iTunes Music Store videos: no-go for third-parties?

by Chris Adamson

One neat thing about QuickTime is that it allows you to treat songs from the iTunes Music Store pretty much like any other QuickTime content. In particular, this means you can play the DRM'ed audio files, and discover their metadata. I covered this from a Java POV in the book QuickTime for Java: A Developer's Notebook, and from an Objective-C POV in the article What's New For Developers in QuickTime 7.

This makes QuickTime very useful in general-purpose media applications, as it apparently the only way to work with these DRM'ed files outside of Apple's applications.

So, obviously, with the iTunes Music Store now selling videos, you have to wonder if that works the same way.

I'll cut to the chase: it doesn't.

I bought the Pixar short Boundin' for the sake of experimentation. Also, my three-year-old loves it. QuickTime Player can play this file, and checking the movie properties reveals video in the "AVC0" format (?!) at a rather low resolution of 320x176 with millions of colors, and audio in "AAC (protected)" format, stereo 44.100 kHz. The low video resolution suits the iPod and the little player window that is iTunes default, but it's not particularly pleasant to look at in full-screen.

If you're a Java programmer and you use the book's BasicQTPlayer example from chapter two, opening the file Boundin'.m4v kicks up the error:


at quicktime.std.StdQTException.checkError(

at quicktime.std.movies.Movie.fromFile(

at quicktime.std.movies.Movie.fromFile(

at com.oreilly.qtjnotebook.ch02.BasicQTPlayer.main(

While using the Obj-C "QTMiniDemo" from the article offers a less-descriptive error with the same error code:

Creating qtmovie


2005-10-12 16:19:59.882 QT7MiniDemo[443] ERR: NSError "an unknown error occurred" Domain=NSOSStatusErrorDomain Code=-2126 UserInfo={NSLocalizedDescription = "an unknown error occurred"; }
an unknown error occurred

Perhaps Apple will give us a call we can make that will allow us to open the movie and get a visual component but not save it or do other things that would piss off Hollywood. Let's watch for release notes of the next SDK, and/or the valuable (if dated) Letters From the Ice Floe (starring KickTam, the forgotten QuickTime mascot).

Planning on writing an app to work with iTunes Music Store movies?


2005-10-13 04:20:41
Worked for me
I purchased and downloaded last week's episode of "Lost" and watched it in Quicktime with not problems at all. And even though the native resolution of 320x240 didn't really look bad at all at fullscreen on a 15" Powerbook.
2005-10-13 06:20:50
Re: Worked for me
Right, I said "QuickTime Player can play this file, and checking the movie properties..." What I'm wondering is if there is an API call that QuickTime Player knows about and the rest of us third-party QuickTime developers don't.