Journal: News & Comment

Thursday, March 16, 2006
# 10:22:00 AM:

How to get your purchased songs off your 5G iPod

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So I bought a couple of songs from the iTunes Music Store this morning. For this example, we'll talk about the 11-minute version of "Time Has Come Today" by the Chambers Brothers. I bought it, downloaded it, and transferred it from iTunes to my 30 GB iPod 5G (the video one).

I came to work and wanted it in iTunes on the iMac here. Now, I own that file, and have a license to that song, and my work iMac is authorized to play tracks I have bought from iTunes. But I forgot to copy the file to a server or disk where I could download it at work and add it to my iTunes library. So I wanted to move it from the iPod to the iMac at work.

That is a totally legitimate thing to do, but Apple has made it exceptionally difficult—I'm not supposed to be able to copy music files off my iPod (even MP3s), and as I discovered today, Mac OS X's fabby Spotlight search is disabled for the music files on the iPod, even from the command line, and even when you specify that you're looking for invisible files.

That didn't stop me, though.

Finding my music file on the iPod

I could have manually browsed the iPod file system from the Terminal, but instead I used Panic's great Transmit FTP program. Using the View > Show Invisible Files option, I then chose Go > Go to Folder and went here:

/Volumes/Penmachine iPod 5G/iPod_Control/Music

In there are dozens of folders namd F00, F01, and so on. I sorted by Date, then manually sorted through them to find files modified by day and that ended in .m4p, Apple's file extension for Protected AAC files bought from the iTunes store. A pain, but it took about two minutes to find XBCK.m4p, modified today (iTunes renames the music files it has to four-character names, presumably again to make it more difficult for me to get my own music off of it). Okay, it turns out that the file permissions prevent Transmit from copying the file to the Desktop directly.

Fine. You're not stopping me.

Copying it from the iPod to the Mac

Back to the Terminal and this command:

cp XBCK.m4p /Users/dkmiller/Desktop/Chambers.m4p

If the Mac and iPod had really been obstinate, I could have tried higher administrator privileges using the sudo command in front, which would have asked for my admin password:

sudo cp XBCK.m4p /Users/dkmiller/Desktop/Chambers.m4p

It turns out the first one worked, however. Now there's a file, Chambers.m4p, on my Desktop, which I dragged into iTunes and can now play.

Analysis and ranting

All this to get a file I bought to a computer I'm legally and contractually allowed to play it on. Man, DRM sucks. I'll make sure to burn it to CD and convert it to unrestricted MP3 soon, as I do with all my iTunes purchased tracks. Incidentally, there is no similar easy way to remove the DRM copy prevention and the use restrictions from iTunes-purchased video files. Which is why I haven't bought any.

I'm not file-sharing any of these tunes. I bought them and just want to play them (as I am legally allowed to, by the way) on different devices, as I'm easily able to do with tracks from audio CDs, or old LP records. And I make sure that I can do it. It sure is fun to have device manufacturers like Apple serving the people who demand these use restrictions rather than their paying customers, doesn't it? And it's sure working well, isn't it?

By the way, if you buy my CD or download any of my free tunes, you can share them all you like, on as many different machines and with as many different people as you care to.

Related miscellany

Incidentally, here's a Wikipedia article on fair dealing in Canada (similar to fair use in the U.S.A.), which isn't quite directly applicable here, but is interesting.

And I should remind you again that proper headphones are a big deal. I initially listened to the Chambers Brothers tune on the Audio-Technica ATH-M20 headphones I have at my desk at work, which are adequate. Mid-way through I decided to switch to my personal Sennheiser HD 280 Pro set that I brought from home, and which cost twice as much. The quality difference was astonishing, even with the relatively low-quality audio file mastered from a recording made in the 1960s on not-great equipment. So get good headphones. It makes a difference.


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