Almost two years ago, Josephine and I got married. Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t have any procedure in place to recognize that fact; and while our physical asses and assets now belong to each other, our digital media in the Apple Ecosystem are still only entitled to us as individuals. We’ve managed by authorizing her computer to my iTunes account, and mine to hers; but we still have two iTunes Match accounts, and both make our own purchases using our own apple ids from the iTunes Store. This has introduced a repetitive and hard-to-maintain task of giving each other copies of our digital purchases on thumb drives: a not-so-effective continuous integration process.
I’ve decided I had enough, though, and have married our iTunes Libraries. For those digital loners, married IRL, this guide is for you…
What You Have to Start With
You have two computers: ComputerA and ComputerB. On ComputerA, you have your personal iTunes Library, with all your music, movies, and TV shows. You’re logged into your own apple id: appleidA@me.com, and have use iTunes Match to sync to your own iMobileDevices. On ComputerB, your spouse has their personal iTunes Library, with their music, movies, and TV shows. ComputerB is logged into a separate apple id: appleidB@me.com, with its own iTunes Match account for a different set of iMobileDevices.
What You Want to End With
Ultimately you want a single apple id: myHarmoniousDigitalFamily@me.com, with one iTunes Match account, that you and your partner will use to make iTunes purchases, ’til death do you part. You want to retain your individual apple ids for buying presents from the Apple Store without your spouse knowing about it (regardless of wether its for you or your spouse ;)), and you want to be able to play all your media from either library on all your devices, without having to (a) tell your partner your password for the seventeen-thousand-and-fifty-third time or (b) asking your partner for their password again.
Create a shared apple id for your family:
You’ll need a shared email address to register your shared applied… so head on over to your favorite email provider (google, yahoo, your ISP, whatever), and create a new account. Once you have the email address, you can go to:
and create a new Apple ID for your family to use.
Remove DRM From Your Existing Purchased Content?
Before you do anything in this section, be sure to backup your DRM purchases first. You can identify them pretty easily in iTunes, and then drag-and-drop them into a backup drive for safe keeping. In iTunes, look at your media in “list” view, and be sure to check “Kind” from the Column Browser option under the View menu. You can sort your music by kind, and look for “Protected AAC” – those are DRM protected iTunes songs – or “Protected MPEG-4 Video File” – which are DRM protected iTunes movies / tv shows.
First, the music… this is the simple part, especially if you already have iTunes Match. A few years ago (2009 I think?) Apple started selling all its music in the DRM-Free iTunes Plus format. Anything you’ve bought since then is ready to go. Music you bought before this is in their “Protected AAC Format” and locked to your Apple ID. You have two options for these songs:
- Burn them to CD and re-rip them (Noteburner, which I mention below, can do this for you on a virtual CD device); or
- Use iTunes Match to upgrade your content
If you already have iTunes Match, then you just need to delete your Protected AAC music off your computer, and then re-download it from iTunes Match. The new download will be the DRM-Free, and higher bit-rate, iTunes Plus format.
See Apple’s iTunes Plus FAQ for information: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1711
Form movies and TV shows, tis could be by far, the most time consuming and questionable part of this process. You could use Noteburner (http://www.noteburner.com) to remove DRM from your iTunes music, movie and TV show purchases. This should fall within the category of fair use, since it’s for your own personal use and archival (and because NoteBurner doesn’t “crack” the DRM, it just records the movie to a virtual device and then rips it back at full resolution).
This step is not strictly necessary, but it would make things simpler. If you do not do this, you will still need to authorize each others computers to your individual iTunes accounts anytime either of you change your Apple ID password, get a new computer, etc etc. Since you’ll make all your purchases in the future on the shared Apple ID, it won’t be an issue for new things.
If you do this, be sure to backup your original iTunes purchase download for safe keeping, and then replace it with the DRM free copy in your iTunes library, before moving forward. You’ll want to do this for all purchases on both ComputerA and ComputerB.
To be clear – I am not making any claim or recommendation about wether you should or should not do this. I’m simply stating it as an option, and you can weigh out the legal consequences for yourself.
Create the Shared iTunes Match Account
1) On ComputerA, sign your individual Apple ID out of the iTunes Store; then sign into the iTunes Store using the family apple id. Register for iTunes Match using the new family apple id.
Wait for iTunes Match to update before moving on.
2) On ComputerB, sign your spouse’s individual Apple ID out of the iTunes Store; then sign into the iTunes Store using the family apple id. Turn On iTunes Match
Wait for iTunes Match to update before moving on.
Enable Home Sharing
The final step for many will be to enable Home Sharing using the new family apple id. This way TV Shows and Movies from either computer will be visible to the other. Since you would have removed DRM from your TV Shows and Movies, there’s no need for either spouse to know the other’s Apple ID or password to watch their shows.
Don’t forget your Apple TV… you’ll need to sign it out of the iTunes Store as well, and then back in using the family id. You should also enable Home Sharing using the new family id there too.
The Only Downside
The only negative point here is that you’re paying for a third iTunes Match account up front… moving forward, this will be the only one you have to renew. If you recently renewed your personal iTunes Match subscription, you might find this annoying… I see it as an investment in convenience.
A Third Computer, you say?
In my house, it was one layer more complicated – because ComputerA and ComputerB are both laptops, and ComputerA travels a lot for work, so it’s often not in the house. The resolution here was to introduce a third computer, ComputerC.
Mac Mini makes a great ComputerC if you’re buying something new. I repurposed an old MacBook Pro I had in the closet, and hooked it up to a Drobo 5D for safe keeping of the media library. This computer has iTunes running all the time, with the combined libraries of both ComputerA and ComputerB, and is logged into Home Sharing, the iTunes Store, and iTunes Match using the shared family apple id.
iTunes on ComputerC is configured to automatically download purchases from the cloud, so it’s always up to date with new purchases made with the apple id.