Wal*Mart shutting down DRM server, nuking your music collection -- only people who pay for music risk losing it to DRM shenanigans

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79 Responses to “Wal*Mart shutting down DRM server, nuking your music collection -- only people who pay for music risk losing it to DRM shenanigans”

  1. rekoil says:

    Seanubis: I think the operative word is “only”, not “all” – only paid services implement DRM schemes, AFAIK there’s no P2P system that wraps files in DRM. This isn’t meant to imply that *all* paid services use DRM.

  2. Bloodboiler says:

    Sooo, you can remove the sharing prevention system from the files by copying them to a cd. That’s nice. DRM restrict your use of the files, but you can make all the copies your friends want.

    What the hell was the point of having DRM if you can remove it by burning audio cd’s and making MP3′s from that. So what it the audio quality suffers. Most people can’t tell the difference, don’t care, and don’t have an audio system that could sound better with better quality audio source.

  3. Teresa Nielsen Hayden / Moderator says:

    Maggie Leber @43, “invest” is a legit verb in that context. What’s your problem with it?

    Antinous @47, if it were all just marketing, none of these problems would exist. We’d buy what the music companies told us to buy, and that would be that.

    WeightedCompanionCube @62, there were so many good and sufficient reasons that Commodore failed that it seems unfair to single out one of them.

  4. membeth says:

    The trouble with the “solution” to DRM of burning and then ripping is that if I am going to go through all that trouble, I might as well just buy the album on CD in the first place. That has the added benefit of my having one copy with CD quality sound. (Just to really screw with the new corporate thinking on what you buy when you buy an album, I might even buy the CD used, copyright rebel that I am! Sigh.)

  5. sonny p fontaine says:

    serves em right fer shoppin’ at walmart? don’t it? fckin’ fcktards…

  6. bellgong says:

    Somebody make this easy for everyone and make a firefox add on that burns an image to cd audio, converts to mp3.

    I think besides DRM, the download plans should be making money for artists not just labels and vendors to truly be considered a good karma move.

  7. AirPillo says:

    The video game industry is also busy sabotaging itself with DRM. SecuROM causes so many problems that it qualifies as malware, and EA has now started using activation schemes in their games.

    Spore’s DRM proved to be so aggravating that people have been pirating it in record numbers: it’s still in the top 20 on Pirate Bay, and it has reportedly been downloaded over 500,000 times across different sites (supposedly it might become the most pirated game in history). It also has a score of 1.5/5.0 on Amazon just because of the DRM.

    I’m scratching my head trying to figure out what EA thinks they’re gaining from doing this. Their DRM is actually increasing piracy.

    One user has actually initiated a class action lawsuit against EA for the DRM in spore. I submitted the story to BoingBoing actually, but I suppose it didn’t pique the editors’ interest.

    http://forum.spore.com/jforum/posts/list/5136.page

    There’s a forum post about it on the official forum. However, be aware that the summary on the courthousenews website is inaccurate, you have to look at the actual grievances on the court papers to know what the case they’re making is.

    Basically the beef is that a- nobody tells you on the box or in EA’s marketing or FAQs that secuROM is installed separately and cannot be removed b- they claim that it installs partially to Ring 0 and c- that it is capable of monitoring and acting upon the user’s computer without their consent, illegally so.

    Sadly they are not held to scrutiny for first sale violations and false advertising (the status of the game as a limited-lifetime license violates the implied functionality warranty of the product as you see it when purchasing)

  8. oasisob1 says:

    computers don’t last forever. not even macs. i’ve had to deauth/reauth several machines over the years to regain access to the earliest songs i bought. if the itms should change radically, and i am unable to authorize new machines, then i’ll be in the same boat.

    drm is a waste of time and money. period.

    funny that wal-mart recommends we break the law to keep access to our music. not that i’ve ever bought any from them.

  9. AirPillo says:

    Sorry for double-post, missed this on the first readthrough:

    First of all, as for EA, they’ve already stated that if they ever stop supporting DRM or shutdown the DRM servers that they’ll release a patch to remove it.

    Oh, sure they’ve said it. But ask them for it in writing and see how cooperative they are.

    Oh hey, here’s a promise for you: if I ever accidentally bump into you, I’ll give you $50.

    Do you think I’m going to comply with that if the conditional situation ever arises? Do I have to? Would you be able to make me do it in court?

    Promises made by companies, promises which would cost them labor and money to fulfill, are absolutely baseless without a contractual obligation. Don’t be foolish enough to assume they are not lying to you, because they are unless they are forced to make good on the promise.

