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ATPM 14.05
May 2008




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by Mark Tennent,

Another Ripping Rip-off

Digital music is set to take another kick in the teeth. Have you got any tracks you downloaded from the MSN Music service? If so, think again, because on August 31 Microsoft is going to turn off the license servers. This means those tracks that you bought with your hard-earned cash will eventually become nothing more than digital detritus on your hard disk.

Microsoft’s attempt to topple iTunes from its number one position started in 2004 and lasted two years before it realised it was yet another failure and stopped the service. Instead, the Zune Marketplace took over, presumably destined to go the same way at some point unless Microsoft can persuade iPod users that the Zune is a better device. That will be on the same day as the porcine air show no doubt.

Closing the MSN Music servers will not mean that tracks become unplayable immediately, because the currently authorised computer will remain unaffected. But the tracks will not be usable on another computer or operating system because Microsoft’s digital rights management (DRM) stops the tracks being duplicated or transferred.

The only solution is to burn the tracks to audio CD, never 100% effective because they have already lost quality when the compressed versions were made, and more quality would be lost if you re-ripped them. Or you could find some nefarious means to crack the DRM.

Microsoft Inspires Piracy

It’s almost as if Microsoft was encouraging piracy. Music, unlike computer programs, doesn’t suddenly become obsolete, and “owners” of the tracks reasonably expect to be able to listen to their music for years to come. When they get a new computer they will also expect to transfer their digital music from one to the other. As many have pointed out, this is the weakness in protected music tracks where one relies on being able to transfer the tracks.

Of course, this is all pointed out in the friendly copyright notices that you scrolled to the bottom of, before you clicked on the Agree button. You don’t actually own the digital tracks, just the right to play them until such time as the content provider decides otherwise.

You did read them, didn’t you?

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Reader Comments (1)

J. L. Eaton · May 11, 2008 - 04:06 EST #1
You've precisely illustrated the reason why I have chosen to NEVER patronize a digital music download service (free or paid). The former goes against the very spirit of the copyright laws (supposedly) designed to protect the music artists; while the latter is enabling and encouraging ripping off the consumer, whom (if they go along with it) are effectively just "renting" the rights to play the music. It appears there is no middle ground....

Speaking of which, btw, anyone interested in purchasing a glorified $50 FM radio receiver? (i.e., SanDisk sansa™ c200 MP3 player). :(

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