EFF to Ballmer: You owe MSN Music customers an apology, a refund and more

EFF has published an open letter to Steve Ballmer upbraiding him for switching off the MSN Music DRM server and nuking the music collections of every customer trusting enough to buy music, laying out a suite of things that Microsoft needs to do to make amends:
In an open letter sent to Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer today, EFF outlines five steps Microsoft must take to make things right for MSN Music customers -- including a issuing a public apology, providing refunds or replacement music files, and launching a substantial publicity campaign to make sure all customers know their options.

"MSN Music customers trusted Microsoft when it said that this was a safe way to buy music, and that trust has been betrayed," said EFF Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry. "If Microsoft is prepared to treat MSN Music customers like this, is there any reason to suppose that future customers won't get the same treatment?"

Link (Thanks, Rebecca!)


  1. It has become too obvious that the EFF is a very worthy foundation to give to. If MS thinks they can just screw people like this, they must be living in a very un-American America. Screw them in court until it hurts.

  2. To be honest, anyone who buys, or more appropriately “licenses” music from any outlet that DMRs their product deserves to be ripped off.

    That said, I still hope the EFF kicks the ass out of Microsoft bigtime.

  3. I disagree with the idea that anyone who buys DRM products deserves to be ripped off, Silva. While I can understand that there is, perhaps, a bit of schadenfreude to the situation for the copyfight crowd, most people don’t have time to investigate every last legal detail of media they purchase.

    It’s purely Microsoft who’s misbehaving here.

  4. Microsoft wants to sell ‘fat clients’ with a huge operating system to run their software. Hardware vendors want to sell powerful gear. Cloud computing threatens this, because all you need is a browser. Could MS have engineered this to undermine the whole concept of cloud computing? We no longer expect to grow our own food, generate our own energy, or render our own fuel. Soon our computing/media will be a subscription-based thing, and MS is not looking forward to it. Methinks..

  5. Microsoft may have customers; they may even refer to them, publicly and privately, as customers. But they will be treated, at any time, like serfs. This is not news to anyone here, I trust.

  6. This is the reason I won’t buy anything with DRM- it removes the control from me and gives it to the supplier.And the suppliers’ interest is that I buy all I can from them, so they have a vested interest in “losing” keys, limiting the number of computers I can use it on etc.

  7. Maybe Microsoft should be forced by law to GPL the DRM server software and DRM format, so that open servers can be created to allow users to access the content they paid for whenever Microsoft pulls out the rug from users. That might deter them slightly from being evil corporate bastards. Cos we all know that the GPL is like kryptonite to Microsoft, it’s a “virus” that infects software ;)

  8. @10

    Even that wouldn’t be enough. Knowing how things work is not enough alone. You need the actual keys. Knowing how the local software works (having it open sourced) would allow you to extract the keys from it, but having the server source would only allow you to get the keys if it allowed you to figure out a way to hack it.

  9. #3 “It’s purely Microsoft who’s misbehaving here.” – Snifty

    You wish it was only Microsoft! There have been no shortage of smaller fiasco’s such as this over the past five or eight years, damaging the concept of DRM as a “trustworthy” technology. Very few tech-savvy people would consider purchasing any media with DRM, as they know the eventual outcome may likely be an unusable product. Heck, a fair amount of media was unusable right out of the proverbial box (the Sony rootkit train wreck, for example).

    The true irony is that DRM is pushing more normal folks (read: not just the nerds) toward illegally collecting media via newsgroups, torrents, and straight up DVD ripping & sharing with friends.

    I know the common “FUCK THE RIAA” mantra may weary you, but there are solid facts and good reasoning behind this mentality… take a look around. It begins at treating customers like criminals, and it ends with illegal investigations and destroying the lives of normal innocent families.

  10. Really, Silva? Deserves to be ripped off. So Joe User without an awareness of DRM issues sees a song for sale, decides to try it out, and they should be stolen from? Is that really the world you want to live in, where being a little naive is grounds for being used? I’m glad that most of world isn’t that way.

  11. @ #!: “they must be living in a very un-American America. Screw them in court until it hurts.”

    In Republikan Amerika, Microsoft lawyer screws you.

  12. @JJJ:
    iTMS is no different than MSN music, You’d just be substituting one form of DRM-encumbered music for another. Just because Apple puts on a friendlier face than Microsoft and would likely never do something like this doesn’t change the basic fact that they could if they wanted to. When you agree to DRM you are agreeing to have zero control over what you’ve paid for, being forced to ask permission every time you play it. Yeah, there’s iTunes Plus, but from what I’ve heard that only covers a small portion of the catalog.

    It frustrates me so much that Microsoft could have the audacity to do this, yet I’ve got to admit I’m not surprised; it was only a matter of time that something like this would happen. They complain about the complexity and cost of supporting legacy DRM schemes, but isn’t that part of the cost of opening such a store? Their current solution is to tell customers to burn and rip their music which is problematic due to time (especially tagging, which would only maybe work in situations where you could cddb full albums) and quality issues, but if they’re ok with burning all your tracks, why not just provide a tool to decrypt all purchased music? The end result would be the same but they’d be pissing off a lot less people.

  13. The moral of this story is: Don’t trust Microsoft … EVER!

    To be more general don’t trust any company that takes control away from YOU. I am sort a a hypocrite here as I have a subscription to Audible.com but I do know how to strip the DRM of the audio books so I can can convert them and play them were I choose.

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