Is there a way of keeping internet audio streams for posterity? An American record company took the ultimate step this week to prevent its music being copied, or posted online to download: it supplied one music journalist with an album overlaid with a voice which announced every few minutes: "WARNING: All songs on this promo CD are voice-over-protected to avoid any piracy and illegal file uploading on the internet before the release date."

For media companies, live streaming is a more practical way to stop people copying music or video. Instead of downloading files to your hard drive, then double-clicking to watch or listen to them, streaming lets you experience them in real time. But it can be useful to keep these files, to play them again without going online, for example. But can it be done?

Well, it must be possible, and in fact it's getting easier. A range of online tools, such as Keepvid and YouRipper, have appeared which allow you to break the terms of service and grab clips to your hard drive. Similar services for audio streams don't seem to enjoy the same level of notoriety, however; the other day, when a major technology blog posted an entry about such a service called FreeMusicZilla, the comments section was awash with people moaning – either that the blog was promoting a service which facilitated law-breaking, or that by promoting it, they were hastening its own demise, as music-streaming services become wise to it and attempt to block it.

The absurdity of this, as far as audio is concerned, is that it's impossible to prevent turning sound waves into a sound file. There's nothing to stop you running a cable from the audio-out socket of your computer and into a recording device, or back in to the computer and recording it there. Programs such as Audio Hijack Pro for Mac cut out the need for a cable at all. And, as Alan A pointed out on the Cyberclinic blog this week, "with most Soundblaster-style PC soundcards, you can set the input source to 'What you hear' or 'Stereo Mix'. Turn off system sounds, set a free audio program like Audacity to record, and Bob's your uncle."

Diagnosis required

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