I’d like to upgrade my MP3 player, but which can play what kinds and what services you can use to download them has left me with some questions. I have two MP3 players now - a generic Philips, which can’t play any DRM-protected files (it also can’t resume in the middle of a file, nor fast-forward or rewind, which makes it useless for podcasts), and an MP3 player in my Palm. My Palm player can play “PlayForSure” Microsoft protected files. I also want to play MP3 CDs that I burn, on my DVD player connected to my home stereo. I’ve put 650 MB of my favorite songs on one CD and get hours of music when I’m puttering around the house. The DVD player does not support DRM files.
But I’ve been using iTunes do purchase some songs. When I purchase them, I’ve been burning an audio CD, then immediately ripping that CD back to unprotected MP3 files. This is not very convenient, but at least iTunes remembers making the CD and rips it with all the correct song name etc. info on the MP3 file.
Is burning a CD then ripping to an unprotected MP3 even strictly legal?
Other online services use protected WMA files (I think). I have also purchased music through MusicMatch, and I think that’s what it used, and have burned/ripped to get those to MP3 as well. What about Wal-Mart - is that the same thing? It uses Windows Media Player, so will that also let me burn/rip and remember the song names?
If I get an iPod, it can play native iTunes-purchased files, but can it play WMA protected files?
Are there other players that can play both iTunes (AAC) and protected WMA files?
With my library of purchased iTunes music, what happens if my computer suffers a catastrophic failure, or I just get a new one? Will those files play on the rebuilt/new computer?
And finally, when will this cr*p settle down into something more manageable?
"If I get an iPod, it can play native iTunes-purchased files, but can it play WMA protected files?"
-No. Apple tries to avoid everything that Microsoft uses as a standard. Their players are not compatible with WMA files, ‘straight’ or protected (although I have seen software products from other companies that gets added to an iPod to make it play WMA files, but I’m not sure if that works with protected content or if it causes any other problems).
"Are there other players that can play both iTunes (AAC) and protected WMA files?"
-None that I am aware of. Apple uses proprietary software formats with iTunes and apparently only iPod works with it.
"With my library of purchased iTunes music, what happens if my computer suffers a catastrophic failure, or I just get a new one? Will those files play on the rebuilt/new computer?"
-Apple has a way to activate iTunes songs on another computer, but they probably have a way to inactivate the license on the original computer. You can re-license a song up to (I think) 6 times. I had to do this when my PC fried and I had to replace the motherboard. iTunes couldn’t tell that it was in the same computer as before and forced me to connect to the Web, update iTunes to the latest version and reactivate/re-license my songs before I could play them (then I had to reactivate/re-license them again two days later for no apparent reason).
"And finally, when will this cr*p settle down into something more manageable?"
-Watch the news coming from France. They are trying to pass a law requiring Apple to open up their format so other companies can use it in their players. Apple would be forced to license their format to other MP3 player manufacturers, if they refuse other companies will be allowed to release converters that would convert iTunes songs into other formats that will play on any other player, which might also remove the DRM protection.
I really wish people would stop saying this. Only media purchased from the iTunes Music Store is closed. iTunes can be configured to encode to MP3, and the lack of MP4 (which is the standard used by AAC) support in many other players is unrelated to anything Apple has done or not done. If you have an existing collection of unprotected WMA files, iTunes can convert them to AAC or MP3.
Yes. iTunes allows up to five authorizations at a given time. That means up to five different computers can be permitted to use iTunes Music Store purchases at a time. If you try to authorize more you will be notified you are at the limit. You can deauthorize computers to free up the slots for new ones.
If your computer crashes, you can use the “Deauthorize All” option in iTunes on your restored computer to deactivate the old authorizations, although you can only do this once a year.