Sony kills DRM stores -- your DRM music will only last until your next upgrade

Stephen sez, "The Sony 'Connect' DRM-tastic music store is closing shop on March 31, 2008. Another failed experiment in DRM is leaving its paying customers out in the cold with soon-to-be unusable content (unless you violate the DMCA) in the form of audio files DRM locked to Sony's ATRAC media players. Yet another in a seemingly endless stream of examples of how media companies are punishing their paying, legitimate customers for the RIAA's own infuriating technological shortsightedness."
What will happen to my library (content I own)? You will continue to be able to play, manage, and transfer the music in your SonicStage library and on your ATRAC player. For music purchased via CONNECT, this means you may continue to enjoy it as usual in your current PC configuration in accordance with our terms of use.

To ensure continued access to your content, we strongly recommend that customers archive their library to audio CDs and/or make a backup using SonicStage.

Translation: You can continue to "enjoy" "your" music until you get a new PC or a new music player. And really, why would you want a new PC or a new music player ever again? Surely your three-year-old ATRAC player will never be truly obsolete! Link (Thanks, Stephen!)


  1. “What will happen to my library (content I own)?”

    It’s interesting that Sony says “content I own”. I always thought the standard RIAA line was that we only purchase licenses to listen to the content and that we don’t actually “own” the content.

  2. another reason to add to the laundry list of reasons i won’t buy sony.

    sucks cause i want to go HD but blu ray is winning. but sony has done far too much fostering of ill will for me to buy one of their products again.

  3. A media company isn’t “punishing” its customers. It is the customers who make DRM possible. Buy DRM and you support DRM, like watering a plant and giving it sunshine. Don’t complain because the plant you nurtured pricks you with its thorns. It shouldn’t be in your house to begin with. DRM is a thorn.

    Maybe if we didn’t blame the companies, and instead laughed at foolish consumers, the foolish consumers would stop being foolish. At some point you have to take personal responsibility for your actions. You know, “Fool me once…”

  4. I used to use a stand alone md recorder for recording mixes for about 2 years which no longer works. Just this month I found those old mixes and thought wow now i can transfer to my pc and back up those old mixes with the old sony pc>md player no such luck. This time drm got me. I’m locked into to this Atrac if I want to listen to my mixes forever. And I have to forget about ever having control of the content I created.

  5. I’m going to have to disagree with you, Thingamadad. The customers never made DRM possible, the customers never asked for it, never directly or via market forces informed the record companies that they were ready to buy crippled content. In fact, I think it’s quite easy to prove the opposite, that the content providers saw a clear demand for online content distribution through the popularity of programs like napster and edonkey, fought court battles to try and make it go away, and when they finally showed up to participate in the internet marketplace, they, the companies insisted on DRM, not the other way around. It has been constant pressure (and lack of purchases) from the customers that have made dismantling DRM successful while making DRM-locked content providers fail (like the Sony Connect store).

    Further, while the facts of DRM may or may not have been buried in the EULA for these ‘services'(don’t know, don’t read them), DRM was certainly never a selling point and until major media campaigns by groups like Defective by Design, when average users (you know, the OTHER 70% of the US population) bumped up against the constraints of DRM, they thought they hit a bug or something. DRM isn’t advertised or discussed on the selling pages of these sites because it is inherently undesirable to end users.

    And I do think the word “punishing” is appropriate here. Anyone who has been following the story of content distribution in the internet age knows that the big media companies want to get paid for their products, products which are increasingly easy to get at very high qualities for free. I think that when people pay for content they want and enjoy they are doing the right thing. When these same companies then fail or do worse-than-expected with DRM-locked content and close shop, without unlocking or providing some other means of “freeing up” the content to be used in the future with other devices or platforms by the people who have bought and paid for them, I believe the companies really are punishing their best customers – those that will pay for music and movies even when they are available free on the internet – for their own technological shortsightedness.

  6. good old sony at it again, you’d think ppl would be wise to sony by now, but on they go, getting customers to bend over and lube up as per usual!

  7. ukcannonfodder, if customers didn’t buy DRM products, would DRM be around today? No.

    Bad ideas happen all the time that wither and die because they are bad. Why did this bad idea thrive? Because enough customers supported it.

    In some ways, I feel like a Nader voter. Don’t blame me; I didn’t buy DRM.

  8. In other words, the argument I’m hearing sounds like customers are helpless and have no choice except to buy into DRM. I was raised to view every dollar I spend as a vote and I’m voting every day with my wallet.

    If I bought a product and its DRM nature was hidden to me until after purchase, I would return the product to the retailer. If the return was refused, I would complain to the retailer and not buy from that retailer again.

    A rule of retail is that, if you’re lucky, a pleased customer will share his experience with one other person. A disastisfied customer will tell ten.

    If everyone refused DRM, it would not have had a chance in hell of going anywhere. So, yes, I blame consumers for reckless irresponsibility.

  9. Wait…they recommend you “archive” your music to an audio PC? I thought the RIAA just called that piracy.

  10. Sorry for the multiple posts, but an analogy just hit me.

    Take the Hummer. Some blame does get cast at its manufacturer for the car’s gas guzzling nature, but the vast majority of vitriol is cast upon the consumers who buy Hummers. Why? Because it’s so darn easy to spot Hummer owners.

    I can think of one or two pervasive DRM’d portable digital music players on the market that seem to just be everywhere in the public space. I don’t see any public backlash against people dumb enough to have bought these DRM players.

