MSN Music customers lose *all* their music the next time they buy a new PC

People who bought music from the MSN music store have been royally hosed by Microsoft: as of today, if you buy a new computer, or refresh your hard-drive, you have to kiss all your music goodbye. Microsoft has shut down its DRM "license server" and left people who bought music -- instead of downloading it from a P2P site -- out in the cold. All those years the music industry spent insisting that the only way they'd sell music is with crippling DRM attached managed to totally discredit the idea of buying music at all:
MSN Entertainment and Video Services general manager Rob Bennett sent out an e-mail this afternoon to customers, advising them to make any and all authorizations or deauthorizations before August 31. "As of August 31, 2008, we will no longer be able to support the retrieval of license keys for the songs you purchased from MSN Music or the authorization of additional computers," reads the e-mail seen by Ars. "You will need to obtain a license key for each of your songs downloaded from MSN Music on any new computer, and you must do so before August 31, 2008. If you attempt to transfer your songs to additional computers after August 31, 2008, those songs will not successfully play."

This doesn't just apply to the five different computers that PlaysForSure allows users to authorize, it also applies to operating systems on the same machine (users need to reauthorize a machine after they upgrade from Windows XP to Windows Vista, for example). Once September rolls around, users are committed to whatever five machines they may have authorized–along with whatever OS they are running.



  1. I’m happy to buy my games through Steam, solely because I have faith in their servers staying up for the forseeable future. I have no faith in the longevity of shonky DRM-hobbled MP3s however, so I won’t pay for them. I try to support bands by buying merchandise and attending concerts like a responsible P2P user should, but I’m going to continue trying to shaft major labels for as long as they’re dead set on calling renting something owning it.

  2. Actually, they didn’t totally discredit the idea of buying music at all. They just discredited the idea of buying music with DRM. It’s not exactly a surprise that M$ is evil and stupid, but it’s hard to imagine how they could prove that any better.

  3. It’s almost like they want to undermine themselves. Is there a possible scenario where that makes any sense? I have a hard time believing they’re this stupid.

  4. I have not bought any music from the MSN service, but this seems to be a chance for hackers to come up with a “fix”.
    I have to admit that I don’t know anything about writing code or programming. This is just an idea that hit me, I am unsure if something like a “fix” is even possible.

  5. Tunebite can un-DRM all that music, but it would take quite some time if anyone has bought a significant amount of music from the MSN music store.

  6. Reminds me of when google decided to turn off their video service. People think I am crazy when I tell them that their itunes store music won’t play in 10 years.

  7. well, why 95% of them do (I like to think the other 5% is the some of the people that you can fool all the time).

  8. Golden slumbers fill your eyes
    Smiles awake you when you rise
    Sleep pretty darling do not cry
    And I will sing a lullabye

  9. Microsoft has shut down its DRM “license server”

    No, they have not. They are *going to* shut it down on August 31, 2008. Please correct the post.

  10. That’s a pretty nasty burn. Most of my music predates my computer and all of it predates my current hard drive (I replaced my old one after copying it over recently.) I can’t imagine my music, or anything that I paid for, being dependent on one machine. I tried to dissuade my sister when she started buying her music on iTunes, which very nearly all of her music is by now, saying that it was locking her into one player and is short-sighted. Se la vi.

  11. Steam is a different kettle of fish, because games are (traditionally, at least) an even more time-sensitive market than popular music. There’s a good chance that before your games become unplayable because their DRM server has been taken offline, they’ll be unplayable because the hardware they need to run on is no longer available.

  12. I have 30 gigs of legally purchased, CD ripped music, purchased over a couple of decades. I could never understand why anyone would want an ipod with only a few gigs of flash memory. But now it’s dawning on me: Most folks only need a player that will play the your recently purchased itunes because all the old stuff will die of DRM rot.

  13. Half-Price Books. “Used CDs” section. Affordable, legal. Does not provide any kickback to the authors, though.

    Means the -whispers- RIAA won’t descend upon me, at least. You know. So they can make sure that the artists get the money they deserve.

    This is ridiculous. Fight DRM.

  14. #6, #7: In many countries, un-DRMing would be illegal under the DMCA or similar laws. In others, while legal to do it yourself, it may be illegal to help anyone else do so or provide tools.

    I’m sure you’re not advocating that anyone break the law.

    #4: Well, if the scheme was pushed on them by others, it might make sense to undermine it. They certainly claim that this is the case, though most observers do not believe them.

  15. #19: I think that by saying “many” you wanted to say “a few”. In the large majority of countries, removing DRM is 100% legal.

  16. #20 – Doubtful. I’m sure that along with the terrible DRM came a terrible EULA that “purchasers” agreed to, a EULA that probably boils down to “you didn’t purchase anything except the limited right to play this music in a limited fashion and only for as long as we say you can.”

  17. [blockquote]
    users need to reauthorize a machine after they upgrade from Windows XP to Windows Vista, for example

    So Microsoft are suggesting you “upgrade” to Vista by September.


  18. far too long name@6:

    That was the obvious answer I thought of. The protocol probably isn’t much more than a key pair comparison, but really the answer is to remove the ‘protection’ completely. This is the second time that this has happened in less than a year now: surely someone is going to get the clue?