    If they’re serious about that promise, they would be willing to agree to it in writing. They most certainly aren’t, and they have even inserted language into their EULA which specifically gives them the privilege of not having to do exactly that.

  10. jjasper says:

    Hey suckers! Did you buy DRM music from Wal*Mart instead of downloading MP3s for free from the P2P networks?

    Neither. I ripped them from CD, or downloaded them from legal sites that pay the rights holder. Yes, DRM is lame, but so is not paying for those files.

  11. querent says:

    Damn…is it just me or did Cory seem to get a little overly into that. Not that it’s not appropriate.

    I first learned to shoplift at MallWart…*after* they installed cameras. The I took my skill to Barnes and Noble. (sighs)

  12. Mikael Lindberg says:

    I find the comparison to the Roman Empire to miss the mark, I would personally be happy if any technology based solution I buy would last half a millennia. :)

  13. nprnncbl says:

    #9, #17, #62: “only people who pay for music risk losing it to DRM shenanigans” does not mean “all people who pay for music risk losing is to DRM shenanigans.”

    Let X=”people who pay for music”, Y=”people who risk losing their music to DRM shenanigans”.

    Cory’s point is that Y is a subset of X, but you’ve interpreted it as X is a subset of Y (or perhaps X=Y).

    And as for those commenting about the lossiness of transcoding: you’re right that transcoding from one lossy encoding to a different one introduces artifacts, but these almost surely* do not arise from the uncompressed, lossless WAV format on the intermediate audio CD. The issue of lossy transcoding is orthogonal to DRM: you could, in theory**, recompress the CD audio using the same codec and recover the original (unencrypted) stream. Similarly, the original codec could have been MP3, enabling the same process. Heck, you could even have lossless DRM’ed media.

    *Caveat: this assumes that the DRM’ed streams were compressed from CD audio: 16 bit, 44.1KHz.

    **Not only is the same program operating with the same input parameters required, but I suspect that most encoders are not idempotent, since they’re often finding only an approximate solution. So in practice, this probably wouldn’t work.

  14. eckertown says:

    Thank you for bringing up the relatively recent moral dilemma that DRM and digital downloads present. The way that Wal-Mart has dealt with moving away from DRM songs is just one more reason to shy away from legal digital downloads. You now can’t even be sure that if you do purchase something legally, it will continue to play for years to come. While you don’t have to have the hassle of DRM downloading through peer to peer networks, you do have to worry about being sued by the RIAA, and the potential heavy conscience from stealing intellectual property. According to slyck.com, you have a higher chance of being killed in day-to-day living than you do of being sued by the RIAA (http://www.slyck.com/news.php?story=769), but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen to you. Jammie Thomas is a single mother from Minnesota who was the first person to let an RIAA suit go to trial. She lost the case and had to pay $222,000. Copyright infringement is not cheap to mess with if you do get caught. This hasn’t stopped the youth of today, and the disregard for musical intellectual property is changing the way that the industry works. A survey of British kids ages 14-24 revealed that “Around 90% of respondents now own an MP3 player. They contain an average of 1770 tracks – half of which have not been paid for.” (http://www.futureofmusicbook.com/2008/06/18/survey-of-british-youth/) This is astounding. Along with new technology comes the slow adoption of it, and eventually the exploration and regulation of it’s limitations. This is what happened with file sharing, and now with DRM. They are being pushed into the technological age.

  15. Anonymous says:

    HAHA! Jump through a bunch of technical hoops? it says to burn them to a cd. Is that really a hoop?

    they’re basically telling you how to break DRM, which i find amusing.

  16. Rob says:

    @21:”In iTunes, you download files with FairPlay DRM. Once the transaction is complete, you need never deal with the iTunes Music Store again.”

    You still didn’t answer the question. If you deauthenticate all and this doesn’t phone home, how do those others stop working? Why do the songs stop playing if you haven’t been online in 30 days if they don’t phone home?

  17. inn0 says:

    MLB did this a year ago too. All the games you paid for and downloaded are no longer watchable. This is why I refuse to purchase any DRM’s content.

    MLB story on BoingBoing here

  18. junkie says:

    why don’t you just download real MP3 music from Russians (like i do from this one: MP3skyline: 3 100 000 mp3 tunes) as cheap as $0.20 per song and NO DRM CRAP AT ALL!

