Living Without DRM

We recognize that copy protection and digital rights management schemes that restrict your right to use media files are controversial. If you're philosophically opposed to the idea of restricted usage rights, you have plenty of options to download music in DRM-free formats. These days, every major music store, including the 800-pound gorilla of the industry, the iTunes Music Store, sell their wares in unrestricted MP3 or AAC files . DRM in the music industry lives on in subscription services like the Zune Marketplace, where you can download music files whose playback rights have to be renewed each month

In the United States, over-the-air television broadcasts are all digital and unencumbered by DRM. They offer a rich source of programming, including huge amounts of HDTV. Finding movies to watch on a PC is a much more difficult task if you're determined to avoid DRM. DVDs use a weak form of copy protection, while Blu-ray discs use exceptionally strong encryption. We're not aware of any mainstream movie services that allow unrestricted downloads, although you have many options for streaming TV shows and movies over the internet to your Windows PC . If you want to completely avoid acquiring licensed media, choose Options from the Organize menu. On the Privacy tab in the Options dialog box, clear Download Usage Rights Automatically When I Play Or Sync A File.

We don't recommend the extreme option of downloading bootleg tools and utilities to decrypt digitally protected files . Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, distributing and using those tools to circumvent access protection on copyrighted material is a criminal offense. As a result, most such tools are hard to find and can lead to some very dark corners of the internet, where you might download more than you bargained for.

When you download a song, movie clip, or other protected media file from an online store, the content provider might encrypt the file with a wrapper that defines your media usage rights . Windows Media DRM agreements can be for an indefinite period of time or can be set to expire after some period of time. In some cases, the media usage rights agreement will allow you to play the media item only on the computer on which the item was originally downloaded. In other cases, the agreement allows you to copy or move the item to other computers and personal music players (but not necessarily to CDs or DVDs) For some protected files, you can read the terms of an item's license by examining the item's Properties dialog box. Find the file in the player's media library, right-click it, choose Properties, and click the Media Usage Rights tab . You'll see a list like the one shown here.


Q| View the media usage rights for this file.

Media usage rights: This file can he played until 7/14/2009 Collaborative play for this file is not allowed This file cannot be burned

This file can be synchronized 3 more times until 7/14/2009

(Requires a device that can play subscription files)

The media usage rights for this file cannot be backed up

If you have bought licenses that allow you to play the items for an indefinite period of time on a single computer, how do you move the media item to another computer? Using Windows Media Player 10 and earlier, you could back up licenses on one machine and restore them on another (giving up your privileges on the original computer, of course). In Windows Media Player 11 and later, this feature no longer exists . To move protected files from one computer to another, you must use whatever procedure the original content provider specifies . (For music files that include burn rights, this can be as simple as burning the tracks to a CD, then ripping the newly created CD in an unprotected format such as MP3 .) In extreme cases, you might be unable to play back the original file.


Sharing and Syncing Digital Media

Sharing Digital Media over a Network 442 Burning Music and Other Media to CDs and DVDs ... 456

Synchronizing Digital Media with Portable Devices ... 450 Creating and Sharing Picture and Video DVDs 459

When you think of Windows Media Player, you probably think of it as a program that allows you to enjoy your own music or video collection on a single PC . But that's only one of the roles this multifaceted program can play in our connected world. On a home network (especially one joined to a Windows 7 homegroup), Windows Media Player allows you to fetch media from one location and play it locally or sling it to another PC or networked device. It also offers some basic features that allow you to transfer all or part of your media collection to another disc or device so that you can take it on the road or to the office.

In Windows 7, you can access music and videos from a library on another PC, with or without the help of a homegroup; you can even access your personal music library over the internet. You can use a variety of techniques to stream content stored on other PCs and network-connected digital media devices . In addition, with a new feature called Play To, you can "push" content from one PC or device to another. In this chapter, we explain how each of these network options works and walk you through the steps you'll need to complete to begin using them

Synchronizing with portable devices has been a signature feature of Windows Media Player for as long as we've been writing about it. If your portable device has an Apple or Zune logo on it, these features won't work for you. But you might want to use them with your Windows Mobile phone, or even with a generic flash drive to transfer your favorite tunes between two PCs without requiring a network connection .

And finally, we explain a classic form of sharing: how to use Windows 7 to burn CDs and DVDs filled with music, videos, and slide shows . For some DVD-related tasks, you might need to use a separate software tool, Windows DVD Maker, which is included with Windows 7 .

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