Sunday, August 2, 2009

Free legal software to remove DRM from audio files

Bill Brown  ...  Xiamen University

I was frustrated to find that the album I bought online was DRM protected WMA files.  While the site had claimed they could be played on MP3 players, they could not.  They worked on my computer, but not on my iPod shuffle (a dinosaur-version, given to me by my sister years ago), or my Philips MP3 player.  Itunes would not play them because it said they were protected and could not be converted. 

I spent hours searching for ways to remove the DRM (after all, I did not illegally download these, but paid for them from a reputable site; I should be able to play them).  The internet is chock full of links to Free DRM removal software and DRM free software and every combination you can think of--all throwing in the word FREE to get you to click.  But almost everyone ended up charging $30 or $40 or more to convert more than 30 seconds or so.  But I found a FREE Solution!

First...if the files are DRM Free (no DRM protection), you can convert WMA to MP3 easily, quickly, and for free with a FREEWARE program (not a trial--really free), called Switch Audio Converter.  While they do urge you to pay for the upgraded version, their free WMA to MP3 conversion software works fine.  I just used it--and it works for both Windows and MAC.  (And, by the way, I receive no commission for referring you; I just hope you can avoid the hours of fruitless searching that I spend downloading, installing, and then uninstalling and deleting a dozen programs that claimed to be free but were not).

The next part-- removing DRM for free-- is trickier.  The only easy to use Freeware that I could find was AnalogWhole.  Actually, I'd think that removing DRM would be illegal, but Analog gets around this by playing the file on your computer and recording it as an unprotected copy.  This is real time, so it takes 30 minutes to convert a 30 minute audio file.  Slow--but it is 100% free DRM removal software.  The other disadvantage, though, is that as it records the file being played, it picks up ambient noise (taps on the computer, movement, etc.).  The background noise was distracting.  You have to adjust the microphones just right (it helps you do this), because too low and you can't hear the DRM free copy, but too high and you get distortion, and it picks up everything from computer noise to your intestines digesting the previous night's pizza.  Still...for free, who can complain.

The Best Solution for Converting DRM protected files?  Don't buy them in the first place, if you can possibly avoid it.  I understand the reasoning behind them, but it penalizes those of us who do buy legal copies, for our own personal Fair Use.  But if, like me last night, you pay good money for files that you can't play on your MP3 player, then the above is the only really free solution that I could find.

If you know of better free solutions to removing DRM protection, please share them.

In closing--I am assuming that anyone reading this is seeking a way to remove DRM encoding from audio or video files that were obtained legally, and are being used legally--not shared!

Enjoy Amoy!


1 comment:

Jason said...

FTI also makes a pretty solid ediscovery software worth comparing.