  19. some1 says:

    Cicada:

    Fascinating that on a site with such opposition to mass-market products there’d be such attachment to mass-market music.
    If you want music, listen to local musicians. Sing. Play an instrument. Download only DRM-free music if you must.
    Really, what are you losing if you just don’t listen to anything that comes with DRM?

    This makes no sense. People listen to Artist X specifically because they like it, so they can’t just go and replace it with Indie Artist Y. What if you told someone who likes, say, trance music, that there’s no reason to listen to it and that they should listen to free death metal on MySpace or just sing in the shower? They’d laugh themselves to death or call the men in white coats to take you away.

  20. crashsystems says:

    No one seems to be mentioning one interesting twist to this story…

    If I remember correctly, it is a DCMA violation (federal offense) to give someone details on how to circumvent DRM copy protection. This is exactly what Walmart has done in telling their customer’s to burn their DRM’d music to CDR.

  21. AirPillo says:

    Hmm, though… on the subject of Spore, one thing to consider:

    If the activation servers for Spore are ever taken down, the content-hosting servers most certainly will be too. The backend of the actual game experience happens to be server-based, too… so one could just as easily argue against proprietary net-based backends in that specific example.

    Regardless though, yes online activation schemes are really, really squicky. You know you’ll be screwed eventually. You’re just gambling on the hopes that they will last a long enough time to give you your money’s worth, which is an entirely subjective measurement.

  22. Marvin says:

    Just to really screw with the new corporate thinking on what you buy when you buy an album, I might even buy the CD used, copyright rebel that I am! Sigh.

    That’s irony, right? Or were you really brainwashed by the RIAA into believing that buying used CDs isn’t a perfectly legal and logical way of purchasing music?

    And to all those posters claiming how easy it is to transcode to mp3 (all of which neglecting to mention the inevitable loss in quality, go figure): why should I bother? Because the corporations are too stupid to sell what I want to buy?

    There’ll always be workarounds (just like with my darn Sony car radio) but why would want to be in a position of having to use them in the first place. What about convenience?

  23. CJ says:

    I’d love to buy non-DRM music.

    But I can’t.

    I don’t want indie music, I want to be able to buy a song that I heard on the radio and liked. But I don’t want DRMed music, and being in a country that isn’t the USA (gasp! the horror!) I can’t buy any non-DRM music.

    So what are my options? Download illegally, rip from youtube, or wait until eventually the CD comes out, and then pay a fortune for 8 or 9 tracks when I really only wanted the one.

  24. Modusoperandi says:

    DRM is bad, but…Walmart? Isn’t one less copy of a Toby Keith album actually a good thing?

  25. Master Mahan says:

    17: The argument here seems to be that you should obtain your music illegally because there is a chance you will lose the music you obtained legally. Because the grocery store where I shop might lose all the farmer’s apples, I should therefore steal the apples from the farmer’s orchard. Weak argument here.

    Not quite. A better analogy is that the grocery writes down your address when you buy your apples, and at any time they can break into your home and repossess your produce. If you’ve planted the seeds or mulched the cores, they’ll be digging them up and taking them too.

    There are safer ways to purchase music than from Wal-Mart, yes. When consumers get screwed, though, they’re going to generalize the experience. This hurts purchased music as a whole.

  26. Bloo says:

    IANAL but this seems ripe for a class-action lawsuit, with the expected settlement of:

    Provide a server at the DRM server address, that, when asked to verify DRM for a song bought from Wal-Mart, instead provides the replacement for that song in non-DRM format.

    If they won’t do that, then they should be prosecuted for grand theft since they effectively stole property that you bought from them. How is that different from the used car dealer stealing back your 87 Yugo (bought in Verplank, NY) after you’ve paid it off?

    For a company with as many IT resources as WalMart has, it shouldn’t be a problem to provide the server. They just need some (legal) motivation.

  27. Frismschism says:

    God….Don’t you just love Walmart…..Boooooo!

  28. anthropomorphictoast says:

    Download, burn, rip. It’s not a complicated process, people. I’ve been doing that with iTunes for a long while so my Zen Nano can play the stuff I d/l. :P

  29. tamira says:

    Walmart abandon customers oh no…then we will get free music from anymusicdownload.com.We can still get some of this music from youtube.com and we can get our mp3 players from salesplanet.ws

  30. Maggie Leber says:

    @11

    “i’ve only invested in 2 or 3 itunes albums.”

    That’s a peculiar use of the verb “invest”.

    Do you work in sales or something?

