Apple puts the lid on free-for-all iTunes artwork, again

I hope you album art addicts out there went on a rampage for these few weeks iTunes turned off their album art authentication, because they just flipped the switch back to the "on" position. I guess you can go back to cracking their encryption now!

Oh well. There is always Def.

But now I really need a UK iTunes account so I can go back to the [Drag to iTunes] + [.ITC + BitmapRip] method for the bigger UK copies of the art Def can't get.

Would anyone in the UK care to buy me a 5 gift certificate so I can make a UK iTunes account? :) That is the only way to do it without a UK billing address on your credit card. And yes, it has to be bought from a legitimate UK iTunes account. Trust me, I've poked!

27 Sep 07 | +Permalink+ | Comments (3)

A year later, Apple stops encrypting artwork. Def.

A year ago, Apple began encrypting their iTMS artwork to prevent non-iTunes users from accessing it. It worked pretty darn well. A year later, they suddenly have stopped encrypting artwork. Maybe they caught wind of my secret project? (more below) In addition to removing encryption, they have upped the resolution of their artwork to up to the full 1500x1500 that the press gets access to, in a move I've predicted for some time now. Most albums I have checked are still much lower resolution than that, but that may change in time.

Example: 900x900 / The Go! Team - Proof of Youth (straight off of phobos)

And with that, I'd like to give a little gift to anyone who still checks a blog that hasn't been updated in almost a year.


You may have noticed that my posts stopped when the quest for iTunes artwork came to a halt. Well, my quest for giant artwork never did.

Around the time I stopped posting, I began exploring the world of press assets. For about 10 months I explored every secret corner of the internet, in search of these press assets. Ultra high resolution album artwork. Through the use of some custom tools and, I compiled a large collection of insider/private/public sites that PR firms, labels, and members of the press use to distribute pre-print high def artwork.

Jump to July, I began molding this press collection into a web app to streamline my giant cover grabbing process. Now that it might be on the verge of becoming obsolete, I'd like to show you my creation that I've been keeping from the world. I have a way to access the same print quality high resolution artwork that is given to members of the press.

I call it Def.

Enjoy, but keep it to yourself. Do not post Def to digg/reddit etc, or it will be shut down. By me. Because otherwise, it will be by THEM.

[EDIT: Did I forget to stress how big of a deal it is that iTunes Store got high res artwork? I just got a 3709x3709 cover for Prefuse 73 - Extinguished: Outtakes from the UK iTunes Store, which seems to have much bigger art than the US Store. Warp Records press assets are generally hard to come by, this is huge. ]

17 Sep 07 | +Permalink+ | Comments (5)

Apple encrypts their free artwork

As of the latest iTMS update, Apple is sending encrypted copies of their artwork to iTunes when you select "Get Album Artwork". The only people who probably noticed anything happened were those who used means other than iTunes 7 to get free artwork from Apple. This seems to only apply to albums released after the October 3, 2006 iTMS update.

A path to a cover that used to look like this:

now looks like this:

After downloading the encrypted artwork, it appears that iTunes 7 decodes the image and saves it as usual to an ITC file, unencrypted. What method of encoding is used, I do not yet know.

Here are test files if anyone wants to join me in exploring this further.

A-encr.jpg - An encrypted cover
MD5: A724F4A5FCB1094C3F5C218BAAA83624

B-decr.itc - The cover after iTunes has decoded it and made it into a .ITC
MD5: 7D8F9C20D3D32678F406E7DDF7F76B54

C-decr.jpg - The cover changed to a JPG from the unencrypted ITC using this method
MD5: AAF11FCB75FF930D7367D74EF166ADCA

The encrypted image is 20 bytes larger than the normal image.

[update 2 - 10/6]
Here is another example cover.

ex2-encr.jpg - Encrypted
MD5: 458FCE8A1EBE960C7583EA6A8FD6AF3B

ex2-decr.jpg - Decrypted
MD5: 998AFC20DAF6A50784447A54D42F2C34

[update 3 - 10/17]
A comment reminded me of a finding I forgot to share.

