How to Unprotect Music Files

By Michael Jones

A protected music file is created with Digital Rights Management (DRM) encryption to prevent listeners from copying it. Digital music companies don't want users to download their music with other products, and The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) criminalizes the production and dissemination of technology that allows users to do so. There are services that promise to strip DRM encryptions from protected music files, but these services could be illegal where you live. In July of 2010, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled it's OK to tap into a work simply to "view it or to use it within the purview of 'fair use' permitted under the Copyright Act." So if you want to unprotect a music file (without illegal software) for personal use, it's legal to do so. You'll just need audio editing software.

Things You'll Need

  • Audio editor
  • Music file

Step 1

Launch your audio editing program. The audio editor has to be advanced enough to display your music files on a sound-wave graph and export your files as an MP3s. Audacity is a free editor that can be downloaded and is advanced enough for most audio projects. If you choose to use Audacity, you must have the LAME MP3 Encoder installed. This plugin allows you to export files as MP3s. Both links can be found in the "Resources" section.

Step 2

Click on "File" and "Open" the music file you would like to unprotect. The file will be displayed along a sound-wave graph that plots the fluctuations in volume throughout the song. Once the music file is uploaded, it becomes a raw project file. It is not a music file (MP4, WMA, WAV) anymore. You will have to export it as a digital music file once you're done. Protected files have a proprietary file extension (i.e. Window Media files are .WMA, which stands for Windows Media Audio). The DRM encryption is stored in the file extension. Once you remove the file extension, the DRM protection is gone.

Step 3

Open the "File" menu click the "Export" option.

Step 4

Select a file to export your music as, and type a name for your new file. If you leave the name the same, you will not overwrite the first audio file. They are two different file extensions. Depending on the features of your audio editor, you'll be able to export your files as one of many different files. The most common are MP3, WAV and OGG. You can also "Save" your file as a project file if you want to edit it and export it later.

Step 5

Export your file.