  31. NicodemusLegend says:

    Although I would certainly wish that Wal-Mart had found a better way to deal with its customers from before the DRM-free move, I’m very pleased to hear that they’ve ditched DRM for good.

  32. WeightedCompanionCube says:

    only people who pay for DRM restricted music risk losing it to DRM shenanigans

    Fixed it for you, Cory. Why would you advocate never paying for music when you can still buy music in open formats?

    Fighting DRM is good, advocating the destruction of markets isn’t quite so honorable.

    Wal-Mart might be abandoning their DRM’d music customers, but they are doing so as they transition to a wholly DRM-free music store.

    It’s also not like the first time this happened. Bad, locked-in standards come and go… anyone want a Betamax deck?

    I notice you pick Commodore and Atari as two companies that weren’t so permanent and left consumers unsupported… So let’s look at their competitors Apple and IBM: They have survived, but not without dumping lots of platforms (Apple II,Mac68k,PowerMac,PC XT,PC AT,PS2(ecch!), OS/2(eccccccchh!))

    And for as open as the PC and Apple II hardware was, they would sic the lawyers on anyone who really wanted to innovate. Anyone who came too close to an exact PC clone or anywhere near a Mac clone got nailed. Compaq had to, you guessed it, reverse engineer the whole ROM to make the first decent PC Clone. And they fought IBM long and hard in court to keep selling it, long before the DMCA.

    FWIW, Atari and Commodore didn’t care about people ripping off their IP. I kept a C128 running as my only computer until 1997 on better-than-OEM clone hardware. Unfortunately, that was one of the big reasons Commodore failed: No licensing revenue.

  33. nprnncbl says:

    #72: Quoting you quoting Cory (emphasis mine): “Boy, the entertainment industry sure makes a good case for ripping them off, huh?”

    That does not sound to me at all like he is advocating free copying; he is instead saying that the industry’s actions are themselves an inducement. His goal seems clear: he wants industry to abandon DRM, and supports services where you can pay for legal, unencumbered downloads of digital goods.

    That said, I do find it odd that his editorializing only mentions shutdown of the DRM servers, and not the DRM-free service which Walmart now provides, as others have mentioned.

  34. dimmer says:

    @34: yes, when you authenticate or de-authenticate a computer (or “all”) it does use the internet to perform that task: my point was simply that playing iTunes purchases does not involve this process. (When you de-authenticate all, the central server drops the authenticated systems from it’s list, but the systems using those files are only updated/corrected when the user makes a connection to iTunes.

    Hmm, I think I could have worded that better as well, but hopefully it does give some useful info.

  35. jeffbell says:

    It would make a very interesting case if one were to get busted for downloading a song that was already paid for.

  36. Michael A. Banks says:

    Shit–can they zap the copies on CDs in my van?
    –Mike

  37. Michael A. Banks says:

    Wait a sec–the CDs in my van are safe! I’ve been downloading Amazon MP3s.
    –Mike

  38. youareivan says:

    thr’s nthr ptn fr hnst flks wh wnt t spprt thr fvrt rtsts clld cds. ts nt d- y cn by th prdcts y ctlly lk nd ppl tht crt ths prdcts cn mk lvng. nt!

  39. slowth says:

    Sure, I’ll waste a cd burning compressed music, then I’ll recompress that already compressed music so it will fit on my portable music player. DRM, ain’t it grand?

  40. PaulR says:

    I’m shocked! Shocked, I tell you!

    And no one, NOT A SINGLE PERSON ON THE INTERNETS predicted that this was going to happen. I’m shocked….

  41. Don says:

    It’s a shame they’re leaving earlier customers out in the cold, but I think this story could have used at least a little positive content for WalMart transitioning to DRM-free sales. They’ve made a positive move that Audible hasn’t, so why not give them SOME credit for it?

  42. Zaren says:

    I can convert any iTunes music files I bought to standard mp3s with minimal effort – in fact, I have done so with a lot of them, since I bought them for my kids and put them on chintzy off-market mp3 players.

    iTunes DRM doesn’t phone home anyway, so there’s no authentication server to worry about them turning off, unlike Walmart / Zune / Yahoo / etc. Purchases from iTunes are the second safest out there (Amazon’s mp3s being the first).

  43. jphilby says:

    Old, old news.

    DRM’d music is like copy-protected/dongled software used to be. Only the people who paid get screwed.

    Maybe the EFF would be interested in a class-action suit?

  44. Variable Rush says:

    Upon reading this, I figured it would be a good time to go redownload the 7 songs I bought from Wal-Mart 3 years ago.

