Saturday, August 16, 2008

Why DRM Sucks and How To Remove It From Your Music

In the past, I've heard plenty about Digital Rights Management (all negative) but I've never had the 'pleasure' of experiencing it until today. Digital Rights Management (DRM) is basically a way of protecting music files from being excessively pirated, using proprietary software to play and manage the files.

Recently, I made use (took advantage) of a free 5 song download promo. I ended up downloading two albums that I've been looking for that are no longer in print. One was Super Transatlantic's Shuttlecock album, and the other was the first album by B'ehl. You may recall me writing about their second album here. I've been trying to track down their first album without success... until today.

The Super Transatlantic album posed no problems. It plays fine in Linux and is in .mp3 format. The B'ehl album, however, is a different story. It was only available in .wma format, which means I'm required to use Windows Media Player to listen to it.

Puretracks doesn't even mention Linux, nor the Opera web browser

So anyway, I go to download the songs from puretracks. Windows is required to download the music, using their special .exe downloader to get your music. Okay, so I boot into Windows and run it. After the first set of songs download, I try playing one. Something was wrong with my copy of Windows Media Player: it immediately crashed. So, I go download the newest version I can get (Media Player 9 for Win2k - Hey, I hate XP!)

Knowing Microsoft's stupid fucking way of doing things, I tried downloading it with Internet Explorer 6. The download only half completed, and IE told me it was finished. Of course the piece of shit thing didn't run. So, I tried downloading it with Opera. Success! Go figure, Microsoft's web browsers suck.

So, the thing installs and runs. I double click on one track, and WMP starts bitching about needing a license to play the song. So, I try looking into the problem, and recieved a suggestion that I do an update to the Media Player. I try, and it's up to date. Second suggestion, update the DRM fuckware, which I did. Still nothing.

As far as the downloads were going, one file was being incredibly stubborn (it kept stalling) so I tried to re-download it. The stupid shitty puretracks download manager only lets you download what is in its queue; in other words, you have no control over what downloads and when. You simply have to do what it tells you. So, to download the stubborn file, I had to go back to their crappy website and download a new download manager with only the one song in the queue.

I was finally successful in downloading the track. I tried playing it and it magically played. Now, I had to figure out what the hell was wrong with the other 11 tracks that wouldn't play.

Simple answer: I needed to have the latest Windows Media Player installed BEFORE I downloaded the music. So now, I have to re-download ALL the songs that I've previously downloaded multiple times already.


Anyway, I FINALLY successfully downloaded all the songs, and each one is playable. Now, since I use Ubuntu as my primary operating system, I have to remove the DRM from the files and convert them to a Linux-Friendly format. Here's how to do it...

First of all, you need another computer with a sound card. Behold, my spare PC:

866MHz, 1G RAM, and it's almost never assembled. I connected a hard drive with a copy of Damn Small Linux I was using for testing purposes. It already had Audacity (music recording software) installed, so I was all set to go! Audacity is also available for Windows, and it's free. Don't use that "Sound Recorder" that comes bundled with Windows because it's a piece of junk that Microsoft hasn't updated since the Windows 3.1 days.

Next, I connected a patch cable from the LINE OUT of my computer with the WMA files on it (Source), to the LINE IN of the computer that I planned to transfer my DRM-Free music to (Destination)

I started recording on the Destination computer, loaded up all the files in the Windows Media Piece-of-shit and hit play. If you decide to take on this hideous task, you may want to do a test to make sure that your software is recording the music before you let it run for 40 minutes (or however long your tracks add up to) just to make sure everything is functioning properly. You can also split the tracks later with Audacity.

After I was all done recording and splitting the tracks, I save them as 16-bit .wav (you can save them as any format you want). I copied them all to a flash drive and moved them back to my source computer. They now play in Linux! Oh yeah, and instead of the limited 3 burns puretracks let me have with Windows Media Player, I can now burn it as many times as I want!

Click on Windows Media Player to hear the DRM-Free Music!


Anonymous said...

Windows Media Player should let you burn a CD, which you can then rip to MP3 using the software of your choice. That's my preferred method when I get stuck with Windows Media files.

(I clicked too many links on YouTube and ended up here, just in case you were curious.)

Ben Century said...

I actually thought about doing that, but I didn't want to risk wasting my 3 chances to burn the music with the off-chance that WMP wouldn't like my burner or have some other stupid hangup. I suppose I could've tested it by burning non-DRM music first, but why waste a perfectly good CD? IMO, this method seemed the most reliable.

Also, doesn't WMP do some goofy CD encoding to prevent the music from being extracted? I'm pretty sure I read that somewhere, but the source could be wrong.

Anonymous said...

Ben, I am simply amazed with your brain... sheesh' and I thought it was all about your locks of hair and weenie..! LOL