Removing DRM from iTunes Video

Recorded on April 20th, 2014

The great irony of being a paying customer of the TV and movie industry is that you end up with a worse product. Put in a DVD or Blu-Ray, and what happens? Ads and previews come up, which are either “unskippable” or difficult to skip. Then the FBI/Interpol warning. You know who doesn’t have to put up with that crap? People who don’t pay for movies or TV shows, but who download them from the Internet for free.

That’s a pretty lousy way to treat your customers, but the switch from DVD to Blu-Ray has shown that “Hollywood” wants more control, and they will use that control to put more crap between you and your ability to watch content that you’ve paid for.

One of the few decent alternatives is to buy movies from iTunes. They don’t come with the unskippable menus and other crap (I assume that Hollywood wanted them and Apple refused, but I don’t know that for a fact). However, there are still some frustrating restrictions.

Want to take a screenshot of a scene in a movie? Sorry, you can’t. Why? Um… Because. Obviously. Rules. Assuming a movie is shot at 24 frames per second, a two-hour movie would have about 172,800 frames. Are they afraid we’re going to turn movies into giant animated GIFs?

(Note: No such restriction if you don’t pay for your video content, but download it for free from one of the less scrupulous corners of the Internet.)

More than just screenshots, I often want to remove DRM from iTunes video for reasons that have nothing to do with piracy. Some of those reasons might include wanting to watch the video I’ve paid for on:

  • an Android phone or tablet

  • a Roku or Amazon Fire TV or other non-Apple TV device.

  • a Mac mini connected to a monitor that doesn’t support HDCP.

It was the last one that really annoyed me: I bought video from Apple’s store and played it back on a Mac, but because the monitor didn’t meet some requirement I didn’t even know existed, I couldn’t watch the video that I had purchased.

Another interesting aside: when I tried to play 1080p video on my MacBook Air, I was told it couldn’t play it back. In fact, the computer refused to even try. But after I removed the DRM, I could play the same video via VLC just fine. Curious, isn’t it?

Three ways to watch iTunes video you’ve paid for with as much flexibility as you’d get if you had downloaded it for free.

  1. Requiem - this was a Windows and Mac tool which would quickly and remove DRM from iTunes video. Unfortunately, it only works with iTunes 10 (not 11) and does not work at all with some computer hardware. However, if you have an older Mac that will only run Lion and iTunes 10, you might want to give Requiem a try first. It is the fastest of the three options, and the only free one.

  2. NoteBurner M4V Converter Plus is not free (US$50) but works very well at removing DRM from iTunes video. However, it does not support subtitles or closed captioning from iTunes video.

  3. On the other hand, m4vgear does support subtitles. It costs US$50 also, but a 30%-off coupon can usually be found by searching for m4vgear 30% coupon. Note that you may have to follow the link from the coupon site in order for the coupon to be honored. $35 isn’t a bad deal, especially if you have a lot of money invested in iTunes media.

Note that sometimes VLC will not play the subtitles from a file from m4vgear. In that case you will have to watch the movie via QuickTime (or, presumably, iTunes) to get the subtitles to play.

Both the NoteBurner and m4vgear websites look fairly… well… let’s just say generic, and it would be understandable if someone wondered if these apps were scams. I purchased the NoteBurner software and found it to be quite excellent, but when I realized that it did not preserve subtitles, I emailed support, and they: a) suggested I try m4vgear and b) gave me a full refund, even though it had been quite a long time after I purchased the app. That’s fairly excellent customer service.

If there are any TV/Movie executives reading this and have become angry that I am telling someone how to “defeat” DRM, please remember: I am a paying customer.

I will gladly show you my iTunes receipts showing that I have bought and paid for my movies and TV shows. I’ll gladly share pictures showing the VHS, DVD, and Blu-Ray discs that I have purchased.

I go to the movies, I buy movies, I watch TV shows, I buy TV shows on DVD/Blu-Ray.

I’m the kind of customer you want. Being able to watch iTunes video on my Roku or on my Android tablet makes me more likely to keep buying them.

In fact, I’m even willing to pay for software to help me do this.

At the end of the day, I’ve paid you so I can watch these movies/shows. Does it really matter to you if I’m watching them on my Roku or my Apple TV?