    Guess how many I was able to download? Zero.

    Each one (and these were songs by “popular” bands) was removed from Wal-Mart’s system.

    So not only do they punish the honest people, they take away your property as well.

  45. Antinous says:

    People listen to Artist X specifically because they like it

    I think that a more realistic appraisal of how it works is that people listen to Artist X specifically because Artist X’s marketing crew targeted their demographic.

  46. Sutra says:

    On a positive note, at least WAL MART of all goshforsaken companies is ousting DRM.

  47. seanubis says:

    “only people who pay for music risk losing it to DRM shenanigans” – huh, that’s news tp me. I pay eMusic a reasonable price for a metric assload of music every month, and there’s not a single pustule of DRM in sight!

  48. Bloo says:

    Going back to look at the original post, and my own, I erred:

    They aren’t taking away the ability to play music on one device (the originally-authorized PC). What difference that would make to the legal case, I couldn’t say.

  49. cda says:

    Wait… did WalMart just advise its customers to MAKE COPIES of DRM’d music? Too funny.

  50. Takuan says:

    I have never purchased anything from Walmart. Ever.

  51. Cpt. Tim says:

    i’d be surprised if itunes went under. even if they did i’d expect it to at least last as long as a format of physical media.

    just saying. i’ve only invested in 2 or 3 itunes albums.

  52. Rob says:

    @6: “iTunes DRM doesn’t phone home anyway”

    It doesn’t? Then how does “Deauthenticate all” work?

  53. Razzabeth says:

    But wait, it says here that WalMart is switching to a non-DRM system. Is this not a Good Thing©?

  54. Nylund says:

    Well, the good news is that Wal*mart apparently will never deal with DRM music again. The argument has been made here several times but you never actually “buy” anything with DRM, you’re just renting it, and your landlord can break the lease whenever (s)he wants.

    But to repeat what someone said above, to save your music you must burn your compressed audio files, then compress them again to get them back onto a computer or mp3 player. Ie, your lossy format becomes exponentially lossier. What you are left with is far inferior.

    Its like saying, “we’re going to have to take that coffee table book of art away from you. Yeah, the one you paid for years ago, but we’ll let you take it to Kinko’s and make a copy of it first.”

    You know you have a horrible business plan when the only rational thing for your customers to do is break the law.

  55. bobhughes says:

    I occasionally buy music online (from the Russians, at $0.10-0.15 / track), as long as it’s actual MP3 music files that I can freely move around among devices and playlists. People who spent their money on DRM garbage and/or support controlled-access media should have known better in the first place.

  56. michaelkpate says:

    All of the music I have purchased from Wal-Mart will be unaffected because I only started buying after they started offering MP3s. I know you guys don’t like them, but don’t they deserve some props for being one of the first online music retailers to go DRM-Free?

  57. Julian Bond says:

    I guess it’s time to get out the T-shirt again.
    http://giantrobotprinting.com/store/shirts/commies/drm

    As seen on bOing bOing
    http://www.boingboing.net/2006/03/28/drm_is_killing_music.html

    DRM Is Killing Music. And It’s a Rip Off.

  58. jonathan_v says:

    @#6 ZAREN

    The issue isn’t in the ‘ease’ of transcoding an iTunes aac/mp3 or other lossy music codec to another — its in the loss of fidelity that you get when resampling.

    It might be fun for kids stuff, but the artifacting makes most of the stuff i listen to unlistenable — blips and beeps, whooshes, frequency ranges cut off, etc

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transcode

  59. stanfrombrooklyn says:

    The argument here seems to be that you should obtain your music illegally because there is a chance you will lose the music you obtained legally. Because the grocery store where I shop might lose all the farmer’s apples, I should therefore steal the apples from the farmer’s orchard. Weak argument here.

    Perhaps you’d be better instead telling people to avoid DRM stores like Wal-Mart and push them toward non-DRM stores like Amazon. And if the downloads don’t yet exist in non-DRM capacity, then push people toward buying the CDs legally. Suggesting people go to P2P networks and getting the music for free will lead us to a future of nothing but ringtones.

  60. gollux says:

    Face up to the truth, if it’s DRM’d you are only renting it for the period of time the DRM servers are up and running. If you don’t own the original CDs or haven’t stripped the DRM and burned backups, then you are waiting to be burned. This is what DRM is all about, forcing you to rerent all your music tracks every so often. Tired of being serviced George Carlin style yet?

