Convert iTunes Videos to MPEG
I purchased videos on iTunes, but I can't play them on my video player, because they are in some 'protected' M4V format that only works on iPods. How can I convert iTunes videos to MPEG or WMV format so I can play them on MY portable video device?
iTunes and iPod: A Protection Racket?
Many people are frustrated when they purchase videos on iTunes, and then find out they can't take those videos with them on their portable video player, PDA or cell phone. Apple, provider of the popular iTunes service, has limited the software so it will copy purchased videos (M4Vs) only to video iPods -- also an Apple product. Some say this protects the digital rights of the copyright owners, but nobody disputes the fact that it helps Apple to keep a stranglehold on the portable player market.
Those with other brands of portable video players (PVP) are understandably peeved. The popular Archos and Creative Zen players are comparably priced, have much larger screens, and will play almost any video format, including the standard MPEG, AVI, DivX, and Windows-only WMV files. But iTunes will not copy a protected M4V video to any of these non-iPod devices.
Why Convert iTunes Videos?
The entertainment industry views the ability to make digital copies of copyrighted materials as a threat to its profitability, so DRM (Digital Rights Management) was created to control the duplication and dissemination of their content. Movie studios and video producers have an army of lawyers and they are aggresively pursuing copyright infringers. But don't assume that anyone wanting to convert an iTunes M4V video to some other DRM-free format has criminal intent. Here are some valid reasons for wanting to free your videos from iTunes:
- To play videos on operating systems where iTunes does not exist, such as Linux.
- To use a non-Apple portable video player to play your videos.
- To watch your videos in the car, or the big screen in your living room
- To loan the video to a friend, just like you'd do with a book, record or CD
Convert M4V to MPEG, WMV, AVI
Fortunately, there ARE some clever ways to convert the protected iTunes M4V video files into other popular formats that don't tie you down to Apple hardware or software. That's the good news... it's CAN be done. But after scouring the Web for days, I couldn't find a FREE way to convert M4V to MPEG, WMV or AVI format.
My first thought was to burn the video to a CD, thereby removing the DRM copy protection, and then re-import the video into iTunes in a standard MPEG format. This trick works with audio tracks that are purchased in the iTunes Store, but when I tried it on a couple of videos I purchased, iTunes told me the video "cannot be burned because burning is disabled for this track." Scratch that option from the list...
Another idea is to use a video iPod and the optional iPod AV Cable kit. The cable kit (US$99) connects the headphone port of the iPod (or the line-out port on the iPod Dock) to the input jacks on the TV monitor. After copying the video from iTunes to your iPod, you can play the video through your TV screen. And if your television is connected to a TiVo or similar recording device, you can capture the video output on that device. See http://www.zatznotfunny.com/ttg.htm for some excellent tips on converting TiVo to MPEG and other formats. You might also check out Slingbox -- a device that will "sling" whatever is on your TV (or TiVo) to any Internet-connected computer. If your TV is connected to a DVD recorder, you can create a copy of the video on DVD, then rip it from the DVD. There are many options for ripping DVD to MPEG, AVI and other formats. See VideoHelp.com for some handy tutorials.
And finally, a software solution. The TuneBite Platinum software lets you convert copy-protected M4V video clips to unprotected WMV or MPEG4 files you can use anywhere. TuneBite "watches" as you play the video on your screen and captures the video stream, which can then be saved in the format you choose. According to the TuneBite website, TuneBite does not circumvent DRM copy-protection technology, so it is completely legal. TuneBite Platinum costs US$29.90 but you can download a trial version that will convert the first 30 seconds of the video for free.
iTunes, TuneBite and Copyright Law
Common sense, however, still applies. This note on the "Legal Information about Copyright Law and Using Tunebite" page makes it clear:
So before converting iTunes videos to MPEG or other unprotected formats, check your conscience and motivation. If you are making copies of video files for your own personal use, because of the restrictions imposed by iTunes, go for it. Otherwise, it might be smarter (and possibly cheaper) to just buy the video on disk.
Got comments on converting iTunes to MPEG? Post them below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 2 Oct 2006
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Convert iTunes Videos to MPEG (Posted: 2 Oct 2006)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved