Last week, Microsoft announced to MSN Music users that they would be discontinuing their online music service — including not honoring licensed music by means of legitimate paid DRM keys. The decision not only hurts their users, it also serves as a case study for how content distributors should not protect digital media.
In the EFF’s DeepLinks blog, they share their perspective on the situation (rather, validating them) by writing an open letter to Microsoft urging them to take steps to reimburse MSN Music users for songs that will be deactivated and/or provide long-term support for Microsoft Zune users who would be affected.
Here is a scenario that might help folks understand what this really is about:
You want to buy a tire [Music CD] for your car. Instead of going to the dealer [CD Store], you go to a competitive tire shop [MSN Music] that promises that you can take your tire with you and has a warranty for life. Well, many miles later, the tire shop closes down and they send a guy [DRM] out to puncture your tires because they can’t promise the manufacturers [Record companies] that you’ve obtained a tire from them. Now, you technically agreed to this because you signed the invoice [EULA], and is totally legal and you need to go buy a new tire.
While that is a bit of a stretch, it’s precisely the point — DRM does not prevent unauthorized copies of music, in fact, it encourages it. Why couldn’t Microsoft just send a regular MP3 through the tubes? Because of costly technology, fear of record companies and frivolous lawsuits — consumers pay the price by means of lost music, a poor experience and their wallet.
I have hope that Microsoft will do the right thing and deactivate DRM encryption for MSN music users (that is, send it via a Windows Update) or at least refund the money per song at “market value” at a nominal $1.00 per song and a less corporate droned apology to users.
But I won’t hold my breath.