    The industry says that DRM is necessary to prevent piracy. I do believe in not downloading pirated material, but to the music and movie industry’s detriment, I’ve decided to step off the consumer bandwagon. I haven’t bought a DVD in over two years. I’ll play what I’ve already got on my DVD player, but I have other things to occupy my time so PTHHT! to the entertainment industry. If it won’t play on a Linux system, you’re SOL on sales to me. In this economy, the money is better spent elsewhere.

    All my music anymore is bought on CD direct from the band or artist, and exclusively non-RIAA and non-DRM. If you are a musician and you want to sell to me, the choice is really simple. NO DRM AND SELL YOUR OWN CDs.

  61. Kendra says:

    “They are as solid and permanent as Commodore, Atari, the Soviet Union, the American credit system and the Roman Empire.”

    I laughed so hard.

    If only Wal*mart were as ‘solid and permanent’ as such fine establishements.

    Wal*mart + music companies = customers best interests. Always.

  62. Kytsune says:

    @StanFromBrooklyn #17, that’s not the argument at all, that’s just the scrim of counter-reply to one of the primary arguments for the use of DRM. By in large we as consumers get told that DRM exists to make sure that producers get their slice; except that when everything is cut to the quick it doesn’t work that way.

    The pirates get their apples and we get pants when the apples expire before we’re finished eating.

    The idea is to drive honest people away from buying DRMed work; and to also point out to those who would foist upon us a product that is “defective by design” they they’re not protecting themselves from pirates after all and instead alienate their consumers.

    The less-honest people, after all, already get their cake and eat it too. (I mean, apples.)

  63. Cicada says:

    Fascinating that on a site with such opposition to mass-market products there’d be such attachment to mass-market music.

    If you want music, listen to local musicians. Sing. Play an instrument. Download only DRM-free music if you must.

    Really, what are you losing if you just don’t listen to anything that comes with DRM?

  64. dimmer says:

    “@6: “iTunes DRM doesn’t phone home anyway”

    It doesn’t? Then how does “Deauthenticate all” work?”

    In iTunes, you download files with FairPlay DRM. Once the transaction is complete, you need never deal with the iTunes Music Store again.

    The only case where this screws up is where you’ve used your five(?) authentications and your bazillion iPods and Apple goes out of business: it may happen, but it’s a much better than letting a needle pass over vinyl, or a recording head pull magnetic energy from a tape.

  65. Johnny Cat says:

    Wow, good thing I don’t shop for music at WalMart. Oh wait…i don’t shop for music.

  66. JB NicholsonOwens says:

    “The only case where this screws up is where you’ve used your five(?) authentications and your bazillion iPods and Apple goes out of business…”

    Wal*Mart isn’t going out of business yet their DRM scheme will soon be cancelled.

    Major League Baseball recordings were unavailable to their customers yet MLB didn’t go out of business.

    There’s no requirement that an organization go out of business for the DRM scheme to change or go away leaving customers with far less useful bits that they have to (apparently) quickly copy into more useful bits in order to preserve their investment.

    It’s also silly to accept that one should only get N replacements of their digital media. One of the benefits of digital copying is that you can legitimately lose a copy of a file, get a replacement of that file, and continue on with your life.

    “People listen to Artist X specifically because they like it, so they can’t just go and replace it with Indie Artist Y.”

    Actually, in some circumstances that’s exactly what some organizations do. Meco, if I recall correctly, releases CDs of mainstream hit songs not sung by the original artists. TV advertisements license the song but get another artist to perform it. Presumably this is done because that is cheaper than licensing the well-known recording.

    As for individual tastes, I think this is more a matter of realizing that politics and music are tied together and living the lessons the DRM stories teach listeners about looking out for our own interests.Listeners can surround themselves with music from artists and distributors that don’t screw them or the artists they work with—Magnatune, for instance, offers a far better deal for everyone involved. You won’t hear the same songs you’ve heard dozens of times before, you’ll get to hear new music.

    Then people will develop a taste for such music just as they surrounded themselves with the music they know now. The point your replacement argument misses is that we can lead better lives by actively choosing to do business with people who don’t work against our interests. We can’t afford to pretend that politics is irrelevant to our choice of media. Even recently we learned that such a position is, at best, naive and, in other circumstances, downright dangerous (mainstream media war reporting was known to be bad even during the run-up to the Iraq invasion. Today a lack of critical questions on big issues of the day go unapologetically uncorrected).

