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Getting Past iTunes Restrictions

Thursday, October 18th, 2007 by | Filed Under: Multimedia

I like to use the Apple iTunes store to get some of my music, but I don’t have an iPod, so I’m unable to take that music with me. And of course, Apple won’t let me transfer those songs to MP3s. Is there any way I can get around this or am I just out the money I’ve already spent? Please help!

Excellent question! I’m sure there are a lot of you out there who have been swayed into using Apple’s services before you realized how unfair they can sometimes be. Yes, their iTunes music store is a grand thing, but if you don’t have an iPod to go along with it, you’re stuck listening to all of that music on your computer and nowhere else. And even though it’s nice to have music to listen to on your computer, it would be even nicer if you could take that music with you. I mean, you paid for it, so shouldn’t you be allowed to do whatever you want with it? Well, that may make sense to you and me, but unfortunately, the Apple company sees things differently.

Okay, just to make sure we’re all on the same page here, this is what happens: you can purchase songs from the Apple iTunes store, but unless you have Apple supported hardware (such as an iPod) to put them on, you can only access them from your computer. So, if you have an MP3 player that is not supported by Apple, it won’t work. Going outside of the Apple environment is just not possible. Why, you ask? Well, most of the songs you purchase from iTunes are in an AAC or MP4 format, which is mainly put in place to protect Apple. But, in reality, it’s all set up by the Digital Rights Management (DRM) and they’re just basically out for the money.

The DRM was put in place to control the copying and reproducing of copyrighted material by artists in the recording industry. The way they see it is if they allow people to copy music for free, they will be losing out on their profit. And while that makes sense for CDs and music formats like that, the DRM seems to be missing the point that consumers are actually spending their own money on the songs they purchase from iTunes and they’re just being restricted from enjoying the music they own. I know a lot of you fall into that category, so how does that make you feel?

Well, there may be another option for you. As you may know, the MP3 audio format is pretty universal. MP3s can be played on any music player and you can even burn them onto CDs and they’ll play perfectly fine on any standard CD player. Unfortunately though, when you buy a song from iTunes, it does not create an MP3 file for you. Instead, they are “protected” and can only be played with the iTunes software or like I said before, on an Apple iPod. How frustrating!

Now, if you right click on one of your songs in iTunes, you’ll see an option that says something like Convert Selection. Chances are though, it will say “Convert Selection to AAC” and that doesn’t help you out at all, because your iTunes songs are already in the AAC format. So, to get around this in iTunes, you can start by going to Edit, Preferences, Importing (it may be Edit, Preferences, Advanced, Importing for some of you). Once you’re under the Importing tab, click on the drop down menu next to Import Using: and change that setting to MP3 Encoder. That will then become your default setting. Click OK when you’re done. Next, go back up to a song you’d like to convert, right click it and choose Convert Selection to MP3. Now, I urge you to try this, but don’t be surprised if iTunes shuts you down. You will more than likely receive a message that says something like “Protected files cannot be converted to other formats,” but I still recommend that you try this first. It may work for some of you.

If it doesn’t, there are a couple other things you can try to convert the AAC files to MP3s. The first thing to try is burning the songs you want to an audio CD. You can then open the CD in iTunes and once your songs come up, right click them and choose Convert Selection to MP3. Take note though that you will now have two copies of the same songs in your iTunes library. One will be the AAC version and the other will be in an MP3 format. You can delete the AAC version if you’d like, but either way, make sure you keep them all straight.

The second option to try is a virtual CD drive. Something like that can simulate an actual CD burner, which eliminates the need for real CDs. This would work well for any of you who have tons of music stored in iTunes. Otherwise, you may have to use several CDs just to get all the songs you want transferred over. Once you have the virtual drive set up, your Windows operating system will treat it just like a real drive and you can then access your CD burning software through the virtual drive itself. A couple names you could try for this are NoteBurner and CD Emulator. You can find more information on both of those by doing a quick search for them with Google.

Alright, I think that’s about it. I hope I’ve given you hope in that all of your iTunes music does not have to be lost forever. You do have a few options when it comes to this kind of thing. I wish you all luck in gaining back control of your music that you should have had in the first place!

~ Erin

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