s how to set them free.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Note: The following article may also be of interest:
How to replace low bit rate tracks with higher quality tracks from iTunes Match – MacDailyNews, November 15, 2011

21 Comments

  1. iTunes has DRM? I have always passed the iTunes songs that I bought round to my friends and family with no problems at all. I’m their iTunes distributor so to speak. Spread the love.

    1. You must be new to iTunes. When it first opened up as the iTunes Store, the audio files had DRM with somewhat liberal limitations (unlimited iPods, up to 4 computers). It wasn’t until after Steve Jobs’s open letter to record labels (and Amazon’s entry into MP3 distribution business) that DRM was finally removed.

    2. > I have always passed the iTunes songs that I bought round to my friends and family with no problems at all.

      Not only is this illegal, it is also stupid. There is no longer any “technical” DRM on iTunes Store song purchases. However, there is still “legal” DRM. Every song file you downloaded from the iTunes Store has your “name” embedded in the file itself. Do a Get Info on one of those purchases in iTunes. On the Info window’s Summary tab, look at “Downloaded by” and “Apple iD.”

      Your “friends and family” (and eventually thousands of people you don’t even know) are no doubt also “spreading the love” and spreading your name (the name of the song stealer), embedded in countless illegal copies of your original purchases. They will spread exponentially through file sharing; you can never take it back.

      Regarding this method, I’m not convinced it does what the author says. I distinctly remember trying this a while back (before iTunes Match), and it did not work. I just got back the same 128 kbps “protected” AAC audio file, when I re-downloaded the song.

      I subscribe to iTunes Match, so I already upgraded most of my old DRM’d songs by “matching” them and getting a 256 kbps AAC version with no DRM. But some old purchased songs (about 40) did not match (because they are no longer sold by the iTunes Store), so they remained labeled as “protected” AAC audio files. After using the described method on a few of those song, they were no longer labeled as “protected” AAC audio files when re-downloaded.

      I thought that was great. However, when I did a Get Info on the songs, the Info window Summary tab still says

      FairPlay Version: 1

      FairPlay is what Apple calls its DRM scheme. If it still uses FairPlay, the file still has DRM. The only difference is that new downloads no longer say “Protected” in their label for Kind. So, I think paying $25 for one year of iTunes Match, is the better way to go. The “matched” downloads do not have DRM for sure, and they are also 256 kbps.

  2. Terrified music labels essentially decided we were all thieves and couldn’t be trusted/

    The media oligarchy STILL considers us all to be default thieves. Thus their writing and pushing of the following through the US and world governments:

    – SOPA, PIPA
    – ACTA
    – CISPA
    – TPP

    All of the above treat We The People as We The Hardened Criminals Who Are Forever On Probation.

    F**k the media oligarchy for their bad attitude and for being Luddite 20th century dickheads. Abuse your customers and they will abuse you back. It’s the retribution reflex. THAT is the prime reason for media piracy, IMHO.

        1. If I wrote and recorded music but say ..I didn’t perform ..could I really make any money for my work? Is that possible these days without any of your tracks picked up for a twilight movie playlist soundtrack?

          1. I’m not in the musician field, so I don’t know scenarios. I know some musicians who don’t tour but make money via soundtracks for TV, documentaries and fiction films. There are several commercial musicians who never tour and get by.

            Certainly, the overwhelming message I hear is that touring the best source of income these days. In some cases, musicians have gone the big media corporation route and had good marketing as a result, but lousy pay. I remember the band ‘Propaganda’ from the early 1980s became world famous, in part due to their producer and record company. But they never made a dime from the sales of their recordings. The Powers That Be took everything, apart from the band’s allowance.

            Clearly, it’s not efficient for sales to DIY it on the Internet. The main reason, IMHO, is the domination of exposure/hearing sources by the media oligarchy. But I’ve insistently dug around on the net and found wonderful music. I also like to hang around in places that have their own playlists for ambient music. For example, I discovered my very favorite album of 2013 at the local Japanese tea room I frequent. They played a ‘Still Corners’ track, I asked what it was, they kindly wrote it down, I bought all their tracks on iTunes.

            Word of mouth is useful as well as ‘family associations’ among musicians. I bought loads of lovely music simply because musicians I like worked with other musicians I’d never heard of. Example: Miss Kittin sang a song for Estroe, who is out of The Netherlands. I’m now a total Estroe addict. Both Miss Kittin and Estroe market themselves by doing DJ work on the side, which I suppose still qualifies as touring.

