May 1, 2008

Microsoft Can't Support DRM

So it seems that "PlaysForSure" actually meant "Plays until the first time you change your computer or operating system after August 31, 2008". About ten days ago Microsoft's general manager for MSN Entertainment and Video Services sent out an email to customers advising them that license keys can no longer be retrieved and new computers cannot be activated after that date.

This is a very clear indication that digital rights management (DRM) is a loss for the consumer. If I wanted to keep songs from my eight-track stereo around then there was nothing to stop me from transferring them to audio cassette or CD (despite the RIAA's rather specious arguments that this was a breach of copyright). If I'd been silly enough to trust Microsoft's assertion that DRM offered me protections then I'd have to get ready to shell out for new copies after any change to my playing environment.

The Electronic Freedom Foundation has written to Microsoft stating in no uncertain terms that (by suggesting that users copy the music to a CD and transfer it to new computers that way) the company "is asking its customers to invest more time, labor and money in order to continue to enjoy the music for which they have already paid".

If Microsoft, with all their resources, can't keep a DRM scheme working then there is little chance for anyone else. It also doesn't encourage customers to trust the company if it is prepared to abandon them in this way, though they might have anticipated this desertion when Microsoft closed the MSN store when it started selling the Zune.

I suspect this is the beginning of the end of DRM. Let it rest in peace.

No comments: