How to decrypt protected iTunes songs

Recently, subscriber Travis Carden wrote, "Hey Gizmo, I thought I’d turn you on to a free tool called JHymn [1] for decrypting iTunes protected AAC files for use with alternate media players or portable MP3 devices … you should check it out."

Well, I did check it out and it certainly offers a very effective freeware solution. Here’s what the site says: "You buy some new music through iTunes, you run JHymn, hopefully do no more than click one or two buttons and when you quit JHymn and go back to iTunes, all of your DRM-protected music has been seamlessly replaced by unlocked, DRM-free music with the same sound quality as your original purchases, music which is virtually indistinguishable from music that you rip from your own CDs. If you had set up playlists which had included protected songs, the unprotected versions of those songs would now be in those same playlists, in the same play order."

I tried it and it works, though not quite as simply as the above description would have you believe. To start with, it doesn’t work with iTunes V6 so I had to uninstall V6 and install V5 following the instructions on the JHymn site [2]. That accomplished, using JHymn to decrypt protected AAC files proved to be reasonably straight-forward.

Once my test files were decrypted I immediately re-installed iTunes V6 because I like the podcast features only available in V6. If you have a second PC you could leave a copy of V5 running on that machine and save yourself a bit of a hassle.

The decrypted files are standard unprotected AAC files of the same quality as the DRM protected originals. They can be played on your iPod, iTunes or any device that supports AAC format. They can also be ripped to MP3, though there will be a small audio quality loss in the conversion.

There are clearly legal and moral concerns here. I suspect many folks would argue that if they pay for a song, it’s "fair use" that they should be able to listen to it on whatever device they choose. It’s something you as an individual have to think about, though, and there’s plenty of material on the JHymn site to help you make up your mind.

Whatever, I suspect JHymn is the answer to the prayers of many iTunes users.

Free, open source software, Windows and Mac OS X (tested with Windows XP though it may be compatible with earlier versions), 588KB

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