Remove DRM protection from iTunes tracks with iMovie HD

UPDATE: Sadly, this technique does not seem to work anymore. If there are other solutions, please update the comment thread because others may find the information useful.

A few days back I found myself perusing the iTunes Music Store looking for a few songs that I had heard via Sirius*. After completing the painless process of purchasing the songs, I immediately synced the tracks to my iPhone and went on my merry way. Because I had spent very little none of my time following the DRM vs. DRM-free music download option being offered by Apple, I simply downloaded the $0.99 version(s).

DRM-free tracks from EMI will be offered at higher quality 256 kbps AAC encoding, resulting in audio quality indistinguishable from the original recording, for just $1.29 per song. In addition, iTunes customers will be able to easily upgrade their entire library of all previously purchased EMI content to the higher quality DRM-free versions for just 30 cents a song. iTunes will continue to offer its entire catalog, currently over five million songs, in the same versions as today—128 kbps AAC encoding with DRM—at the same price of 99 cents per song, alongside DRM-free higher quality versions when available.

Great. So Apple now offers DRM-free tracks from EMI as well as an option to upgrade existing DRM locked songs to their DRM-free variant for $1.29 or $0.30 respectively. Want to find out which songs are offered as DRM-free purchases? Open the iTunes Music Store and navigate through iTunes Plus. Here you may find some of the songs you are looking for. You may also come to realize that songs you may want to download DRM-free are not available.

So what options do you have if the song you wish to purchase is not available? While you can always ask uncle Bittorrent, possible run-ins with your ISP and the law may not sound all too enticing. The safest – and legal – route would be to purchase the songs through the iTunes Music Store. Personally, the rule that would allow an individual to authorize a track for playback on up to 5 machines is something I find acceptable for a digital medium which I purchased. Furthermore, I hate the fact that if I am signed out of the iTunes Music Store, I need to continue to keep a machine authorized or enter my Apple ID & password in order to listen to a song.

Remove DRM protection using iTunes + CD-R/W

Probably the most widely accepted method for stripping purchased songs of DRM protection is burning tracks to a CD-R/W then re-importing back into the iTunes library. A method guaranteed to free you of DRM madness.

  • Create an iTunes playlist containing your purchased songs.
  • Insert a blank CD-R or a CD-RW.
  • Burn the playlist to disk.
  • Re-import the songs after a successful burn.
  • Deleting the original purchased tracks.

At one point, DRM Dumpster was a free solution which automated the process of locating purchased tracks burning them to disk and re-importing without any user intervention. Currently the software is provided as-is for $25. No thank you. I would much rather do the above steps myself or, make use of Apple’s own iMovie HD to do the same. Albeit at a slower rate BUT without the need for an actual CD-R or CD-RW.

Remove iTunes Music Store DRM with Apple software in Leopard

The current iteration of iMovie released with the iLife ’08 software bundle is iMovie 7.1. However, in order to remove DRM protection, you will need iMovie HD – previously bundled with iLife ’06. For those – like me – who received iLife ’08 bundled with Mac OS X Leopard, iMovie HD is a separate application download. Once downloaded and installed, start iMovie HD and ‘Create a New Project’ titled “DRM-free”. Save the project to your Desktop.

Create a New Project in iMovie

iMovie media tabiMovie media tabIn the iMovie window, select the ‘Media’ tab located between ‘Themes’ and ‘Editing’. You will notice that the top right portion of the interface now offers a media browser. Select the ‘Audio’ tab and locate the playlist which contains purchased music, or search by artist / title.

Select the DRM-laden song and drag the file from the media browser into the iMovie timeline where it says “Drag audio here to build your project.”

Share… sub menu itemIn order to export the song, iMovie requires that a visual image be associated with the audio track – iMovie thinks that it is going to be exporting a movie. Simply drag a blank image (or any other image) to the track above the previously imported audio file. Once iMovie has processed the image, select the ‘Share…’ sub menu item from found inside ‘Share’ in iMovie’s menu bar.

