Review: M4VGear Kills DRM on iTunes Videos
When the first wave of MP3s and music piracy first hit the web, publishers responded by exploring as many digital rights management, or DRM, options as possible. Apple and iTunes helped make digital media purchases the thriving industry it is today, but not without resorting to putting DRM into whatever you bought there, too. While its music offerings have been DRM free since 2009, the same can’t be said for videos available for purchase or rent via iTunes. That’s a problem that M4VGear solves – but not without a few hiccups here and there.
The software is available for Mac (including OS X Yosemite) and Windows PCs, and costs $44.95 for a license. It’s not an insignificant sum, but could certainly be worth the price if you’ve been searching for an easy, functional DRM removal tool. Launching M4VGear will also launch iTunes, so if you’ve already got iTunes running, it’ll ask you to relaunch it.
From there, it’s ridiculously easy to strip the DRM out of whatever video files you’ve downloaded from iTunes. That includes rentals, too, essentially acting as a digital version of those old VHS duping machines that let people keep copies of movies they’d rented from Blockbuster. Doing this might be pretty dubious in terms of living up to your end of iTunes’ User Agreement, so let your conscience be your guide there.
Even without the rental-copying feature, there are plenty of practical, ethical advantages that come with removing DRM. For starters, if you use iTunes on a Windows PC and otherwise stick with Android devices, M4VGear will allow you to watch the videos you buy through iTunes (which may only be available on iTunes, depending on the content) on whatever device you want, as long as it can support the MP4 file format. That means you won’t be stuck watching those videos in iTunes, either. If you prefer VLC or even Windows Media Player, now those are options.
M4VGear works on old videos, too. Years ago, back when I had one of the first iPods that played video – but long before the advent of smartphones – I purchased a Dave Chappelle standup special through iTunes. Once I stopped using the iPod and uninstalled iTunes (which I subsequently redownloaded for this review), the file was essentially lost to me. Now that I’ve converted the file to an MP4, I can watch it on whatever device I want. That’s pretty awesome.
M4VGear works fast too. Additionally, it features lossless conversions, meaning the video quality doesn’t degrade when you use it. And last but not least, the app also keeps 5.1 audio tracks and subtitles after conversion.
What Doesn’t Work Quite So Well
Less awesome, however, were some of the technical difficulties I experienced while trying to test the software. Make no mistake, the results of stripping my files of their DRM are fantastic. But getting to that point was a bit more difficult than I would’ve expected. For starters, M4VGear only works on video files, and only works via iTunes. If you have another kind of file with DRM, you’re out of luck. Moreover, if you try dragging the file into M4VGear from, say, Windows Explorer instead of from iTunes itself, that won’t work either. It’s clear that video files can be of different format: AVI, WMV, MKV or VOB (if we speak about files after DVD rip). Since M4VGear tool deals with video files, you can try to rip DVDs with Freemake freeware to get VOB files. Tests show that Freemake may or may not work, but it’s definitely worth a try. The software developers have a detailed step by step tutorial on this kind of VOB converter.
Then there are some other problems that confounded me as well. It was impossible to log into my iTunes account while M4VGear was open; every time I tried to open Preferences or enter my sign in information, those windows were instantly killed the moment they popped on screen. I was baffled, thinking somehow that my freshly downloaded version of iTunes was busted. Then I closed M4VGear and tried again, meeting instant success.
Then there was the fact that I had to register my license every time I opened M4VGear. Fortunately, there was a FAQ page that addressed this issue, instructing me to install the application as an administrator. I was glad to find a solution for the problem, but I would’ve really preferred it if it just worked from the get go.
Now that I know this tool exists, I suddenly have a reason to peruse iTunes again. The initial $45 cost to buy a license isn’t too much when you think about the money that you can save by not having to buy multiple copies of media so you can play content on different devices. If iTunes has a sale on Game of Thrones, I should be able to buy it there and then have access to that media on any device, right? M4VGear gives me that opportunity.
Despite the aforementioned technical glitches, the fact of the matter is that M4VGear does exactly what it claims, nothing more, nothing less. That alone is enough for me. If you’ve been looking for a good tool to remove DRM from iTunes videos, look no further than M4VGear.