Some restrictions apply to Apple Music song matches

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Q. When I use Apple Music to make my music available on other devices, I receive “.m4p” files that don’t work outside of Apple software. What happened?

A. This filename extension – denoting a “protected” music file locked with Apple’s FairPlay software – went out of fashion eight years ago when Apple stopped selling music with “rights management restrictions.” digital “. But it is making a comeback in Apple Music.

You may encounter this problem if you use the somewhat complicated service option to add music from your computer to your Apple Music library. This places copies of those songs on Apple’s iCloud service, from where you can upload them to Apple’s music apps.

Universal access to your music is a good thing. But Apple’s tech support document doesn’t say that those matching songs land on your Mac, PC, iPhone, iPad, and (in a few months) Android device with FairPlay DRM attached.

And there is no warning during the pairing process; your only opinion is the changed filename extension, which you cannot see in iTunes unless you display the song’s file information window.

Most of FairPlay’s restrictions weren’t very onerous beyond its limit of five computers allowed at a time, but this system locked you into Apple’s software. There’s a reason no one misses Apple’s DRM.

In Apple Music, however, FairPlay brings an additional level of pain: if you cancel your Apple Music subscription – $ 9.99 / month individually, $ 14.99 / month for a family subscription – you can no longer play those songs. It makes sense for songs in Apple Music’s main library of over 30 million songs, but it’s less than just your own paid music.

Before you pick up a torch and fork, remember that this backdoor DRM does not alter your original files. As long as you don’t delete them or at least keep a backup of them, you’re safe.

But a lot of people are terrible at backing up their data. And getting stuck with a locked, incompatible, and required version for perpetual rental of a song you own is not a good thing.

You don’t experience this problem with Apple’s iTunes Match, a service that was earlier than $ 24.99 / year. But here, too, Apple doesn’t explain it – its Apple Music membership case only says that “Apple Music and iTunes Match are independent but complementary.”

Worse yet, some iTunes Match users see downloads of corresponding songs coming with Apple Music DRM. Longtime Mac reporter Kirk McElhearn, an iTunes Match subscriber, documented this in a post on his own blog.

I’m also an iTunes Match subscriber, but couldn’t reproduce this issue when I used iTunes to match an MP3 I bought from Amazon on Friday. The version downloaded by a second copy of iTunes on Mac was a DRM-free AAC file, which is exactly what iTunes Match should provide. One possible factor: I didn’t upgrade the first Mac to iTunes 12.2 because I’m wary of the new version after reading several reports of music library jamming.

This particular malfunction identified by McElhearn is almost certainly a bug, although Apple PR did not respond to an email asking this Friday morning. But Apple’s inability to document a serious restriction on Apple Music song-matching marks the history of the company communicating poorly or not at all with its customers – a deliberate opacity that Apple does not consider. apparently not as a bug, but as a feature.

Tip: Turn off the automatic renewal of an Apple Music trial account

Apple has been blunt enough to encourage anyone who uses iTunes or the iOS Music app to sign up for its three-month trial of Apple Music’s paid subscription service ($ 9.99 / month individually, $ 14.99 $ for a family plan). This trial automatically converts to a paid subscription, but you can unsubscribe in advance with a few clicks in the iOS app.

When you’re signed in, tap the account icon in the top left corner, then tap “View Apple ID.” Hit the “Manage” button under the “Subscriptions” heading, and then you should see an entry for your Apple Music subscription. Tap it, and then tap the slider to the right of “Auto-renew”. (My thanks to MacRumors for pointing this out on Wednesday.)

The odd thing is that the OS X version of iTunes doesn’t offer this control. It lets you turn off iTunes Match’s auto-renew feature from its account information screen, which in itself may be worth the effort. The iOS app, for its part, also lets you turn off automatic renewal of iTunes Match, but in this app it is listed in the main account settings view instead of the subscription management list.

Rob Pegoraro is a technical writer based in Washington, DC To submit a technical question, email Rob at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/robpegoraro.


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