Expert share settings

Ensure that ‘Expert Settings’ is selected in the “Compress movie for:” drop-down menu. Selecting ‘Expert Settings’ mode will provide the options to export the file as an audio file. Select the ‘Share’ button.

In the Save as… dialogue, select “Sound to AIFF” in the Export drop-down menu, Choose an appropriate directory for iMovie to export to, title the file, and select ‘Save’. Depending on your machine configuration, iMovie will compress and export the movie project as an audio file in 15-40 seconds.

Convert AIFF to AACLocate the exported AIFF audio file and drag to your iTunes Library. Right-click on the file and select “Convert Selection to AAC”. Once completed, ‘Get Info’ on the new file, edit meta data, add album art, and trash the originally purchased and AIFF audio files from your iTunes library.

DRM-free iTunes Music Store purchases without wasting resources

The above steps may be far more tedious than simply burning to disk and re-importing. However, the process can be further simplified by creating an Automator action to replay the steps above. I think the upside of not having to waste actual media (CD-R or CD-RW) in order to burn and re-import songs is well worth the tedious process.

Side banter and miscellaneous notes

* If anyone is a paying subscriber, please feel free to comment with your thoughts on whether or not Sirius is a service worth paying for. I am currently making use of a 3 month limited trial in my Volkswagen R32 which only offers a few genre presets.

iMovie export of DRM protected files inspired by Seidai Software’s FairGame [which did not operate correctly under Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard].

Get the Best Software for your Computer

Looking for the best types of software for your Mac? There’s all kinds of free software available on the net if you know where to look. From essentials like free CD burning software to the more obscure astrology software there is sure to be the program for you!

Discuss - 40 Comments

  1. […] Derek Punsalan – 5ThirtyOne placed an interesting blog post on Remove DRM protection from iTunes tracks with iMovie HDHere’s a brief overview […]

  2. Weiran says:

    Get an iPod adaptor for your VW (which they do offer) instead. I can’t see myself ever paying a subscription for radio.

  3. Derek says:

    Mine has a AUX input in the glove box that I run a wire to from the center console where I keep my iPhone. I’m not too happy with the results though. Because the interface is a simple AUX input, I can’t control tracks from the steering wheels buttons and the track info is not displayed on the radio screen or MFD. I’d like to find a solution (DIY self install) that would offer both of those features.

  4. Ian says:

    You can also do what I did, which was purchase and install a 7″ touchscreen headunit. I bought the Clarion MAX675VD, and I’ll never go back to using a factory headunit again. I haven’t tested it when an iPhone, but it works great with my 5.5G 80gig.

    They’ve since upgraded the 675VD to the VD II, and I’ve seen an even newer unit announced, so you can probably pick up an original 675VD for about 400-500. Pricey option, but makes the driving experience far better (and safer).

  5. Derek says:

    Ian what vehicle did you install the Clarion in, and was it a DIY?

  6. Matthew Parcher says:

    BTW, as of October 17th, I believe all iTunes Plus tracks are now only $0.99 (same as normal tracks)

    IIRC, this was because Amazon only charges $0.99 for DRM-free tracks, and they Amazon was starting to get too popular 🙂

  7. Devon Shaw says:

    Dude, this is all just a really bad idea… because you’re re-encoding a lossy source, and 128 AAC isn’t all that hot of a bitrate to begin with. You end up with an encode of an encode, and slightly better than radio quality trash. Your highs will be distorted, the bass will be sorely lacking, and all you need to do is drop one of your fresh DRM-free encoded-encodes into Audion for a spectral, and you’ll see the clipping. It’s not pretty.

    The *real* solution was back in the days of iTMS 4.6, using Jhymn Project which did nothing but unlock and eliminate the DRM shell, without touching the audio file itself. You’d run a batch of m4p files and have a directory full of m4a’s after you were done. It even offered to re-import your tracks into iTunes, replacing all the originals so it wouldn’t mess up your playlists.

