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MP3s & DRM - Did I waste all my $?

Hi guys. This probably has been covered 1000 times, but please -- PLEASE!!! -- answer these 5 (long) questions for an almost 40-somehting, not-too-hip, Creative & Sandisk owner who burned all his CDs, then bought ~500 songs between 2005 & 2008 from MSN, WalMart & Napster (yes, I'm a niave fool, & I know MSN is kaput):

1. My understanding is ITunes, Amazon and WalMart have done away with DRM when one actually PURCHASES a song/an album. If so, when I purchase music from them now, DO I ACTUALLY OWN THE MUSIC I PAID THEM FOR, whereby I can play it forever as long as I have a player or the software capable of reading it?

2. Is it also true that the companies will NOT unlock music purchased from them with DRM before this change?

3. Again, I'm older, w/ kids & a job, limited tech savy. When synching, burning, etc., problems FREQUENTLY crop up for me -- the computer or player freezes, & the synch doesn't work; songs are synched multiple times; etc. The result? All sorts of DRM problems which, for me, I find too complicated & time-consuming to unravel. I try to play my music and I get the dreaded, "You not to log in to access this song" or "Your license has expired," words to that effect. THE QUESTION -- AM I TOTALLY OUT OF LUCK WITH ALL THE SONGS I PURCHASED BEFORE THE COMPANIES DID AWAY WITH DRM?

4. Assuming the answers to #2 & #3 are yes, is my ONLY option to simply BUY all those ~500 songs AGAIN"? If so, the music industry is acting as criminally as all the illegal downloaders. I've read responses elsewhere that suggest that the music cos. have no duty to unlock the music, and that buyers like me foolishly jumped the gun before all the kinks were ironed out in the technology/the system? I think that analysis is BS; it's not like the cos. have released a better/upgraded product from the one I previously bought. They're preventing me from utilizing a product I purchased, and that I could still utilize if they would allow me to. Again, as long as I have a cassette player, I can play a cassette. Why is it diff. w/ an MP3?

5. Is anyone in goverment looking into the blatant unfairness of #4?

Thanks for all the anticipated help. I have all this music, and I can't enjoy it. I really look forward to some clear answers to these questions. Best regards, "Fred"

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some answers

In reply to: MP3s & DRM - Did I waste all my $?

You may not like what you see.

1. Short answer is yes, but the true answer may be mired in legalese (if you look at the EULA - end user license agreement but who really reads them?).

2. True. However, Apple will allow you to "upgrade" to a non-DRM'ed version for 30 cents per song or 30% of album price for music purchased on iTunes before they went DRM free. The rest it seems, you are SOL.

3. Unfortunately, you need to have a license to play them. You're probably out of luck with MSN Music, unless they have some customer service number and you can get a hold of a live person. Since Napster still exists, you might be able to get some help. But bottom line is, no license, no play. Out of luck unless you want to try a program to strip the DRM off these songs. I've never done this myself, so I can't tell you what programs to use. I just know they exist. And in the United States, illegal so even if I did know I wouldn't be able to post it. Would result in this thread being locked. In hindsight, what you should have done was back your music up in a form that is DRM free. You could have made audio cds. Yes, it's time consuming and takes up a lot of cds but the result is DRM free music.

4. Perhaps. Up to you if you really want to own them again. Well, technically speaking mp3 technology is licensed. Apple, Creative, Microsoft (for their Zune players and service), Napster, Rhapsody, as well as other manufacturers and services using mp3 encoding pay a licensing fee. If they go to another standard and no longer make players that play mp3, you may be out of luck after your equipment dies. I don't know about the cassettes - I suppose as long as your cassette player works or they are still manufactured you can still play them. If it breaks and they are no longer manufactured and you cannot put them into a form that you can play with current technology, then you can't play them.

5. So sue someone. However, the government is in the RIAA's pocket.

And that is the way this early 40ish person sees mp3s, digital music, and DRM. Not incredibly tech saavy but have been dealing with digital music/DRM for the last 4-5 years or so. Mainly my experience has been with Apple/iTunes and have had no DRM issues with them.

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My take...

In reply to: MP3s & DRM - Did I waste all my $?

1. No, you don't own them, though yes, you can play them on any compatible device you like. That 99 cents (or similar amount) that you paid for the download only serves as a license fee for your own right to the usage of that song file. For instance you can't legally resell the song; your name (in your account information) is forever attached to that download file. Then again, RIAA stipulates that we're not supposed to be able to resell our CDs either, but good luck to them actually being able to track any of that.

2. Depends. For instance, Apple/iTMS will do it for their songs for an additional surcharge fee...just as long as the song is still in their catalog. You don't actually 'scrub' the song of its DRM, but download the non-DRM version in place of the older protected version. You would have to contact your seller to verify whether or not you have any recourse to convert your versions to a non-DRM format.

3. Yes.

4. Yes. It's just this very reason is why nowadays I [1]mostly buy used CDs and continue to rip. As to why it's different than LP, CD or cassette: keep in mind that if equipment manufacturers stop making cassette devices, then at some point down the road your tapes will eventually become useless. As for digital files: MP3-format files (signified by the .MP3 filetype) by their very nature are not DRM-protected, so I assume that your main gripe is with protected WMA (.WMP) files that were purchased from the sources that you listed. Having NEVER purchased a protected WMA file, I don't know what the licensing ramifications are with them. That said, there ARE freeware programs available that will "record" your DRMed music files (.WMP or .M4P) as unprotected .MP3, allowing you to use them on ANY .MP3 compatible device you want.

5. No. Government doesn't care. Government (or more precisely, the politicians) are in the pockets of the media concerns who benefit from this debacle of a system.

NOTE: The fact that you have expired music tends to make me believe that at least SOME of 'your music' may have been licensed for rental (via subscription), and not actually music with a purchased license agreement. Either that, or something has significantly changed with your computer that makes the license see your current machine as if it's some other non-approved machine. Again, not having any experience with protected WMA files, I can't say this with any certainty. But that said, did you ever pay a monthly fee for your ability to get song downloads? And if not, then is it really the record company's fault that somehow your computer became corrupted to the point that your song files are rendered unusable? Considering that your machine is described as having problems with basic syncing and ripping functions, there certainly sounds like there's issues that are clearly out of the record labels' hands.

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