Martin on Mobile Apps

About this Blog: All smartphone and tablet apps, all the time. Veteran mobile tech journalist James A. Martin offers mobile app reviews, news, tips and more on a variety of major mobile platforms, with a focus on iOS and Android.

Martin on Mobile Apps

New Android App Lets You Copy iTunes Radio Music — But is it Legal?

The doubleTwist AirPlay Recorder app lets you use your Android device to make perfect digital copies of songs streaming on iTunes Radio. It works well, but CIO.com blogger James A. Martin isn't sure the process is legal.

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It wasn't exactly simple, but I made a decent-quality digital copy of a song I streamed on iTunes Radio using a Google Nexus 7 tablet and a new Android app. Honestly, I'm not sure it was legal to do so.

I performed this feat using the doubleTwist AirPlay Recorder app. The app is from the developers of doubleTwist Music Player, another app that lets you sync your iTunes music library with your Android device. (I reviewed doubleTwist Player in March 2012 and liked it, though I did find some downsides.)

The goal of doubleTwist AirPlay Recorder is straightforward: "Record iTunes audio and radio to your phone or tablet!" In other words, you can copy a song you like from iTunes Radio to your Android tablet, where you can play it whenever you like it.

DoubleTwist AirPlay Recorder

(Image: DoubleTwist)

I was also able to transfer the iTunes Radio track I captured to my Mac’s iTunes library using the doubleTwist Mac app. From there, I copied it onto my iPhone. The track contains the artist name, song name, album name and album artwork. It’s as if I purchased the track, but I didn’t.

Is this legal? DoubleTwist Co-Founder and President Monique Farantzos told Engadget that "recording has been around for decades, from audio cassettes (remember mix tapes?) to TuneIn radio's recording feature. Given that Apple built their iPod empire on letting millions of people rip CDs based on fair use, we don't see how they could object to this app." But is making a digital copy of a complete song without paying for it fair use? Maybe. But it feels wrong to me.

One thing that could prevent people from using the app for mass copying is the fact that you must record tracks in real time. If a song is five minutes long, the "ripping" takes five minutes.

Also, with iTunes Radio, you can’t control when songs play — unlike, say, Spotify. So ripping specific tunes also takes some effort and patience. DoubleTwist AirPlay Recorder also makes recordings in low quality (32 kbps). If you want better quality recordings, it’s a $5 upgrade (for AAC VBR formatted recordings).

It will be interesting to see how Apple reacts to this app. In the meantime, though doubleTwist AirPlay Recorder does exactly what it promises, I don’t intend to use it again for recording iTunes Radio tracks.


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