    There’ve been a few other attempts to continue this form of DRM-stripping, but using CDRs and re-encoding audio is just a God-awful method and should not be recommended or encouraged for anything other than a last resort.

  8. Derek says:

    BTW, as of October 17th, I believe all iTunes Plus tracks are now only $0.99 (same as normal tracks)

    Thanks for the correction. I don’t know how I missed that announcement when I was looking through some of the Music Store related releases.

    Devon, I agree on most points that you’ve made. Re-encoding should be a last resort but there are situations when doing something similar to what is done above is the only way to share music with someone who is not on an authorized computer.

    However, I’m not going to completely agree with the degradation of audio quality for the untrained ear. I’ve passed all of my audio – converted with the technique above – through some high-quality studio quality headphones and I would have been fooled. Bass response and highs are still discernible and strong. For the average audio Joe, the quality lost during re-encoding is negligible and not something to worry about. Anyone looking for high quality audio rips should be getting those directly off of CD.

  9. […] Remove DRM protection from iTunes tracks with iMovie HDBy DerekAfter completing the painless process of purchasing the songs, I immediately synced the tracks to my iPhone and went on my merry way. Because I had spent very little none of my time following the DRM vs. DRM-free music download option …Derek Punsalan – 5ThirtyOne – […]

  10. […] Remove DRM protection from iTunes tracks with iMovie HD drm mentesites a leopardban apple szoftverekkel. (tags: drm itunes mp3 tutorial osx hack leopard) Posted by kobak Filed in […]

  11. Ian says:

    I installed it myself in my Toyota Rav4. Aftermarket headunits are incredibly easy to install yourself, and you save quite a bit by buying it online and not paying for installation. If you have any doubt, you buy the headunit from the cheapest (yet reputable) place, and the mounting kit at Crutchfield. CF will send you fairly detailed instructions on your specific vehicle. We call that “working the system.”

    Clarion also makes a 1DIN headunit for cars that don’t have a 2DIN opening (like most Toyotas).

  12. […] be a simple way around the DRM, and 5thirtyone has put together this simple writeup explaining how to break iTunes DRM with a tool you’ve already got on your Mac: iMovie. Essentially, you load the DRM-ed file as […]

  13. Kraor says:

    We need to get this post down, or else the record companies will demand that iTunes purchases not work in movies! I’ve known this hack for years, so just tell your friends, and don’t post it on the internet!

  14. […] be a simple way around the DRM, and 5thirtyone has put together this simple writeup explaining how to break iTunes DRM with a tool you’ve already got on your Mac: iMovie. Essentially, you load the DRM-ed file as […]

  15. I just tested this, and it works fine even on Tiger (the iTunes -> iMovie -> aiff (or even wav) approach).

  16. jessemoya says:

    Do it! I LOVE my Sirius subscription! I got hooked on all of the unedited stuff (Howard Stern, Shade 45, etc) that you can’t get on FM, and now I can barely stand to even listen to my old stations. Also the sports channels are pretty great. It’s especially nice if you ever have to travel through Canada or someplace where you aren’t familiar with the local stations. Honestly, I’m surprised how soon I got over the whole paying-for-something-that-was-never-important-to-me-before thing.

  17. […] be a simple way around the DRM, and 5thirtyone has put together this simple writeup explaining how to break iTunes DRM with a tool you’ve already got on your Mac: iMovie. Essentially, you load the DRM-ed file as […]

  18. Erik says:

    You’ve always been able to do this with iMovie. It’s by-design and it’s not a new thing. Also, you say it can be done with Automator but that’s completely ignorant, as iMovie has no Automator or AppleScript support. Also, you can remove a step by, instead of exporting to AIFF, just export to MP4 (from the same menu) without a video track and rename it to M4A. Exactly the same result as using iTunes to convert to AAC.

  19. Derek says:

    Is it really ignorant to say that the process can be done via Automator or AppleScript when FairGame did exactly that?