iTunes and DRM copyright protection

Kelly from the USA wants a custom backing track created. I told him to send me a copy of the original, I’ll have a listen to it, and give him a quote how much it’s going to be to create as a backing track.

He has the original song on his computer in his iTunes program and has been trying to email it to me (unsuccessfully):

Hi Kenny,
I’m having a tough time trying to send that song to you. Just to get this straight now…..I can’t use the I-tunes version, is that correct? I have to try and find the recorded music?

Hi Kelly

iTunes isn’t actually the problem – the iTunes program is simply a music player software which you install and run on your desktop and it plays any songs that are on your computer. It has an added function where it allows you to also transfer music to an iPod if you have one connected to your computer.

The iTunes website (i.e the iTunes shopping store) and music you buy from it is a different story though.

The iTunes website shopping store allows you to buy music and then download that music directly in to the iTunes program on your computer. It all sounds very quick and convenient, and it is…

But songs bought from iTunes have DRM protection in them (Digital Rights Management) which prevents you playing those songs anywhere else except on your iTunes program and your iPod.

So if you try to send me a song which was purchased from iTunes, there’s every chance that I won’t be allowed to listen to it or play it. It will be DRM protected and will only play on YOUR computer and iPod.

There has been a lot of talk about iTunes getting rid of these DRM restrictions and allowing you to play music you purchase from iTunes anywhere you want but I don’t know how far forward they are with this yet.  In my opinion it was always a cunning marketing ploy anyway – Apple have always argued that they are helping to protect artists from music piracy and file-sharing by restricting where you can play the music you download , but experts agree that in reality they were most probably using this as an excuse just to “force” you to exclusively use their iTunes program and iPod.

Anyway, enough about my opinion on Apples marketing rights and wrongs!

If the song you want to send me was NOT purchased from iTunes (i.e. you have it on a CD) then you can make a copy of it and send it to me without restriction.

To do this, you need to “rip” the CD to your computer and save it as mp3 format, then email the mp3 to me.

But you can’t just “drag” a CD from it’s tray on to your computer hard disk, nor can you copy and paste it, nor can you just “attach” it to an email.

CD’s are in CDA (compact disc audio) format so need to be “ripped” (i.e. converted) from the CD to your hard disk first.

MP3 is an open format. It isn’t restricted to any one music player like Apples AAC format – ALL good music players can play mp3 files which is why mp3 is the most popular music format on the planet.

The freedom and universality of mp3 is why we, MP3 Backing Trax, supply backing tracks in this format. After customers buy their mp3 backing tracks from us, they can play them on ANY music player they want, including their iPod (wake up Apple)!

When you have a song in mp3 format you can do pretty much anything you want with it, as long as it’s within the licence restrictions of the copyright owner.

And this is the BIG difference between the open mp3 format and Apples more closed AAC format.

MP3 music files are only restricted by what the copyright licence owner says you can use that music for.

Apple restricts you by what the copyright licence holder says you can use the music for AND restricts you to WHERE you can use that music.

So if you have an mp3 file, you can play it on iTunes, play it on Windows Media Player, make it in to a CD and play it in your car, play it on your home hi-fi, put it on to ANY mp3 player eg Creative jukebox, Microsoft Zune, Apple iPod, etc etc.

But if you have an Apple AAC music file that you purchased from iTunes which has their DRM copyright protection in it, you can ONLY play it on iTunes or your iPod.

Hope this helps!