Yahoo! to disable customers' music

July 25, 2008 // 9:06 a.m.

Tags: #digital-restriction-management #digital-rights-management #drm #mp3 #wma

Companies: #rhapsody #yahoo

Consumers were remind why Digital Rights Management (DRM) restrictions don't play nicely with their personal freedom yesterday when Yahoo! Music announced that it was stop releasing keys to unlock songs downloaded from its service.

First reported in the Los Angeles Times on Thursday, the move comes as part of the company's partnership with RealNetwork's Rhapsody service. The plan is for the authentication servers to be taken offline on the 30th September, after which time the Windows Media DRM wrapped around songs downloaded from the service will render them unusable on new systems.

Yahoo! Music offered two purchasing options for music lovers – a subscription-based service where your music collection would stop working when you stopped paying, and an outright purchase option where once you'd made a one-off payment you owned the music. The problem stems from the fact that music from both options were wrapped in the same DRM – with the music purchased outright requiring authentication with an external server the first time it's played. While these songs will continue to work, the ability to move the music to another PC – if you upgrade, or if your main PC dies – is lost after September. The only option available to anyone who wants to backup their legitimately purchased music collection will be to take advantage of the ability to create an audio CD free from DRM using the files – a move which will severely degrade the audio quality due to restrictions built in to the DRM model.

CNet is reporting that the Electronic Frontier Foundation is stamping its feet over the issue, using Yahoo! Music's move as another illustration on why DRM should stand for Digital Restriction Management. Corynne McSherry, one of the EFF's attorneys, points out that “people think they can use music wrapped in digital rights management just like they do a CD. This should teach everyone that you can't.

McSherry is also calling on Yahoo! Music to compensate customers for the music that they will be losing through no fault of their own – either by replacing the songs with DRM-free MP3 downloads, which I can't imagine the music labels agreeing to, or by refunding the purchase price.

Has anyone here got music they downloaded through the Yahoo! Music store that will be next to useless come September, or are we all too tech-saved to rely on a system riddled with DRM? Share your thoughts over in the forums.
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