Beating Digital Rights Management

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Apple Digital Rights Management , aka DRM, how I loathe you. This afternoon I have been prepping for my lessons next week. Its the first true week of instruction (last week was the unavoidable classroom procedures, discipline, and lab safety discussions) and we’re discussing the Scientific Method.

As part of my yearly activities in this area I love to bring in Adam and Jamie from the MythBusters in a virtual sense. Their show is completely based around the scientific method and helps to reinforce concepts discussed in class. Last year Lisa’s husband graciously provided us video files of the MythBusters Diet Coke and Mentos episode with the help of their TiVo. This time around I started looking on YouTube and Unitedstreaming to see what new myths Jamie and Adam had busted to liven up another year’s discussions about questions and hypotheses.

I found quite a few interesting clips on YouTube and nothing on Unitedstreaming (okay there was one thing, but it stunk). I thought this was quite ironic. Unitedstreaming is a Discovery Channel product, as is the MythBusters series, yet no episodes or short clips could be downloaded (just another reason why Unitedstreaming impresses me less and less each year and I question its value). I started to rip all of the YouTube clips I could find, but then I thought I should check out the iTunes store. I figured the video would be better quality and purchasing the episode would be much more legal than downloading episodes that I’m sure were illegally posted to YouTube. In the iTunes Store I found the exact episode of the MythBusters I needed for the low price of $1.99. The only problem is that I don’t really want to show the entire episode.

If you’ve seen the MythBusters then you know that during one show they bust multiple myths, but not one myth at a time. Instead, the show kind of bounces back and forth between two to three different myths. What I wanted to do was take my purchased episode into iMovie and edit down to just one myth to show in class. Well, thanks to digital rights management you can’t do that. Apparently my $1.99 didn’t really purchase the episode. I only purchased the ability to play it on my computer in iTunes. Once it leaves iTunes its a defunct file.

I understand the logic behind digital rights management. If I created a product I wouldn’t want people to be able to copy it and resell it to others. As I society I think we should have laws and technology that prevent this from happening. However, this is not what I am trying to do. All I am requesting is the ability to adjust the product so that it suits my needs. Imagine purchasing a pair of pants that fit perfectly around the waist, but are a little too long. Digital rights management is the equivalent of Armani informing you that you don’t permission to hem the pants you just purchased to the correct length. “$#@% that!” is the thought that passed through my mind as I read the iTunes store legalese and understood what they meant by “digital rights management.” Time for the age-old teacher practice of circumventing the system for the benefit of my students…. Good Lord, I don’t have time to show an entire episode!

Surely, I am not the first person who has ran into this problem, so I did a little Googling for DRM-removal software. I found a few products, but most were suited for removing DRM from audio files, not video files. I also found a bunch of chat rooms and listservs where frustrated users gave up and were swearing to never purchase an iTunes Store product again (hmm…maybe Apple should rethink their version of DRM for a second). A little more searching lead me to Tunebite, but this software is Windows-only and something about their site gave me a shady feeling about paying $39 for a program I wasn’t 100% sure would work. I did figure out that Tunebite gets around DRM by having iTunes play the video and then recording it as it plays. That’s when I had an epiphany. I have a piece of software that would already do that – iShowU! This fantastic $20 screencasting tool captures video of whatever you’re doing on your computer. The exact capture window can be adjusted to a customized size and you have the choice of using the external microphone (such as when you need to narrate a computer tutorial) or system audio (like from a movie…or TV show on iTunes).

It took a little finagling, but I got it to work perfectly. At the moment, my iShowU movie is recording. As soon as its done, I plan on pulling it back into iMovie to make it just the right size and in a logical sequence for my students to understand the correlation between the show’s content and what we’re discussing in class. Thanks to iShow you my “pants” are finally the correct length and since I never altered the file I purchased from iTunes I didn’t break the law or violate the user agreement.

Circumvention complete…

Joe

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