DRM (Digital rights management) has become standard across streaming platforms. It’s there to prevent content from being stolen and distributed, but DRM can be a pain for you, the end user who has paid for a service such as Spotify, Netflix or another service.
DRM puts additional code into media files - videos and music mainly - that implements a variety of restrictions, including how many devices they can be viewed on, to how many times they can be viewed. The precise restrictions depend on the distributor of the content but they are all geared to remove control of the content from the hands of the user, and put it into the hands of the creator or distributor.
DRM can often rear its ugly head when it prevents you from watching content on your phone or tablet, such as giving you a narrow window to watch downloaded content, so despite the video being on your phone, it's not watchable. Another problem is that content comes and goes from streaming services, so you might want to record something to watch later when it would otherwise have disappeared.
What's the law on removing DRM?
The law is complicated and the answer depends upon where you live. But the short answer is that it's illegal to break copyright protection mechanisms in most places. And although not a legal issue, you are also breaking the terms of service of much every streaming service if you break or circumvent DRM.
However, and this is where things become legally grey rather than black and white, you are allowed to time-shift and record broadcast programs and radio shows and listen to or watch the content at your convenience.
This doesn't exactly relate to DRM-protected streams from Netflix, Spotify, Amazon Prime and other services, but many of the apps which record video and audio don't actually break the DRM.
They all claim they're legal to use because they work by capturing what's on your screen along with the audio or, in the case of music services, just the audio. At that point, the content is already decrypted so the DRM is not a factor. You can read more about the legal issues on Audials' website.
Since they're basically recording a stream as it happens - exactly as you record a TV show using a set-top box - this method is more of a workaround and quite a time-consuming one compared to downloading a digital file as fast as your broadband allows.
And don't forget, many streaming services allow you to download videos and music for watching or listening offline - that's one perk of paying for a subscription.
It's when the particular show or film you want to watch isn't available for download that apps such as Audials Tunebite become relevant.
And so long as you continue to subscribe to the service and don't use programs as a way to download everything you want and then stop paying, there's no real problem. Similarly, as long as any recording is for personal use, and you're not distributing it to the internet, the authorities are not going to come knocking.
With all that said, here's how to record streaming video and music so there's no DRM.
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How to remove DRM
We're going to use Audials Tunebite 2019 Platinum. but there are several alternatives, including PlayOn. They're not free, but they are easy to use and allow you to record streams in a huge variety of formats, for just about any device.
Download the software onto your PC or laptop and start it up. Tunebit provides step-by-step instructions on how to get the most out of it, with tailored guides for recording content from Netflix, Spotify, Amazon, YouTube and more.
You can select the output format so it matches the device you’d like to watch/listen to the media on – usually MP4 - and the software will record the stream, output the file and even name it correctly.The snag is that, because it's recording the stream by capturing the audio and video through Windows, it's done in realtime. That means a two-hour film takes two hours to record.
When the file is saved, you can then transfer it to your device and you’re done. It's probably not the solution you were hoping for, but it's as good as the workarounds get.