Making a ruckus over Ruckus

  • Making a ruckus over Ruckus

Ruckus, a music service that universities and colleges are starting to use to try to keep their students out of hot water with the RIAA. Students of participating institution can sign up with their school provided e-mail address and download music for "free". The ability for it to be free, includes tight licensing for the downloaded music courtesy of Microsoft's WMA DRM.

Ruckus is pretty cool, the quality is acceptable, and you can't really beat "free", but... as soon as you leave the institution providing the service, the licenses that allow you to play the DRM'd WMA files will expire, and you will have lots of unplayable music files. Along with that, DRM'd WMA files can not be converted to be used on iPods or some other portable media players, and if you use OSX or Linux, your also out of luck. If none of these things bother you, you can stop reading here, otherwise keep reading...

Now the solution kind of goes into a gray area, at least with Ruckus, DRM, and the concept of Fair Use. The real thought behind Fair Use is you have already bought the license to the media, now you are trying to unprotect it so that you can use it in other ways, i.e. Putting a copy protected DVD, that you bought, onto your iPod. The gray area you run into is, with Ruckus, you never really paid for the media, at least not directly. So do you really own the same rights to it that you would if you directly paid for it or not? I don't really know... What I do know is how to get rid of the DRM that your music is infested with.

Keep in mind, as with all things, someone has to pay for it. So if you like the artist, support them.

  • -First, you need to obtain FairUse4WMA. You can get it from the zip archive, here.
  • -After you extract the files, I found the easiest way to remove the DRM from the files was to use the FairUse Commander.
  • -When you open the FairUse Commander, you need to set the path to FairUse4WMA.exe, which you should have just extracted.
  • -Select the folder that contains the files with the DRM, and I leave the "Find only protected files" checkbox enabled.
  • -Next, check the "Use output folder" checkbox, and select a place to put the un-DRM'd files.
  • -You can choose whether or not to leave the "[NoDRM]" prefix, but check the "Batch DRM Removal" checkbox.
  • -Click the "Search for Media Files" button, and verify that the music inside the gridview is the DRM'd tracks that you want to un-DRM, then click the green "Remove DRM!" button.
  • -You should have WMA files in the output directory that are DRM free!

If you have problems, you can check out this article. Contrary to what this article says, however, I have been able to remove the DRM from Ruckus tracks without removing Windows Media Player 11 from my system, so YMMV. Good Luck!

Since FairUse4WM is no longer being developed (read cease and desist), in order to free our DRM'd WMA music we must turn to another method.

To everyone who is having problems getting FairUse4WM, I have some unfortunate news. After trying a few things, I can no longer get it to work either. I think SP3 for XP may have updated WMP and that might be causing the problems, but there is no way to know for sure. Since FairUse4WM is no longer being developed, there’s not much we can do but to move on to a different technique. I would suggest using TuneBite. It allows for ripping at a higher speed than 1x with their proprietary high speed driver. This makes ripping the DRM for a CD worth of music doable in about 10 minutes. I don’t really like this solution as it requires you to transcode the songs from one format (WMA) to another (MP3, AAC, etc…), thus resulting in a loss in quality from the original lossy source. Obviously most people can find TuneBite w/o too much problem (*cough* piratebay *cough*), but for people who can’t, Good Luck!

I really wish being able to use media, in which we have been given (or have purchased) a license to use, would be simpler.  If you feel the same way I do, please check out DefectiveByDesign, a group opposed to the DRM imposed on us by big corporations. Protect your freedom!