How iTunes Movie DRM-Removal Software Keeps Me Honest

| Dave Hamilton's Blog

I like to watch a lot of movies on a lot of different devices. Some of those devices are made by Apple, like my iPad and Apple TV, while some are made by TiVo, Roku, Panasonic, Sony and others. I need my media portable; not just portable in the mobile sense to take with me when I travel, but portable in the sense that I can't have limits on which of my devices will play any given movie.

This is where Digital Rights Management (DRM) or, put more plainly, copy-protection, becomes a huge nuisance. If I buy a movie from Apple's iTunes Movie Store the file contains DRM that keeps me from playing that movie on anything but Apple devices. That clearly doesn't work if I want to stream the movie I just purchased to my TiVo in the playroom.

Every other online movie purchase source has similar restrictions – the large content creators demand them. Plus, I've been around the block enough times to know that even if my DRM-limited content works on all my current devices, it's a near-certainty that it won't work on at least some of my devices five years from now. That's not good enough. I put a lot of work into building and curating my movie collection; I'm not interested in repeating that work time-and-again just to keep some suits and lawyers happy today.

For these reasons I'm a big fan of using HandbrakeMakeMKV and Don Melton's scripts to convert DVDs and Blu-Rays into DRM-free digital formats. The resulting files are high-quality movies that can be played anywhere today and, with reasonable expectation, in the future, as well.

But if it's Saturday at 7:00 PM and you want to watch a movie that night, buying (and ripping) a DVD or Blu-Ray isn't going to suffice because it won't arrive in time. As such, I've been searching for a plan to stay legal (at least in terms of purchasing the movies) without having to live inside of a DRM'ed bubble.

One option would be to purchase the DVD from Amazon and then use BitTorrent to download a temporary copy of the movie to watch while waiting for the DVD to arrive. This would work and is relatively easy, especially once you add in the auto-torrent searcher Couch Potato. The problem with this is it starts down a slippery slope. It would be even easier to simply skip the purchasing and head straight to the downloading. And that's not cool. But it is easy, and easy is always going to win out.

If only there were an easy way to strip the DRM from Apple's iTunes purchases like there is using Handbrake and MakeMKV for DVDs and Blu-Rays. It turns out there is: NoteBurner. For a one-time purchase price of US$45 NoteBurner strips the DRM from Apple's iTunes movies resulting in portable, DRM-free versions of your purchased movies to use as you wish. Finally, a solution.

Noted video expert Jim Tanous at TekRevue helped me vet this piece, and also did some quality comparisons. Turns out NoteBurner's claims of "lossless" DRM-removal aren't entirely accurate, but are likely good enough for most of us. Jim has published his NoteBurner vs. iTunes quality comparison results.

With Great Power...

Regardless of how you create (or, ahem, acquire) your DRM-free movie files, you need to be responsible with the product. If you publish these on your website, upload them to BitTorrent, or share them with more than a friend or two, you're most likely committing a crime. Not cool.

Technically, even removing the DRM might be a crime, but that's never been tested against folks who have been responsible with the result, and likely never will be – it's akin to creating a backup and likely falls under Fair Use. Can you imagine how it would look if Sony sued some dude for creating – and responsibly protecting – backups of his movie collection? It simply wouldn't make sense for Sony to take action because civil suits are only filed when the plaintiff can collect significant damages. As long as said dude didn't distribute the movie, the damages are virtually nonexistent.

It's also important to mention that NoteBurner will strip the DRM from all iTunes downloads, including movie rentals. Once the DRM is gone from a rental there's no date-restriction left behind, meaning your NoteBurner-processed files would be playable for eternity, sans limits.

It's up to you to be responsible with your choices here, but that's just the point, isn't it? I'd rather live in a world where we have the freedom to do responsible things. As long as it's easy for us to be responsible, most of us will behave that way. The existence of the iTunes Music Store proved that years ago. It's with this in mind that I will happily purchase iTunes Movies and convert them with NoteBurner for safe-keeping in my DRM-free digital movie storage vault. Offshore, of course.

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Comments

Lee Dronick

I wonder if Apple will change their DRM so that NoteBurner will not work. Of course then NoteBurner will update their software, and the race continues.

geoduck

  Technically, even removing the DRM might be a crime, but that’s never been tested against folks who have been responsible with the result, and likely never will be

As far as the content owners are concerned, yes it is a crime. They see nothing wrong with selling you the same content over and over for each device.

– it’s akin to creating a backup and likely falls under Fair Use.

Which is one of the things the content holders, RIAA and other industry groups have been trying since the ‘80s to kill.

Can you imagine how it would look if Sony sued some dude for creating – and responsibly protecting – backups of his movie collection?

I don’t know, ask the RIAA if it was worth it to do exactly that over both music and video. Not only have they done so they’ve done so gleefully.

It simply wouldn’t make sense for Sony to take action because civil suits are only filed when the plaintiff can collect significant damages. As long as said dude didn’t distribute the movie, the damages are virtually nonexistent.

