Almost any Mac application that has audio output can have that audio “hijacked” by Audio Hijack Pro (new 2.0 version available now) and recorded direct to your Mac. Is it legal? What about AAC protected files in your iTunes collection? Is there a difference in sound quality?
Why did the developers, Rogue Amoeba, stick “hijack” in the name? Doesn’t that sound illegal to you?
Webster’s has this to say about “hijack”:
1) a : to steal by stopping a vehicle on the highway b : to commandeer (a flying airplane) especially by coercing the pilot at gunpoint c : to stop and steal from (a vehicle in transit) d : KIDNAP
2)a : to steal or rob as if by hijacking b : to subject to extortion or swindling
Some words jumped out at me. “Steal” and “rob” hit me first. Then, quickly followed up by “extortion or swindling.”
Is it legal to use Audio Hijack to record the output of music from iTunes, your protected AAC songs? That process, that Hijack, effectively removes the “protection” that Apple places on iTunes songs downloaded from the iTunes Music Store.
Legalities aside for the moment, is Audio Hijack an application you’d want to run on your Mac?
Rogue Amoeba pushes Audio Hijack as an audio enhancing utility that will record audio and provide some sound processing. It does that. It can tweak and change QuickTime movies, music CDs, sound effects, DVD soundtracks, AND, importantly (and mildly implied), it will record iTunes music back to your hard drive WITHOUT Apple’s restrictions embedded in the AAC file.
Using Audio Hijack Pro could not be much easier. The new 2.0 version is loaded with features, but Rogue Amoeba (the name “Rogue” offers up clues of its own as to the legal angle they take with Audio Hijack) has overhauled the user interface, and it’s even more intuitive and easy to use than the previous version.
Still, to make it work, you have to open Audio Hijack first, then select the application whose audio you will want to enhance (uh, “hijack”—ne, steal). iTunes, DVD Player, etc. If iTunes is running already, Audio Hijack will close it down and open it again.
That’s an odd procedure but there’s no way around it yet without having to hack into Mac OS X itself and Apple discourages that. Just remember: Audio Hijack first, select the application that has sound you want to record, Audio Hijack handles the rest.
The most popular use for Audio Hijack probably is “hijacking” music from iTunes. If you download music from the iTunes Music Store the songs get recorded in 128kbps AAC format with Apple’s “Fairplay” digital rights management system coded right in. That’s what prevents you from just moving the songs to anyone’s computer.
You’re limited to 5 PCs or Macs at a time. Once you hit the magic number of 5, you’ll have to deauthorize one computer before you can move the music/songs to another. For most users, that’s fine. For some, mobility is key.
For others, OWNING the music is most important, and as longs as it’s Apple’s AAC format on songs from the iTunes Music Store, you’re tethered to Apple forever.
Until you use Audio Hijack on your iTunes collection (only those songs from the iTunes Music Store).
Open Audio Hijack, click on iTunes. Click record. Play an iTunes Music Store song from iTunes. The music that’s played is “hijacked” and recorded to your hard drive. Audio Hijack Pro will record in AIFF (CD), AAC (iTunes Music Store), and the new 2.0 version will also record using Apple’s new “lossless” format.
There’s a “bin” for storing, organizing, and previewing your hijacked recordings. There are so many features in the new version that I’ll have to list them later in this review. Back to the most important question; is it legal?
Is it legal to record (without copying the protection) “protected” songs downloaded from the iTunes Music Store?
The fact that Rogue Amoeba doesn’t flaunt that feature too loudly indicates that it might be a gray area, legally speaking. The word “Hijack” carries sufficient illegal connotations that I’m surprised it hasn’t come up as an issue.
Apple probably just wants everyone to use iTunes and the iTunes Music Store and isn’t too worried about the other sidebar issues presented with use of Audio Hijack.
For example, while iTunes will only let you burn a limited number of CDs from a Playlist that contains the same copy of an iTunes Music Store AAC song, simply changing the Playlist starts the counter all over again.
In effect iTunes lets you burn as many copies of a “protected” AAC from the iTunes Music Store as you want.
Audio Hijack simply “records” that song through its hijacking process. The result is an AAC or lossless song that can be burned to a CD as many times as you want.
Is it legal?
An attorney who handles software and copyright litigation and rights managements says it probably falls within the category of what’s known as “fair use.” You bought it, you get to use, you can make “backup copies” of it, you CANNOT make duplicates and give them to your friends.
Except you can. If you want to. The choice it seems, is yours. Applications such as Audio Hijack Pro make it easy. Then again, iTunes makes it easy, too.
What about audio quality?
Audio quality is usually a subjective issue. Some can tell the difference between MP3s and other formats encoded at a bit rate of about 128k. Others cannot. With good headphones or good quality speakers, AAC audio (your songs from the iTunes Music Store) is usually considered better quality than MP3s, or Windows WMA format, or Sony’s new ATRAC3 Walkman.
So, subjectivity comes into play when listening to music hijacked by Audio Hijack Pro. For me, it’s impossible to tell. It’s a bit for bit copy. That means this little $32 application can “steal” the music from iTunes, protected or not, and make recordings and copies on a CD with ease.
More than likely, you won’t have a legal issue to content with unless you start making those copies available to peer-to-peer networks. That’s another story. In the way of features and overall capability, Audio Hijack has legs.
This application will run for you.
How about Audio Hijack features? Legalities aside, Rogue Amoeba did an excellent job on the new 2.0 version user interface. It’s intuitive, clean, un-cluttered, and takes only a few minutes to begin “hijacking” music.
• Apple Lossless and AAC recording
• Organization Bin Storage
• Built-in CD Burning (for fast stealing)
• Recurring and One Shot timers (nice)
• Automatic timer wakes your Mac, begins recording
• Integrated ID3 tagging
• New effects processing
It’s unlikely that users will be overwhelmed by the special effects available in Audio Hijack Pro. The application takes few system resources and takes advantage of Mac OS X’s Core Audio, so latency is reduced.
What are the flaws? Few. I found a minor problem closing a recording after it’s “paused” for silence, a nit picked up on a few messageboards. Having to restart an application is cumbersome but necessary. It’ll take you a day to get through all the new features.
Overall, 4 stars out of 5.
One more thing. Audio Hijack Pro doesn’t work in Mac Classic, so get on to using Mac OS X already.