Ask the MACist — DRM and You

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Welcome to the latest edition of 'Ask the MACist', the column where I answer your Macintosh and other technology questions. Our question this week comes from Sam, who lives all the way in Portland. He asks: "Even though Apple and EMI are not going to have DRM on their songs, is there any way to have songs from other companies in your iTunes without DRM to?

With Apple announcing yesterday that they, along with music giant EMI (whose artists include Coldplay, The Rolling Stones and Norah Jones) would be offering higher quality DRM-free music starting in May, many people are wondering how this effects the music they like to listen to. Well, the good news is that Apple will provide an easy way for you to upgrade your entire library of EMI artist's music to the higher quality, DRM-free version for just 30 cents a song.

ask the MACistIf you don't already own the song or album, new DRM-free music from EMI and iTunes will cost you $1.29 per song. For the extra 30 cents, in addition to no DRM, you get songs that will be encoded in Apple's AAC format at a 256 kbps bit rate — instead of the usual rate of 128 kbps. That's double the quality for not even double the price. Actually, it might not seem like such a big deal but I can tell you that music encoded at 256 kbps is vastly superior to music encoded at the lower rate. So, that's a good thing for people who really love having the highest quality music they can get.

So what does this mean for music you already have that isn't from EMI but does have DRM? Well, the good news about that is you have a way to use that music any way you want by removing the DRM from it. First, let me say that as far as I know, this is a legit work-around and not illegal in any way. That said, I'm not a lawyer and I'm not encouraging you to break the law in any way. I am merely providing information. What you do with the information is up to you.

Ok, now that the LAist legal department is happy, let's get to it. Removing DRM from your music purchased through iTunes is easy — whether its from EMI or not. All you need to do is burn a CD using iTunes of the music you purchased and then put that CD back in your drive and import the music back into iTunes again. If you do that, the DRM will be removed from the songs. It's that simple. Of course, now that EMI has decided to remove DRM from its songs, we can hope that other labels wil follow suit and eventually this work-around won't be necessary. Until then, enjoy your DRM-free music — however you acquire it.

Ok, that's it for this week's 'Ask the MACist.' But remember, if you have a question about anything Mac, Mac-related, or even something about other tech like TiVo, cell phones, Blackberry (or even Windows), send it to me, The MACist, at: themacist at gmail dot com.

About Chris Ullrich: Chris is the technology editor at LAist as well as a frequent contributor to other sites like Cinematical and Comic Book Resources. He also consults with clients in entertainment and related industries about how technology can best help them exceed their goals.

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