May 31, 2007 | By Fred von Lohmann

Convert to MP3 BEFORE Upgrading to iTunes 7.2!

Adding to previous revelations about the latest version of Apple's iTunes software, Playlist is reporting that the iTunes 7.2 (necessary for the so-called DRM-free iTunes Plus tracks) has broken the "buy-burn-rip-to-MP3" procedure that iTunes users have long relied on to convert the FairPlay-restricted songs they buy from the iTunes Store into unrestricted MP3s. Apparently, after the iTunes 7.2 "upgrade," MP3s created in this way will no longer play on your iPod!

While cumbersome, the "buy-burn-rip-to-MP3" workaround has been the primary way to start with a 99 cent iTunes download and end up with an unrestricted MP3 that will play on your Squeezebox, your non-iPod portables, or your MP3-enabled DVD player (it's not about "piracy" -- if that was your bag, you'd have started by downloading the song as an MP3 from the myriad P2P options).

So iTunes users who have an existing library of songs purchased from the iTunes Store may want to consider doing their conversions before they "upgrade" to iTunes 7.2. (Sure, you can "upgrade" some of your DRMd songs to the "DRM-free" higher-quality AAC format for 30 cents each, but remember that this is not currently an option for the vast majority of iTunes tracks.)

This is yet another example of the way that "upgrades" are often "downgrades" in our DRMd and EULAd world. I never update iTunes until I read up on all the misfeatures and downgrades that Apple has slipped in. Whether it's breaking the Internet streaming feature, restricting the number of streaming users per day, or reducing the number of burns permitted for songs purchased from the iTunes Store, Apple is among the worst offenders when it comes to messing around with stuff you've already paid for. But iTunes 7.2 is likely to be remembered for the especially wicked tricks it plays on iTunes customers.

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