iTunes is no longer using digital rights management (DRM) on purchases from the iTunes store, allowing users to share files and play iTunes files on all media players. However, this freedom comes with a price.
Apple’s DRM program, called FairPlay, prevented users from playing iTunes files on anything other than computers with iTunes or iPods. It also prevented users from putting the files on more than five authorized computers or media players, according to a February 2007 statement from Apple founder Steve Jobs.
The TechTerms online dictionary describes how FairPlay operated. iTunes files have a special code that sends the user’s computer or media player identification number to the company. If this identification number matched the ones iTunes had authorized for a particular account, the user could play the song or video.
Some people think DRM was not useful. “The purpose for DRM was to prevent people from copying their music and sharing it with their friends, but really all it did was help to keep honest people honest,” said Tim Larson, the manager of Campus Systems at Mills College.
“The person that wants to make illegal copies of music will always find a way to do so,” he added.
In order to remove DRM, Apple made a deal with record companies. In the past, all iTunes songs cost 99 cents.
Now, the music labels will decide how much a song will cost. Popular songs will cost $1.29 while older songs will cost 69 or 99 cents, according to a January CNet News article.
Users can remove DRM from previously purchased files, but iTunes charges 30 cents per song for music conversion and 60 cents for each video file. Plus, users must convert all of the files purchased from iTunes at one time, or they cannot strip the files at all, according to a January CNNMoney.com article.
Philip Elmer-DeWitt, a reporter for CNNMoney.com tried to convert his iTunes library and found out that the costs add up. Out of over 4,000 songs in his library “231 songs … were eligible for conversion at a cost of $50.60.”
Because of such costs, Larson recommends that Mills students only convert their files if they need to.
“If you will only be playing a song on your computer via iTunes and/or on your iPod/iPhone, there is no reason to convert a song or even be concerned with whether or not it is protected by DRM,” Larson said.
According to AppScout, which is a website run by the editors and analysts of PC Magazine, it is possible to make a library DRM-free without paying the fee. iTunes users can burn songs onto a CD, delete the original files and then import the CD into iTunes. However, the article said this method also costs money since people must buy the blank CDs.
Anyone on the Mills internet server who has iTunes can look at the iTunes libraries of anyone else on the server. However, Larson said that the decision to remove DRM from iTunes probably will not allow a student to copy music from a classmate’s library.
“It is already possible to import non-DRM protected music tracks into your iTunes Library and these tracks cannot currently be copied from one iTunes Library to another,” he said.
He added that if students are concerned about this sharing feature, they can disable it by going to the iTunes options or preferences menu and unselecting the “Share Library” icon.