iTunes Question

OK, I should clarify that this post is an honest question, and not intended to be an Apple-bashing session, despite the fact that I do enjoy doing that from time to time.

So Emma got a new iPod recently, and initially she was using Martha’s computer to sync with iTunes, since the kids computer (until yesterday) was Linux only. In an effort to kick the kids off of Martha’s laptop, I went ahead and reconfigured the kids computer to dual boot Linux and XP, so that Emma can manage her iPod from there.

Here’s where the problem comes in: the fresh XP install of course has no songs on it yet. So I figure it should just sync all the songs that are already on her iPod once I set it up to sync to that computer and it should be pretty easy, right? Not quite.

Now, I understand that I need to “authorize” the new computer to load all the purchased songs (even if I don’t agree with that philosophically), but that’s not really the big issue. I was able to copy the few DRM’d songs purchased from iTunes that were on the iPod fairly easily, using the “Transfer Purchases” menu selection (I think that’s the right name – don’t have it in front of me right now).

Ironically, the problem came in for all the other (non-DRM’d) songs that were on the iPod. These were other songs which had been ripped from CDs, etc. The issue was that there was no apparent way to import those songs onto the new computer, outside of manually copying them from the computer they were originally on and re-adding them to the library on the new computer. This just seems ridiculous to me, since they were already on the iPod and not copy protected.

Is it just me, or is there something fishy about iTunes supporting the easy copy/import of DRM protected music from the iPod but *not* supporting unprotected music in the same way, since it should be even easier? Of course, I feel that this is intentionally designed to drive users towards making sure all their music is purchased from the iTunes store so they can avoid this problem.

Perhaps I’m missing something though. For all you iTunes users out there, is there another way to do this that I missed? Specifically, I want to know if there’s an option to transfer non-iTunes purchased content from an iPod onto a new computer, in a manner similar to the “Transfer Purchases” feature, without doing a manual file copy then import on the new computer.

This entry was posted in Blog Posts and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to iTunes Question

  1. Dan says:

    You could have transfered them from Martha’s computer to the kid’s computer before you finished asking the question. :)

    There are tools out there to pull the music off the iPod however, the iPod stores the music files with different file names. The tags are in tact but the files will all be numbered in numbered folders. I think this allows the iPod to function faster since it organizes the files however they want in custom folders it determines.

    Anyways, I’m not sure why you just don’t copy them over your network. Maybe windows networking is too hard to setup and slow USB is faster. :)

    You could have a central location for your media, including music. Then have each iTunes use this media library/server. Multiple computers could use the same media server without a problem since they make a local xml file to figure out the locations. This would resolve not having duplicates and allow for easy sharing. Just make sure you configure iTunes to not copy the media to the local library on import.

  2. JB says:

    So, I take that as a “no, Apple makes it much easier to import protected music from an iPod and doesn’t allow you to do the same thing for non-protected music”? I am curious to hear why you think they might do that.

    Note sure where you got this idea:

    Anyways, I’m not sure why you just don’t copy them over your network. Maybe windows networking is too hard to setup and slow USB is faster. :)

    I did actually copy them from the network server that I have all the files on, rather than Martha’s (no USB was involved – I think you may be imagining stuff), but I abbreviated that part since I figured most people would be confused by it. It’s still a “manual” copy in the sense that iTunes didn’t import them automatically; I had to copy the files to the computer and then add them to the library.

    Anyway, I did do it last night, and it didn’t take an insane amount of time, and Windows (or any other aspect) didn’t get in the way at all. But the point is that Apple seems to be deliberately crippling the process in favor of DRM’d files, since they provide that feature for protected songs but not for others.

    I was also aware of the hack you mentioned above, but if anything it proves my point that you can’t do it in a supported (by Apple) way, as you can for protected music on the iPod. Doing that is even more work than copying the files over from the original computer, so that doesn’t really help much.

    Although I do have a consolidated backup of all my media files on a server, the shared network location is not viable either, for a couple reasons:
    #1 – I don’t want to have to leave that server on 24 hours or remember to turn it on anytime any of the possible computers wants to sync or use the media files.
    #2 – That would break for the laptops, since they wouldn’t be able to access the files unless they were at home.

    I could be wrong on that last point, so let me know if that’s the case. I’ve heard that it’s difficult (or at least not supported) to have your iTunes library point to a network storage location and keep either partial or full local copies for the times when you aren’t connected to the network.

    But all of that is a tangent that doesn’t address my main question: why do they make it easy to import protected songs from the iPod but not allow importing non-protected ones?

  3. Dan Cameron says:

    Why make it harder: it’s all speculative but it’s obvious to me-they’re trying to apease the rights holders. Since I could (theoretically) take my 160GB iPod to every friend or non friend and give them every file I have in posession. Transfering purchases requires authorization so it’s not breaking any “rules” to transfer purchases.

    Regardless I think you’re construding a feature (transfering drmed music) to prove a point. Should they just get rid of the feature all together? No.

    You can have local media and network media. It really doesn’t matter as long as the computer can connect to the file. I have multiple locations for my video, music and podcasts. If you’re off network the file just won’t sync or play but you’ll still have the local media.

