MSN + DRM = MIA

If you were one of the few who bought PlaysForSure tracks from MSN Music, your "rights" to those tracks change as of Aug. 31, 2008.

If you're one of the few who downloaded music from MSN Music, which Microsoft shuttered shortly after launching its Zune initiative, then you have until Aug. 31 to get that music onto the five devices you're allowed to put it on. After that date, Microsoft is shuttering the DRM servers used with the service, and any further transfers will render the songs unplayable.

Know your rights. They are your rights.

This is the inevitable last step in a transition that began when Microsoft killed its old PlaysForSure initiative . Why keep paying to maintain a service that's no longer offered, and runs counter to the current strategy? And I believe MSN manager Rob Bennett when he says that Microsoft was compelled to add DRM to songs on MSN Music--that's what labels demanded from legal download services at that time.

At the same time, Microsoft isn't totally innocent here. DRM was a big part of Microsoft's pitch for the Windows Media platform, and the company had a whole product team devoted to researching, developing, and updating DRM. Microsoft tried to sell content owners on the idea that Windows Media DRM was much more flexible than its competitors, allowing business scenarios like subscription-based content being transferred to devices (stop paying, the songs stop working on all your devices) and various rental models (like content expiring after a certain time period or number of plays). The laughable part: Microsoft tried to portray these scenarios as offering more consumer choice.

No. DRM is and always has been about about restricting choice. In fact, the whole notion of having "rights" to music you purchase is completely backwards--digital rights management should have been called digital restriction management. So for all of you buying restricted content from iTunes or the Zune Marketplace or anywhere else, let this serve as a warning: the provider or distributor of that content can unilaterally change your "rights" to it at any time. If you've invested a lot in DRM-protected music, burn it to audio CDs and then re-rip those CDs into MP3 files. Better yet, buy it in a non-protected format--like vinyl, audio CD, or MP3--in the first place.

 

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