  19. #16: FWIW, I’m playing Daggerfall right now (in all its 320×200 glory), about 12 years old. It runs fine in a DOSBox emulator. (with the exception of a savegame utility that steadfastly refuses to recognize the CD)

    Depends on whether you consider computer games (or music) to be culturally worthless throwaway items. I for one would never rent an intangible license and leash myself to the whims of external corporations. When I spend good money on a game I expect to get something in return, worth keeping, worth remembering, worth to keep alive on newer hardware. CD checks are worse enough already in this regard. To hell with DRM.

  20. I’m starting to reach the point where I lose interest in artists whose work is only available through DRM-infested outlets. I’ve spent a lot of time over at eMusic discovering all sorts of great tunes I’d never have heard about otherwise – and since the artists and labels involved trust me to behave legally (which I do), I trust them to deliver value for my money (which they do).

    …funny how that works.

  21. @Hyoscine:

    I was planning on buying a new computer for HL2, as I didn’t have one capable. Then I found it would only work with Steam, even the boxed edition. That computer purchase became a Mac instead.

  22. Noen @10: God created human beings. Ergo, no.

    Never assume venality when stupidity will do, and stupidity will almost always do.

  23. @#22…
    What about suing for false advertising? PlaysForSure doesn’t sound like it will after August 31 if you upgrade. The correct name for the service will soon be “PlaysUntilYouUpgrade”.

  24. @ Rob:

    Fair enough, though I am sorry you didn’t get to own HL2.

    @ Hiphovercraft:

    Thanks! Call me slow, but I’d not heard of eMusic’s store. It looks like an ideal alternative to both questionable P2P action and getting shafted by iTunes et al.

  25. I buy vinyls. I buy CDs.
    They don’t have sucky DRM on them.

    Robert Fripp (from King Crimson) sells MP3’s and FLAC versions of his live concerts on his web site.
    They don’t have sucky DRM on them either.

    Major labels are all about jealously hanging onto “intellectual property” which they legally own but did not create.

    Individual, independent artists are all about getting their music, their creations, heard by whatever means they can.

    Something to think about.

  26. For the last ten years I’ve been going to the library, checking out 4 CDs at a time, and ripping them to my hard drive. It’s free, even if it isn’t legal or ethical. That doesn’t mean I haven’t bought any music in the last ten years, in fact I’ve bought plenty. I still support the bands and artists I love by buying their music, and ripping it to my hard drive. I have also spent plenty in concerts and merchandise. Have I shared their music once it’s been ripped? Yes. Did the artist gain new fans because of this? Yes. Did those new fans go to concerts and buy more works from the artist(s)? Yes.
    MSN music is a joke. iTunes is a joke. Someday I hope for a world where I can just go to a band or artist’s website and just pay them for the download with no middleman to go through.

  27. #28: Until a “hard copy” publisher installs a rootkit on your PC, or forbids you to play the CD in your car, or breaks your DVD player (all things that have actually happened). No thanks. MP3s only for me.

  28. It seems like a pretty cruel move by MS, though who knows what unholy agreements with the labels they’re working within. It seems like the kind of thing that class action suits are made for; I hope one starts and brings this anti-customer behaviour to a brighter spotlight.

  29. #17 Bolamig

    I have 30 gigs of legally purchased, CD ripped music, purchased over a couple of decades. I could never understand why anyone would want an ipod with only a few gigs of flash memory. But now it’s dawning on me: Most folks only need a player that will play the your recently purchased itunes because all the old stuff will die of DRM rot.

    Yeh, me too, but i actually like to listen to mine. When I go out of the house (and away from the larger part of my music collection), I have 20 gigs (only a little smaller than your whole collection) of music to choose from, in my pocket.

    An iPod is NOT the same as iTunes.. I’ve NEVER purchased anything from iTunes and NEVER purchased anything with DRM, but I’m a happy iPod user, how can that not be a benefit?

    (..and no, this isn’t the start of a conversation comparing the relative merits of various mp3 players, I don’t care, use whatever brand you like, they all work fine)

  30. Perhaps a lunk-headed question, but..
    Is it possible for the MSN users to burn their DRM’ed music to CD and then re-rip the CDs with a DRM-free program?

  31. I can’t help but think of one of those little finger-noose traps.

    Strange, screwing the only people who actually trusted them in the first place. It’s like they *want* to implode.

  32. I’m really starting to worry about this now my laptop is getting on a bit. She served me well, but her time is nearly up. What ticks me off is I use itunes, but my cd drive doesn’t write any more. So to back up my files, I download the album on my laptop, put it on my ipod so i can listen to it, put it on my ipod as a data file [which counts as an additional computer, apparently], put it on a different computer with a working cd drive, and burn it on cd. that’s all my authorised copies. So my music is effectively lost once I replace my computer. It will only exist on cds I will probably lose next time I move house.

    Also, I will need to find more dinosaur stickers if I replace my laptop.

  33. Wait, and what’s the deal [he asks the random internet people he doesn’t know] on tunebit? Is that all above board?

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