It’s not amount money. It’s about power and control. It may cost them 100x what they get back but they’ve argued in public that it’s worth it. They figure they prevent that much piracy with each win.

Personally I think it was a very dumb idea to post publicly that you’re breaking DRM. You just painted a big target on your @**

webjprgm

If NoteBurner costs money does that make them a target for lawsuits? If a user could be sued for stripping DRM and only keeping the movie as a backup then couldn’t NoteBurner be sued for enabling that? Basically, if there are no fair, legal uses for NoteBurner.

Anyway, for some reason it makes me feel more wary that NoteBurner costs money. That means someone is trying to profit from this DRM battle. It also means that if Apple changes something to block NoteBurner I might have to buy a new copy of NoteBurner, or buy something else that breaks Apple DRM if NoteBurner doesn’t get updated. I would much prefer an open-source project that always kept up-to-date and operated on the principle of freedom from DRM rather than on a profit motive.

Gary Dauphin

“One option would be to purchase the DVD from Amazon and then use BitTorrent to download a temporary copy of the movie to watch while waiting for the DVD to arrive.” —meanwhile, you get a DMCA letter from your ISP, and possible loss of Internet services, because you violated the law.  Morality vs. Legality, sir.

Gary Dauphin

“For a one-time purchase price of US$45 NoteBurner strips the DRM from Apple’s iTunes movies resulting in portable, DRM-free versions of your purchased movies to use as you wish. Finally, a solution.”—in total violation of DMCA.  Is that really a solution?

Gary Dauphin

Oh come on!  “share them with more than a friend or two, you’re most likely committing a crime. Not cool.”  Sharing a movie (DRM’d or not) with anyone that did not pay for it is in violation of it’s license.  What’s the limit on your ‘coolness’ moral compass: 2, 4, 6 or 8 friends?

I am not a fan of DRM or overpriced movies, but I can’t believe MacObserver stands behind this article.

Gary Dauphin

Sorry for the spaminess of my comments, but as I am reading this I just get more and more appalled with each paragraph.

Here’s a test:  Tell the folks at NoteBurner that you do not believe in licensing or DRM, so you are going to strip the serial number off *their* software and share it with a few of your friends under the guise of Fair Use.  And, that if it happens to land on a BitTorrent site for the whole world to download, that probably wasn’t your fault.

Let me know how they feel about licensing and copy protection after that…

Jim Taylor

Or you could take the completely legal approach and buy UltraViolet versions of movies, use the UltraViolet codes that come with many DVDs and Blu-ray Discs, or convert some of your older DVDs to UltraViolet for a few bucks. Multiple online services including Vudu, Flixster, CinemaNow, M-Go, Verizon FiOS, and others share a single UltraViolet Library so you can download or stream on Windows, Mac, iOS (iPhone and iPad, including AppleTV using AirPlay mirroring), Android (including Kindle Fire and Nook tablets), PlayStation 3 and 4, Xbox 360 and One, Roku, Chromecast, Google TV, most connected Blu-ray players, and most connected TVs. Disney is the only major studio not supporting UltraViolet, but some UltraViolet retailers also support Disney Movies Anywhere, making it relatively seamless to access both systems.

(As CTO of UltraViolet I’m biased, but I wouldn’t have joined UltraViolet if I didn’t think it was the best option for consumers.)

Lancashire-Witch

All I can add, Dave, is - Don’t get caught!

ftolar59

  I’ve tried using UltraViolet just once.  It took me several hours to set up an account because the website kept crashing both Safari and Firefox.  And when I finally tried to watch my purchased movie, it wouldn’t play for more than a few minutes before starting to buffer.  I can watch any media online from any other website with no problems.  But UltraViolet just sucks.

Noteburner Anv

  It also means that if Apple changes something to block NoteBurner I might have to buy a new copy of NoteBurner, or buy something else that breaks Apple DRM if NoteBurner doesn’t get updated. I would much prefer an open-source project that always kept up-to-date and operated on the principle of freedom from DRM rather than on a profit motive.

We promise we will always keep update with iTunes, and upgrade to be compatible with the latest iTunes Version and OS version.

NicoleH

I have search in google and have found many items for video conversion. I will suggest you to find google. Hope you will find good ones. Now, I installed M4VGear with easy settings and nice interface… I like it.

Noteburner Anv

“For a one-time purchase price of US$45 NoteBurner strips the DRM from Apple’s iTunes movies resulting in portable, DRM-free versions of your purchased movies to use as you wish. Finally, a solution.”—in total violation of DMCA.  Is that really a solution.

Yeah, NoteBurner is a solution to remove iTunes DRM. It’s legal to remove iTunes DRM only for personal use. And once you have purchased NoteBurner, you can enjoy lifetime free upgrade and technical support.

Yogurtar

I’ve been using NoteBurner and it works well.The most advantage is compatibility. It can fully support the latest version of iTunes which is convenient for iTunes lovers.

