Wednesday, April 23, 2008

When Microsoft and DRM combine

No, this isn't a quote from Captain Planet (although I wish it were something as cheesy and campy as that).

No, this little piece of news that Microsoft is abandoning their DRM-music service through MSN heralds the end of the line for any of their past customers.

The setup: You want to buy some music online, legally, so you go out on the net and look for music download sites.

The bait: You might arrive at the MSN music download site and decide to purchase some DRM-licensed music, and download it to your PC. DRM allows for that music to be on only a certain number of devices, so you may keep one copy on your PC, maybe another on your mp3 player. Each time you want to move the music to a new device, your PC requests a new license file from the MSN DRM authentication system, which issues the approval to copy that piece of music to a new device.

The switch: Microsoft decides to drop their MSN music-download service, and discontinue issuing authorizations.

The dilemma: You are now forced to keep your PC running indefinitely if you ever want to listen to the music you have purchased ever again. Don't delete it from your mp3 player, either, if you ever want to listen to it from there. Because this is the last time you get to transfer the song off of your PC, too.


Because DRM will not allow you to move any licensed music you own to another device, never allow you to even burn it to a CD without the authentication from a non-existent MSN authenticator.

Need to reformat your PC?
Say buh-bye to your MSN DRM-licensed music.

Want to upgrade your PC to a new OS?
Oh, I'm sorry. Tough luck.

Want to free up some space on your mp3 player? 
Microsoft says, 'screw you'. 

I really hope that consumers will get the message and STOP SUPPORTING DRM MUSIC. How many people need to get screwed before consumers get smart and stop supporting DRM? Because if the consumers get smart, and the power of their money goes elsewhere, DRM will go away, too.

Switching to a service like iTunes doesn't really solve the problem, either. As long as there is money in the industry, you will always have companies like MSN or other up-starts trying to get a slice of the pie. That's a part of American economics. If iTunes lasts forever, that still doesn't negate the evil of DRM, or stop music listeners getting screwed by it.

The only thing that makes me less-than-completely-irate at Microsoft is the fact that consumers out there made the big mistake of purchasing DRM-infused music to begin with.

I almost feel like the customers are getting what they deserve.


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