July 26 2008

When Will People Realize DRM Is Just A Bad Idea?

Yahoo Music is shutting down, and with them go their Digital Rights Management (DRM) servers.

What this translates to is that after October 1st you won’t be able to authorize new computers to play your tracks on, meaning your songs you bought would be living with an expiration date hanging over your head.  This news was first followed by the suggestion you burn the songs to CDs and then rip them back to MP3 format to remove the DRM protection, which could result in lower sound quality.

Yahoo told InformationWeek that they would not be abandoning their customers will be goign case by case with some sort of compensation or possibly providing DRM free versions of the MP3s.  This, however, will require you contacting Yahoo by using the “Contact Customer Care” button at the bottom of their FAQ page.

This story goes in conjuction with MSN announcing they will only support their tracks for three additional years, and Sony will stop supporting tracks bought at their Connect store at the end of the year.

Folks, when are you going to stop buying tracks with DRM coding?  You are allowing people to tell you how, when and where you can listen to music you legally purchased, and when they decide to stop supporting it, well, too bad for you.  Notice that every solution listed requires the consumer to be proactive in getting their purchases taken care of, not the other way around.  Why isn’t Yahoo coming up with either some sort of file that can be emailed out to consumers so they can strip the DRM without any extra steps, or why not just allow them to go in download versions without DRM?

Every time I write about DRM, some yaabo comes through and “schools” me in the comments on the option to burn to CD and then rip back, and now even Yahoo is suggesting this as an option.  Well, here are the problems with this method.

Blank CDs cost money – If I purchased something legally, why should I have to spend more money to make it work like anything I purchase should?

Burning CDs takes time – It’s not exactly a speedy process.

Ripping from a CD takes time – Again, not a super fast process.

Wear and tear on your equipment – I am using my equipment to correct a company mistake, so not only is it costing me for CDs and in time, but you are also asking me use up some of the life of my equipment.

Potential loss of quality – If your equipment isn’t up to snuff, you could lose some sound quality of the recordings.

So now you have DRM laden music you are facing either losing your ability to play, or having to go through steps you should never have to go through to make it work.  Someone I spoke with said this is no different than people who have vinyl running out of options of how to play it.  Well, the problem is that turntables are still being built, so, yes, that option is still very much alive to people who have vinyl albums.

This is a whole new set of problems that we have not seen before the invention of DRM, and it is just getting worse as challangers crop up to take on iTunes, and then ultimately fail.  This was never a problem before digital files, and it’s the only place that it could surface.  Imaging buying a DVD and finding out you could play it only in a Sony produced DVD player.  How long would you stand for this?  You wouldn’t, you would scream bloody murder about it.  DRM files are exactly this situation and now you are coming to find out that at any time a company could just flip off a server and… oops, no more music for you.

I just don’t get why people are allowing themselves to be shackled by the music companies like this.  Buy used CDs, trade them on sites like Lala, but whatever you do, support sites like the Amazon MP3 store which is DRM free, but just say no to DRM or you may find yourself in a very similar situation one of these days.

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