    I’m still dissapointed with iTunes syncing though. I wish they’d allow for multiple computer syncing. That way I can sync my iPhone to my laptop and MacPro. At least I can download podcasts anywhere, so that’s a plus.

  4. JB says:

    I’m not sure what you mean by making it harder?

    I also don’t get the concern about protecting rights, since (as you previously explained) there are many ways that people can share unprotected music files by copying them, if they want to do that. To say that this is some kind of mechanism to prevent illegal copying is pretty silly.

    The fact is that people should be allowed to transfer their unprotected files wherever they want without Apple assuming they are criminals.

    Tons of people have large collections of legit MP3s that they’ve ripped from CDs, etc. Of course, many people also have large collections of files they’ve obtained illegally, but it’s more than a little disingenuous for Apple now to discriminate against those people (with MP3 collections – legal or not) when they built this line of their business based on them (in the Napster / P2P era).

    Of course I don’t think they should get rid of the feature. I’m just saying they should support non-DRM’d music the same way. There is no justifiable reason for them to limit this feature to DRM’d music only that I can think of, including and especially the reason you suggested.

    If I understand it correctly, you’re saying that they can’t be certain that the user has the legal right to copy the unprotected files since they’re DRM free, so they’re going to assume that the user is acting illegally and not allow it. That is a pretty weak argument, and in itself says a lot about how Apple views its customers if it’s true.

    Again, even if the reasoning you suggest is what they’re thinking, that basically means that they’re suggesting or implying that iTunes is the only legit means of purchasing music. Do it any other way, and we’ll assume you’re a thief.

  5. Dan says:

    “Why make it harder:” is a response to your last question “why do they make it easy to import protected songs from the iPod but not allow importing non-protected ones?”

    first) You’re ranting about the obvious-DRM sucks. The Zune marketplace has the same issues, if not more.
    second) your reasoning behind the notion – “[apple] is implying that iTunes is the only legit means of purchasing music” – is narrow. Why? how else would Apple know you’ve purchase the music without their own DRM.

    Anyways, you’re missing the point that Apple is allowing you to transfer media that without question wasn’t “stolen”. This could be Apple’s doing or the record companies requirement-it’s all speculation after the fact.

    Also remember, at one point the RIAA wanted all ripping of CDs to be illegal. So there’s technically music not purchased through iTunes on your iPod was stolen (of course before non-DRM music came along (that Jobs spearheaded :) )).

  6. JB says:

    Paragraph 1:
    I still don’t quite get the “why make it harder” question. No one is asking or expecting them to make importing protected files harder – I’m saying that since they had the import feature coded and working, they went through the effort to make it harder (ie: not permitted) to do it for non-purchased songs.

    Paragraph 2:
    I’m not ranting about DRM sucking (although it does), I’m saying that it sucks even more that Apple is pushing people towards DRM by making it easy to work with DRM’d content and not easy to work with unprotected content.

    Apple has no business in questioning where you got files that are not protected by DRM. It’s fine for them to handle their own DRM formats, since that’s an agreement that the customer made with them when they bought them. Saying that everything else is disallowed goes farther and says that only iTunes purchased music is OK – everything else is suspect and therefore blocked.

    Paragraph 3:
    I’m not missing that point – I got it loud and clear and I think it’s ridiculous. Of course it’s great that you can transfer purchases that they can verify because you bought them from them. That’s fine. The HUGE problem is them saying that since that’s the *only thing they can verify*, that that’s the only thing they will allow. That is overstepping their boundaries. Unprotected files should be treated as completely unrestricted. To do anything else is to accuse or assume the worst of the user.

    I love how you apologize for Apple by suggesting that it’s the record companies that have forced them to do this. I’d love to see a quote or any evidence at all to back that up. The model of lock-in, DRM, proprietary restrictions, etc. are an integral part of all of all of Apple’s major products, so I think the evidence is pretty clear that this is their MO.

    The RIAA thing is silly, as we both know. Ripping CDs for your own use has always been legal. It’s just that now Apple wants to reinforce and lend validity to this particular whacked-out theory of the RIAA, probably because it serves their business interests by driving users towards their DRM.

  7. JB says:

    Anyway, you’re right that there’s no point in debating / theorizing about Apple’s intentions.

    I think you’ve answered my main question, which was whether it’s true that they allow this import technique only for music you’ve purchased from them. Sounds like the answer is yes.

  8. Jason says:

    Here is a How to on backing up iTunes completely on Windows:

  9. JB says:

    Cool, thanks Jason. I did look into some available tools and techniques, but none seemed to suit what I wanted to do.

    Basically, I wanted to create a brand new library, based only on the songs that were on the iPod (a small subset of the library on Martha’s computer), and was hoping just to plug the iPod in and allow that to happen.

    It worked like a charm for the purchased songs, but unfortunately those were only about 20% of them, so I had to copy and import the others manually.

  10. Dan says:

    “not intended to be an Apple-bashing session”

  11. JB says:

    Exactly; I was just asking a simple question of whether Apple intentionally provided this particular feature only for songs purchased from them, or if I had somehow missed something. I got my answer to that question.

    Thanks for helping out with that. Of course, some bashing may have crept in in my speculation about *why* that’s the case, but we’re in agreement that it is in fact true that they only offer the feature for music you buy from them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>