            1. Ambient: Solar Fields, Global Communications

              BTW: on another thread you asked me something, but we were too deep in the hierarchy (web version) for me to reply. I no longer post out of order. Doing that has led to confusion, especially as threads are represented differently in the iOS app version, which turns into a Winchester Mystery House, complete with phantom echoes. So I visited one of your excellent blogs to post there, but the system doesn’t recognise me. 🙁

            2. I gave up on the MDN iOS app, although it kindly removed ads. I’d never heard of Winchester Mystery House.

              I don’t know what’s going on with comments over at Blogger. Spambots have no problem posting. But even friends have had no luck using Google’s comment system. Occasionally humans get through. It reminds me of Yahoo Groups and its quirks.

              Try me at Facebook?
              https://www.facebook.com/derek.currie.372
              I don’t post publicly there.

              Interesting expertise! I wish I knew more about it. I bet you’re a Tesla fan.

            3. That should have read “Global Communication”, singular. My two albums by them are Pentamerous Metamorphosis and 76:14, both outstanding.

              Solar Fields, H.U.V.A. Network, I Awake, and Carbon Based Lifeforms are excellent.

        2. This does not actually remove DRM without iTunes Match…

          As the instructions describe, you can delete a DRM file (which will have the .m4p extension) and then download it from the cloud.

          HOWEVER, without iTunes Match, although the newly downloaded file will be listed as “purchased” rather than “protected” in the “kind” field, it is still a DRM file with the .m4p extension, rather than a DRM-free file with the .m4a extension.

      1. This does not actually remove DRM without iTunes Match…

        As the instructions describe, you can delete a DRM file (which will have the .m4p extension) and then download it from the cloud.

        HOWEVER, without iTunes Match, although the newly downloaded file will be listed as “purchased” rather than “protected” in the “kind” field, it is still a DRM file with the .m4p extension, rather than a DRM-free file with the .m4a extension.

        1. I tried this with 2 different songs, I don’t have iTunes Match, and both times the downloaded file still shows as the 128 kbps Protected AAC audio file just like the one I already had.

    1. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is ongoing and has bipartisan bought and paid for politicians pushing for it.

      Ostensibly a free trade deal, most of the sections have nothing to do with trade and is larded with a wish list of things lobbyists would love to get into law that cannot pass on individual merit. Some of that includes the SOPA/PIPA crap that public opposition spiked in the not too distant past.

      The MPAA and other media lobbyists are well funded, well connected and have not given up. Much that is in the TPP will directly impact every Mac/iPod/iPad/iPhone/iTunes user- and not in a good way.

      Do your homework and contact your Congressional delegation.

  3. Did it the iTunes Match way myself and saved hundreds over individual iTunes Plus upgrades. Why Apple doesn’t advertise this or iTunes Match in general is beyond me.

    Though I’m still unhappy with the censoring of matched songs purchased from Amazon and elsewhere. Still waiting on the ability to reassign a match if matched incorrectly (as iTunes Match often substitutes censored songs for Hip-Hop/Rap for explicit). Too much music to try to locate them individually and replace by restoring originals or re-ripping css. So frustrating!

    And yet I renewed for all of the other conveniences.

    1. Some of the music editors can save DRMed stuff from tune services into other music formats that are no longer DRMed. There are a few other workarounds as well that can dump the DRM. Once you’ve killed off the Amazon etc. inflicted DRM and headers, the tunes should work with iTunes Match.

  4. This method only works for songs purchased under a particular iTunes account. I have songs I purchased along time ago under a different email, back when EarthLink was around. While I do remember my email from back then I do not remember the password. I cannot authorize these songs to be played on any other device. They will not show up under my current Apple ID account. Only the ones purchased under my current ID. Unless I’m missing something, I think iTunes Match is the only way to get you tracks DRM free. Anyone….?

    1. You need to recover your account. Try recovering the password to Earthlink first, if they can still give you access to your email, and then reset your Apple ID password under that account.

      If you can’t get into your Earthlink account, try contacting Apple Support for account recovery, they may be able to help you if you have things like the credit card used and such.

  5. This does not actually remove DRM without iTunes Match…

    As the instructions describe, you can delete a DRM file (which will have the .m4p extension) and then download it from the cloud.

    HOWEVER, without iTunes Match, although the newly downloaded file will be listed as “purchased” rather than “protected” in the “kind” field, it is still a DRM file with the .m4p extension, rather than a DRM-free file with the .m4a extension.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.