Topics include: programming, Apple, Unix, gadgets, large-scale web sites and other nerdy stuff.

Apple's DRM-LS

2006-07-31 18:11:12

It's interesting how weak Apple's DRM for iTunes is, and how blithely the media seem to ignore this fact. I've never really seen any attention given to the fact that anyone can un-protect any iTunes music file, with no technical knowledge, and nearly zero effort.

This article in information week comes closer than anyone to stating this. That I've seen, anyway. The article is mostly about how DRM really usurps control of product from the content producers and transfers to the wanna-be monopolists (like ITMS.) It's an interesting point, and a nice new way of poking fun at the stupidity and greed of the music distribution industry. But here's the excerpt I'm talking about:

Removing iTunes's DRM is pretty straightforward. It's time-consuming, but it's not too difficult. You just have to burn a CD with the tracks, re-rip the CD tracks as MP3s, and re-enter the metadata, like title and artist.

In fact, this is overstating the actual effort by quite a lot. All you have to do is: burn audio CD; select audio CD you just burned; import audio CD. Since you create a playlist with all the song titles, and iTunes conveniently matches burned CDs (by track length signatures, one assumes), you do not have to re-key in the artists and other track info. The upshot of this is that you need only spend the cost of a blank CD-R to remove ITMS DRM.

This is such a giant loophole that I call the DRM that Apple uses DRM-LS, as in "Digital Rights Management - Lip Service." It does nothing at all to stop serious content piracy (which is impossible in any case, because if a human can hear it, a computer can copy it.) It also does nothing to stop a semi-intelligent person from making a DRM-free backup copy of their music. It seems blatantly obvious to me that Apple and the music distribution industry are just winking at each other that they did something to solve the "problem" created by napster et al. (When, in fact, the problem wasn't caused by napster, it was caused the by the lack of a legitimate, low-friction channel for buying music on line.)

I wish all such DRM systems were so open.