    As with so many things in life, it’s a matter of acting according to your priorities. If you really don’t like DRM, stop accepting DRM. If you want artists to have a better deal than they do under the mainstream labels, put your money and time into labels that treat artists better. All too often this means learning to divorce yourself from mainstream media.

  67. some1 says:

    The video game industry is also busy sabotaging itself with DRM. SecuROM causes so many problems that it qualifies as malware, and EA has now started using activation schemes in their games.

    Spore’s DRM proved to be so aggravating that people have been pirating it in record numbers: it’s still in the top 20 on Pirate Bay, and it has reportedly been downloaded over 500,000 times across different sites (supposedly it might become the most pirated game in history). It also has a score of 1.5/5.0 on Amazon just because of the DRM.

    I’m scratching my head trying to figure out what EA thinks they’re gaining from doing this. Their DRM is actually increasing piracy.

  68. David Bruce Murray says:

    I do admire Wal-Mart for switching to DRM-free MP3 format files exclusively in their online music store. I also admire their very reasonable prices for legal music downloads.

    I don’t admire Wal-Mart for abandoning customers who purchased their DRM infested products prior to Wal-Mart’s conversion to MP3. Oh…and thanks Wal-Mart, for giving your customers a whopping 13 days to react.

    As for iTunes, better make sure you only buy iTunes+ files which can immediately be converted to MP3.

    I avoid using absolute words like “always” most of the time, but DRM always turns out bad for consumers.

  69. dainel says:

    #72 WeightedCompanionCube, “That’s like shoplifting from Wal-Mart because you hate Wal-Mart.”

    No. Not because you hate Wal-Mart. Because one week after you shopped at Wal-Mart, they come to your apartment while you’re at work, and tossed out everything you bought from them into the rubbish chute.

  70. Spikeles says:

    They say they have offered MP3′s since Feb 2008. Is it that hard to write a script to enable MP3 downloads for all the WMA songs they have on an account?

  71. WeightedCompanionCube says:

    #71 – Quoting Cory:

    Boy, the entertainment industry sure makes a good case for ripping them off, huh? Buy your media and risk having it confiscated by a DRM-server shutdown. Take it for free and keep it forever.

    You’re right, in that DRM is a subset of Paid-For, but you’re wrong about Cory’s intentions: Cory is clearly advocating obtaining music for free as .. well, a form of protest, I guess?

    That’s like shoplifting from Wal-Mart because you hate Wal-Mart.

  72. Rindan says:

    People who pay per DRMed song are suckers, pure and simple. Personally, I think that some limited forms of DRM has a place in this world. When you are actually renting something, I don’t find some non-invasive form of DRM to be entirely offensive. When you actually “buy” something, it becomes absurd. I specifically will NOT buy Red Alert or Spore because of the DRM they are stuffing into it. The absurdity of it is almost astounding. I am a single guy who spends close to nothing on “stuff”, makes a decent wage as an engineer, and doesn’t hesitate for a second when it comes to dropping a $50 or a video game that has even a passing interest to me. I would have probably have bought Spore and certainly would have bought Red Alert 3. Now? Fuck it. I’ll just be celibate (err, video game wise). Good job EA, you managed get someone who dumps money on video games without a second thought to completely give up buying your games.

    EA, WalMart, and Apple are examples of the worst DRM has to offer. You buy something that comes crippled and that can be broken on the whim of the company you bought from. It is like having a book on your bookshelf explode if the publisher decides he doesn’t want to print it any more or goes under.

    Rhapsody and Gametap are the polar opposites. Rhapsody offers a music rental service. You fill up your MP3 player with as much music as you want for a flat monthly rate. You don’t own the music, you are just renting out basically nearly every song ever published. For someone with rapidly changing tastes who doesn’t want to bother researching music before buying it, it works great. Download a few songs, download the entire collection of artists that I find I like, and quickly fill up 30 gb on my MP3 player. I don’t want to even contemplate how much it would cost to fill up 30 gb from iTunes…

    Gametap is also another great example of worthwhile DRM. You rent access to video games. You get access to a thousand or so titles for a flat rate. Again, you don’t own it, you rent it, but it is something worth renting if you are lazy and don’t want to dig through bargain bins trying to find old video games.

    There is a spot in this world for DRM, it just isn’t in the places that some companies try and use it. DRMs value is in offering new business models that are specifically about access over ownership. Instead though, what you see are companies who are offering neither access nor ownership. Instead, they are simply using it to cripple products in an utterly delusional and clearly ineffective attempt to prevent piracy.

