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FAST FORWARD'S HELP FILE Rob Pegoraro

By Rob Pegoraro
Sunday, January 18, 2009

QI appreciate the chance to upgrade my iTunes songs to iTunes Plus, but I'd rather not convert them all -- I bought some by mistake and others are duplicated by compilations I've bought since then.

AAt Macworld Expo two weeks ago, Apple said it would shift the iTunes Store's music catalogue to its higher-quality, "digital rights management"-free iTunes Plus format. With this shift comes the option to upgrade older iTunes downloads to Plus, at 30 cents a song or at 30 percent of an album's price. But you have to upgrade either all of the eligible songs or none of them.

For songs you like, that's a fair price for better sound and freedom from such DRM limits as the need to play songs in Apple's software. But as readers have noted, not every iTunes purchase merits this upgrade.

In my case, I bought some iTunes songs years ago on The Post's dime to compare them with CD copies I own. With that testing done, I haven't played these songs in years.

An Apple spokesman allowed that he had heard this complaint before, but had no news about any changes to the policy, or even an explanation of why it exists.

In upgrading your collection, if you only have a few songs you don't need, you might as well eat the cost, just to get music DRM out of your life. But if, say, drunken shopping sprees have left you with an embarrassing iTunes library, you might want to decline the upgrade for now. Apple might (and should) change its mind; this has happened before with iTunes.

Or you can strip DRM from your purchases at no cost. Burn them to an audio CD, then pop that CD back into the computer and let iTunes rip its contents as MP3 or AAC files (pick a format by clicking the "Import Settings . . ." button in iTunes' Preferences window). You'll lose some sound quality in this conversion, but iTunes will remember all the artist and title information for you, so you won't have to retype that later on.

Rob Pegoraro attempts to untangle computing conundrums and errant electronics each week. Send questions to The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or robp@washpost.com. Turn to Thursday's Business section or visit washingtonpost.com anytime for his Fast Forward column.

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