How to Remove DRM from Your Music and Movies

DRM is restrictive, annoying baggage that keeps consumers from doing what they want with their purchased media. Here’s how you can remove DRM from your music and movies using a couple software applications.

DRM, or Digital Rights Management, is a software solution to a copyright problem. When content is distributed on a disk without any kind of DRM, the end user can do anything they want with it. They can copy it a million times and sell it on the street for five bucks, save it to their hard drive, share it on the web and more. DRM tries to solve this problem by making it impossible to use content in specific ways. For example, DRM is what keeps movies purchased on iTunes inside of iTunes.

From the perspective of rights-holders, it sounds like a decent solution to a troubling problem. In the world of free online distribution of content, how else can creators protect their rights?

Unfortunately, DRM has a terrible track record. It ranges from pathetically ineffective to actively malicious, sometimes even both as in the case of Sony’s root kit DRM. It also tends to penalize legitimate consumers since pirates won’t have to deal with the manifold frustration of DRM-limited content.

The situation is so fraught that DRM, and the associated copyright laws have become a political issue with people rallying behind the removal of all DRM. And a world without DRM might not be that different from what we have today: the most common forms of DRM can be easily broken, and even new DRM schemes are quickly cracked.

Obviously, we’re not lawyers, so don’t consider this legal advice.

The legality of removing DRM from media depends on your country of residence. In you’re a U.S. or U.K. resident, removing DRM from media is illegal. Elsewhere, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. Austrialian residents are permitted to copy protected media for “personal use” and Finnish courts have ruled that users can break “ineffective” DRM. Some E.U. member states, like Spain, have opted for a “personal use” exception similar to Australia’s rules.

Let’s be realistic, though. If you’re removing DRM from media you legally obtained for personal use, the chances of getting caught are virtually zero. Distributing content is another story. That’s illegal in no uncertain terms, and it’s also immoral, considering it robs creators of income from their creations.

In brief: Are you breaking the law? Maybe. Will you get in trouble? My magic 8 ball says no.

We’ll be working with M4VGear for this tutorial which works specifically with iTunes, but there are plenty of other applications that will also remove DRM from music, movies, ebooks and more.

1. Download and install M4VGear.

2. Click “Add Movies” in the center of the screen.

m4vgear-add-movies

3. If you get the warning saying your iTunes library is accessible, make sure you turn on XML sharing in iTunes under “Advanced Preferences” (Edit -> Preferences -> Advanced).

m4vgear-itunes-xml-sharing

4. Select the movie you want to remove DRM from.

m4vgear-add-movies-2

5. Click “Lossless MP4” at the bottom of the screen to begin the conversion. The free trial will only convert one minute of each video file, but you can see how it works.

m4vgear-remove-drm-1

We’ll use a different application from the same developer called Sidify to remove DRM from music files.

1. Download and install Sidify.

2. Click the center of the screen.

sidify-remove-music-drm-1

3. Select the tracks you want to remove DRM from.

sidify-remove-music-drm-2

4. Click the “Convert” button. The free trial will only convert three minutes of each track, but you can see how it works.

sidify-remove-music-drm-3

Neither of these methods are free unfortunately and require purchasing expensive software. Right now there’s no reliable, easy and free way to remove DRM from your purchased media. But these tools, though expensive, work effectively and reliable.

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