Andre Green

For a lossless quality of the DRM-free iTunes movies, you can have a try with TunesKit DRM M4V Converter for Mac, another great software to get rid of DRM from iTunes videos losslessly at faster speed: http://www.macupdate.com/app/mac/51869/tuneskit

paikinho

RE: Requiem

I have only gotten mine to work with iTunes 10.7 while using Requiem 4.1 from the site below.
For me, I needed some sort of cleanly installed OS X or Windows that hasn’t had iTunes 11 or 12 installed previously. (you can downgrade allegedly, but I have not successfully done so.)

After beating my head against the wall for a bit, I just used a clean Virtual Machine I have without previous iTunes. In my case I tried it with Windows 10 since my OS X Snow Leopard already had iTunes 11 and I failed at trying to downgrade to 10.7.

http://digiex.net/downloads/do…

I have a Parallels Desktop Virtual Machine of Windows 10 with Java installed, iTunes 10.7 64-bit (freshly installed), & and Requiem 4.1. It just worked the first time.

Downloaded a video I licensed from iTunes to the iTunes movie folder.
Closed iTunes.
Started Requiem 4.1
It found the movie automatically by scanning my iTunes folder and started ripping out the DRM. (took a bit of time…about 15min on my iMac i7) There is not indication of how long it will take… just says “Working”
After the DRM removal was done. A popup indicated that the original DRM was tossed in the trash and the new DRM-free version was sitting in its place. I dragged the movie to my movies folder on my OS X install. Fired up VLC and the movie played strait away and looked the same as it did before DRM removal.

PERFECT copy of the already Apple-compressed iTunes movie. The size was exactly the same.

The same cannot be said for other “Lossless” DRM removal software.
This article seems to show as much for NoteBurner. I suspect that all newer pieces of software currently available still use this playing/re-encoding method which actually isn’t entirely lossless including TunesKit.

The only one that just stripped out the DRM was Requiem, but it is old and one has to jump through lots of hoops to create a setup which will work for now. How long will it work???
Don’t know, but it does as of Dec. 19, 2015.
I suspect it may work for a bit longer since only 1 in 100k people will ever care enough to go to the giant effort to make it all work.

Everyone else will be quite content with the plug and chug Noteburner, TunesKit or other such software.

paikinho

@Geoduck
“Personally I think it was a very dumb idea to post publicly that you’re breaking DRM. You just painted a big target on your @**”

Seems a bit strong, but I will publish that I made it so that I can use my iTunes purchased movies accessible to my other devices in the same manner that I digitize my music to make it playable by me.

I paid for it and therefore I can use it how I want to.

It would be a different story if I was downloading and utilizing Movies I didn’t pay for.

To me it seems that MPAA and RIAA are going after those who didn’t buy what they have and not really wasting their time pursuing those who ARE paying for content.

Wowfunhappy

“Turns out NoteBurner’s claims of “lossless” DRM-removal aren’t entirely accurate.”

Mhm! A muuuuch better solution is Requiem, which is free and strips out the DRM entirely.

It only works on iTunes 10, but I’ve gotten around that by setting it up in a Virtual Machine. A bit of a pain, but once everything is installed, it works great. It’s a lot faster too, because it doesn’t have to re-encode anything.

Inhumano

Obviously, that Noteburner is a scam (also hiding under another “brand” Sidify). Their code doesn’t contain any single line for DRM management, but instead, they “protect” their commercial interest with “Noteburnerdrm.dll” which contains just a bunch of code for a product registration management.

Everything they do with iTunes m4p hides in record-xx.dll which is interrogating with CoreAudioToolbox.dll (a part of official Apple framework) through the set of methods with self-explanatory names: AudioUnitSetProperty, AudioOutputUnitStart, AudioOutputUnitStop, AudioUnitGetProperty. Obviously they are just receiving a decoded stream and re-encode it again.

In meantime, Requiem does its job perfectly and truthfully and everybody may check the source code. The only problem: outdated Requiem works only with iTunes 10.x and doesn’t suit for Apple Music m4p (as they are supported only by later versions of iTunes).

So beware of liars stealing your money for “lossless conversion” promises.

Dok Henz

So I’ve jumped through the hoops described above by paikinho (thank you!), and after a few iterations of loading Windows 10 via Parallels 11 on my i7 Mac Mini, deleting and reinstalling Java 32-bit, and finally figuring out that Parallels Tools was prohibiting Java from launching Requiem (I kept getting the ” java.lang.IllegalArgumentException” error), I’ve gotten Requiem to load and decode files.

The problem? It’s taking my Windows emulator an enormous amount of time to de-DRM the files - at the rate of something like 10MB/min. Which means I’m looking at nearly 8 hours for a 4.5GB movie. This seems excessively long, and completely out of the ordinary for most Requiem users.

Any thoughts about how to proceed from here? I’ve allocated system and video RAM to the Windows emulator, as well as 2 processors…

Thanks in advance!
Dok

Leilalee

Hi, I saw you mention that you use handbrake to convert video format. Yes, it is really a free, useful and convenient tool. And I also use it often.

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