Droid doesn’t do DRM?


I just finished a post over at PhoneDog entitled Motorola Droid: What about my media? It’s directed at folks who just bought their first Android device and want to know how to manage all of their old iTunes media files for playing on their new device. One thing the article doesn’t address is the issue of copy protection. This post is directed at folks who are seeking more information about playing media hampered by iTunes DRM on devices not made or licensed by Apple. I’m not a big fan of DRM, but I’ll do my best to be objective in discussing DRM here and to fairly address the concerns of big business.

DRM is how megalithic corporations keep you from doing what you want with the products you rightfully own. It’s an evil, misguided attempt at preventing illegal duplication of digital media that has backfired in the face of the entertainment industry and caused the exponential proliferation of said duplication. Nice one, industry. Was that biased? The point is that this technology limits you to playing your media on specific devices made or licensed by a certain company. Imagine you bought a pair of shoes at Target that could only be worn in Target. Outside of that store, they would cause you to fall flat on your face before you could take a single step. Oh, Trader Joes has an agreement with Target; you can wear them there too. But you want to shop at the corner market and you spent all of your shoe money on your Target kicks. What to do?

The iTunes catalog was, at one time, DRM-protected in it’s entirety. Apple later went on to add “Plus tracks” that were free of copy protection but they still sold crippled tracks right next to them. Last January, Apple announced that their entire catalog would soon be offered without DRM. You can read more about that here. The trouble with this new found generosity is that you have to pay to upgrade your own personal library. Apple first said you can’t cherry pick; it’s your entire library or nothing. In response to the predictable uproar that followed, Apple changed their iTune (sorry). You can upgrade your library track-by-track. Things aren’t so simple for purchased videos. Man, I’m tired of this stuff.

There are free solutions to this dilemma, some of which will back up and convert your entire collection with a few clicks, but using them probably means breaking laws, EULAs, and an unwitting pinky-promise with Jobs. I can’t publicly condone any of that; I just want you to be informed before making your own decisions. In my PhoneDog post, I only demonstrate playing DRM-free tracks on the Droid – nothing iTunes has crippled with copy protection. in this scenario, Droid will figure out which ones it can or can’t play, so you don’t need to worry about which ones to select. Just transfer your music and cross your fingers, hoping most of the files you’ve selected will work. That’s the situation for law-abiding Droid owners. Would you like to take another look at those options?


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