  11. Well, frankly, it’s not the same thing at all. Now, if every car on the market was a gas-guzzler but it was impossible to find out any car’s MPG (or the MPG was buried somewhere in the five-page buyer’s contract, which, again, is a weak analogy because people spending $30k are a lot more likely to read a five page contract than someone spending $0.99, but anyway), so right nobody knew the horrible, horrible MPG until the first time the buyer brought the thing to the pump, then we might have a good analogy here.

    When the major record companies started selling music on the internet, it ALL had DRM. There wasn’t a choice, the only choice was not to buy, and many people did, in fact, choose not to buy. Which is why the DRM stores are closing and now, finally, all of the major record labels are selling drm-free media in some way or another.

    I think the problem I’m grinding up against with your argument is that, in my opinion, you seem to be saying “x exists in the marketplace, therefore people want and will pay for x. Therefore, it is our (collective) fault that x exists.” And I’m saying that “x can exist in the marketplace even if no one wants it, though it will, in the long run, be doomed to failure.”

    Another issue that complicates the argument is that x (in our case, DRM) isn’t even really a product. The music is the product, and people love music. DRM is something that has been tacked on to the product to restrict a user’s ability to do things with the product.

    If all gun manufacturers, sick of all the bad press they’ve gotten over the years, simultaneously banded together and exclusively released guns that would not fire at any living creature, but didn’t tell anyone the guns would work this way, then we’d have a good analogy.

    How could you say, in that case “Well, they’re making the guns like that so clearly it’s the market’s fault!”

    But I think you and I agree on the outcome – once everyone realizes that the restrictions have effectively broken the product (the music or the gun), the purchases drop to almost zero and the companies have to change tactics or die. Which is exactly what has been happening with DRM.

    As for the pervasive DRM’d portable digital music players on the market, if you’re talking about the Zune and the iPod, that’s, in my opinion, a weak analogy too. For the analogy to work you’d have to assume that the Hummer could take two kinds of gas: gas that gives it 12 mpg (or whatever), and gas that gives it 60 mpg.

    If there are any digital players that play DRM’d content strictly, I’ve never heard of them. And there’s a good reason for that: way too many people already have tons of MP3s. Nobody would want a product that would reject all the content all these people already own.

    But, finally, I agree with you. Once the consumer base is educated on what DRM is and what it does, it doesn’t have a chance in hell of going anywhere.

  12. Now, I dislike DRM as much as the next fellow, but this article is a little sensationalistic. If you read the FAQ, it does actually describe how to move your music from your current computer to a new one using their backup and restore functionality. It does still mean that users will likely lose access to their music, but probably not until such time as incompatibilities between the operating system and their software show up, likely due to newer operating systems.

  13. str1cken, you wrote: There wasn’t a choice, the only choice was not to buy, and many people did, in fact, choose not to buy.
    Enough people bought/voted for DRM that it became a viable candidate. We can’t blame ballot tampering or the Supreme Court. This whole mess started with a bad idea and it flourished when too many people failed to become conscientious objectors.

  14. I have a Sony MD recorder, bought for making field recordings. Hardware-wise, it works very well indeed. It’s a great little machine. Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to actually use it.

    You guessed it, my recordings are all DRM-locked, and I can only access it through a convoluted process involving Sony’s proprietary software. Which is buggy, and won’t run because my copy of Windows was English whereas my MD Recorder is Japanese.

    And then later, I switched to using a Mac. Sony don’t even supply Mac versions of their software.

    Still, it’s a great little piece of hardware. Pity I can’t access any of my files.

  15. C’mon, thingamadad. That’s like blaming the users who bought Sony CDs for installing rootkits on their machines.

    When the major record labels (finally) started selling music online, it all had DRM, which was never openly discussed, and it took a while for the public to find out what it was and what it does, and now that the portion of the public who buys digital downloads knows about DRM, it’s going away.

    Again, how can you possibly blame the consumers for not initially shunning an embedded technology that wasn’t openly disclosed by the sellers and about which there was little or no public awareness because it was so new?

  16. Thingamadad,

    The problem I have with your argument is your assumption that Everyone new about DRM, and still made the choice to purchase DRM music. I don’t believe this is true.

    I can break people up into several categories on their knowledge of DRM:

    Apathetic — These people are fully aware, but haven’t had a problem with DRM, so they don’t have a problem with it.

    Believe that business isn’t that bad — These people believe that Businesses are just trying to make things work, and still protecting their product.

    Clueless — These people don’t have any idea what’s going on. Or, know about DRM, but aren’t fully aware of it’s problems. My bet, this is the largest group.

    When you combine the first two groups with the clueless group, you have a Great Majority of people.

    Business is a powerful intentity — especially in America. Many people will support, or not have a clue until they get burned. With that said, now that the DRM problem is being talked about in A LOT of places, the clueless are becoming more fully aware of the problems, and are either moving into the apathetic group, or not purchasing the DRM crippled products. As people in the Apathetic group are getting burned, they are now moving into the Fight DRM group.

    It’s a time game — Business can implement things quickly (especially if it makes them more money) and have lots of money for marketing to make it seem like you need this product now. It’s not until enough people get burned by that product, or the Government steps in, that that problem is resolved. This is the stage we are in now.

  17. @#1,15

    Either of you guys ever hear of a double ended 1/8″ stereo cable? Thats how I’ve always imported minidisc audio into a computer. If you were recording to MD in the first place, perfect fidelity wasnt your priority so one stage of DA2AD isnt going to kill you.

    So a format is being abandoned, big deal. I’m sure anyone who ever put money into media on 8 track, DCC, Quadrophonic records, Laser Disc (not to mention the 3 or 4 other large format variant video disk systems) or even Betamax felt like complaining as well but its not that big of a deal.

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