    Battle piracy with DRM makes the drug war look sane.

  73. Kenny Park says:

    #13 & #24, here here.

    In Scotland our closest link to Wal-Mart is the supermarket chain, ASDA, which they own, but I can still appreciate the stinkiness of DRM. Getting rid of it is a good move on their part, but their method is obviously flawed.

    If I were on their board I’d suggest a year for the crossover, guarantee non-DRM replacements of the crippled files they’ve punted and pay for it all by making a press event out of it, setting an example and getting blogs like BoingBoing to congratulate rather than vilify them.

    Can a wee Scots lad like me be that much smarter than Wal-Mart?

  74. Keebler says:

    So go on buying your Audible books, your iTunes DRM songs, your Zune media, your EA games… None of these companies will ever disappear, nor will the third-party DRM suppliers they use. They are as solid and permanent as Commodore, Atari, the Soviet Union, the American credit system and the Roman Empire.

    Boy, the entertainment industry sure makes a good case for ripping them off, huh? Buy your media and risk having it confiscated by a DRM-server shutdown. Take it for free and keep it forever.

    First of all, as for EA, they’ve already stated that if they ever stop supporting DRM or shutdown the DRM servers that they’ll release a patch to remove it.

    Second, as for the walmart issue, yeah it kinda sucks, but they were pretty good about it. I had issues burning one of the albums so they had me buy the MP3s, download them and then they credited my credit card. Simple.

  75. jhollington says:

    @34 & 45:To put it another way, if you use the “Deauthorize all” (which is only available after you’ve reached your five-computer limit), the counter on the iTunes Store is set to “zero” but nothing happens to your computers themselves until you again purchase/download something from the iTunes Store. FairPlay DRM keys are only updated/revoked during an actual purchase transaction (which includes downloaded free content, but does not include downloading podcasts, since these come directly from third-party sites).

    For instance, I have an old PowerBook G4 here that remains authorized for my iTunes Store account even nine months after I last did a “Deauthorize all” and has not ever been RE-authorized. Although I use it on the Internet almost daily, I’ve never actually downloaded anything from the iTunes Store on it.

  76. dimmer says:

    There’s no requirement that an organization go out of business for the DRM scheme to change or go away leaving customers with far less useful bits that they have to (apparently) quickly copy into more useful bits in order to preserve their investment.

    Keep in mind that neither Wal*Mart nor MLB have a focus on the supply of media. When their DRM systems go away you are, pretty much screwed. If Cupertino falls into the ocean tomorrow, you’ll still be able to play, transfer, burn whatever media you bought.

    Note that I’m no fan of DRM, I agree that we’d be better off without it (as does Apple) — but without it we’d have no iTunes Store, no Amazon MP3′s, etc. etc.

  77. Variable Rush says:

    Upon hearing about this, I went to Wal-Mart.com to redownload the tracks I downloaded 4 years ago. I met a roadblock in that it’s been more than 90 days since I bought the music. So now I can’t get what I paid for. Period.

  78. dogmeat says:

    Are you ‘effin stupid?

    Burning your DRM protected content to a CD as audio is not even CLOSE to ‘jumping through hoops’. Normally people buy this audio TO BURN to a cd.

    What really gets me is people that cry about this kind stuff like you. They are taking away DRM licensed content so they can continue to offer you non-licensed content.

    It costs a lot of money to run these licensing servers and did you honestly think it would last forever? If you did, your guilty of being an idiot.

    Does a car last forever? No. Does a cow last foever? NO.

    Nothing is going to last FOREVER. Stop being a dumbass and burn your DRM content to an Audio CD and shut your mouth.

    All of you folks who think that a service based on a server to be running to keep your content active are insane. Do you REALLY think your 50 cents per purchase is going to keep a server running for 15 or 20 years?

    YEA. Thanks realistic.

    Not to mention, did you Read The Terms Of Service? Pretty sure it explains everything in there…but like a dumb sheep, you just click ahead because YOU REALLY WANT YOUR MUSIC.

    Heh.

  79. irabinovitch says:

    This announcement is bittersweet. On the one hand they are recognizing our information rights, and terminating their use of DRM. Kudos to them for taking this leap in the right direction.

    On the other hand however, they are leaving many customers hanging in the lurch. What they should be doing to protect their customers, is offer them a free download of a DRM free replacement for the encumbered WMA version.

    Offering this free conversion would make them stand out in an industry where they are clearly struggling for market and mind share.