I like my music DRM-free

DRM, often called Digital Restrictions Management (FSF Campaign), has always been a pain in the neck for users. But media and software companies don’t seem to understand why users are so pissed off about it (some have started making the right noises – Amazon DRM-free music store and the music companies’ support for it, for example).

Consider what Microsoft has done with MSN Music.

The news will likely upset a number of Microsoft’s customers, who bought music from MSN Music before the company launched the Zune Marketplace and decided to ditch the old store. Microsoft’s decision to turn off the MSN Music authorization servers serves as a painful reminder that DRM ultimately severely limits your rights. Companies that control various DRM schemes, as well as the content providers themselves, can yank your ability to play the content which you lawfully purchased (and now, videos) at any moment—no matter what your expectation was when you bought it. Some Major League Baseball fans learned this the hard way last fall.

THIS is one of the reasons who DRM is near-universally hated by consumers – you effectively get locked out of something you paid for if the company decides to shut shop or doesn’t want to continue supporting the ‘product’. Then there is the problem of having reinstalled the OS forgetting that you had a few applications the licenses for which you had not ‘surrendered’ before hand.

Thankfully things are not that bad in India and music cds still come drm-free. Don’t know how long that will last though. If the cd does disappear and ‘digital’ becomes the only viable source for music, I would prefer a watermarked file compared to a drm-ed one – Microsoft has recently come up with the ‘perfect’ watermarking solution it calls El Dorado. But watermarking has its dangers, particularly on the privacy front (related WIRED article).

To understand the lengths to which the music industry can go to make that extra dollar of revenue, read this. What the post basically talks about is – if you live in the UK (and buy audio cds, I must add), you might be permitted to legally rip a cd, if you pay a format shifting (that’s what they call it) fee by shelling out a few extra bucks for your iPod (this is more of a piracy tax than anything else). Brilliant idea. Any takers?

Whatever the future holds, there is one thing most people probably agree on. DRM is a bad idea. Think of something non-intrusive.

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