Any two people's encrypted copies of the same cover will be identical. An encrypted copy of cover X will always be Y no matter who downloads it. To test this, have a friend download an encrypted cover and compare it to your copy of the same encrypted cover. The MD5 hashes should be identical.

5 Oct 06 | +Permalink+ | Comments (36)

UNIX: iTunes 7's .ITC album artwork to JPEG/PNG

You can find the album artwork iTunes 7 downloads for your MP3s in a bunch of nested folders within "<your music folder>\iTunes\Album Artwork\" as .ITC files.

Here is a quick UNIX command to convert those album covers from the .ITC format to a usable JPEG or PNG.

tail -c+493 FILE_TO_CONVERT.itc > converted.jpg (or .png depending on the file format)

I wrote a shell script to take care of the dirty work. It takes a .ITC file as an input and outputs an image in its proper format.

You can view/wget the shell script here: (365 bytes)

Maybe you can incorporate the shell script into a script of your own that goes through each ITC and converts it!

[UPDATE: It looks like the guys over at Command-Tab were one step ahead of me! They even built a PHP art grabbing prototype. Check it out.]

14 Sep 06 | +Permalink+ | Comments (13)

The return of free iTMS art

Since you can find it on a thousand other blogs right now, I won't go into all the neat stuff in the new iTunes 7. I will quickly say that gapless playback made me jump up and down. But onto the important stuff. Free album art is back, and not shady this time!

Look familiar?! Okay, probably not to many of you, but that is a packet capture of iTunes 7 downloading some free album art for me. They authenticate it the same way as they do with the art you buy with your songs! The "downloadKey" and everything! Well, this time "downloadKey2". Replacing the 600x600-100 with the lower increments brings up the thumbnailed versions once again.

But something strange is afoot here. This is not the same album art as I would get from buying the track. At least not with an album I have both copies of to compare with.

Mew - And The Glass Handed Kites. (great album)

Copy of the album art that came with the purchased track:
mew-andtheglassBOUGHT.jpg (60.1KB) - 600x600

Copy of the album art that was downloaded for me for free by iTunes:
mew-andtheglassFREE.jpg (330KB) - 600x538

Two different high quality album covers for the same album. Why go through all the trouble? Is this a fluke? Does anyone have any of their own examples of this?

14 Sep 06 | +Permalink+ | Comments (2)

No more free iTMS art?

As of today's iTunes Music Store update, methods of retreiving it's high quality artwork for free use in your own music collection have stopped working.


-The original web-based search by Tristan (UNEASYsilence Mirror)

-A sweet Mac app implentation, Corripio, by nClass Software

First, a short explanation of how the iTunes Music Store works. The iTMS is essentially just a regular website with strange looking code. The code to display an image such as an album cover thumbnail image would normally look like this

Instead of conventional HTML, the iTunes Music Store uses it's own XML markup. iTMS code to display the same image looks something like this:

These album artwork grabbing applications look for this filename (in this case, mzi.qhmxnexd.100x100-99.jpg) in the code and replace the "100x100-99" with "600x600-100" giving the path of the large image. (It can also be replaced with 170x170-99 or 60x60-75 if you're into that sort of thing.)

Well after today's update, instead of large album artwork, we get

"An error occurred while processing your request.
Reference #50.526b9d40.1148422703.20d178"

Or in the case of Corripio, it just doesn't work.

Try it.

# [Follow-up 5/24/2006 2:08 AM CST]

Digg user PathDaemon was the first to point out that iTMS now uses a downloadKey system.

You can now access album art via this type of URI:

In order to obtain this key, you have to buy a song. Free iTMS art might be dead. I will post any new findings here.

# [Follow-up 5/24/2006 11:49 AM CST] I've found out a bit about the download key.


It is comprised of two parts.

1. 1149058082 - Expiration date/time, in Unix time format. Here is a little conversion tool to get a readable date and time.

Paste Unix time:

2. affd6c1af964b548dd17b5d2440f5885 - An MD5 Hash of something. Its going to be quite a while before I can tell you what it makes a hash of, since MD5 hashes can not simply be converted back to their original form; they must be brute forced. Anyone know what it is?

23 May 06 | +Permalink+ | Comments (9)