Why DRM is Broken

In my opinion, DRM has always been broken. Locking customers into a certain player or into a certain piece of software severely limits what they can do with the files they have legally bought (a disadvantage that illegally obtained tracks conveniently don't have). This is taken to a whole new level when the customer is denied access altogether to the tracks they have legally purchased.

MSN Music, which is now shut down, was used by a fair amount of people. The tracks that were purchased all came with Microsoft's PlaysForSure DRM protection. The store was shut down after the launch of the Zune and was replaced by the Zune Marketplace. The tracks that were purchased on MSN Music were still playable; however, this is about to change.

The way MSN Music's DRM works is that when the track is played, the software will check with an authentication server to see if the track is legal. If it is legal, then the track plays. If not, then it doesn't play. Also, if this server cannot be reached then the track will not play. Microsoft has recently announced that they will be shutting down the authentication servers for MSN Music (external link), which means that music purchased through this website will no longer play, unless it has already been authenticated!

This to me exemplifies exactly why DRM was never a good idea. It shows how these users have never actually purchased their music, only leased it until the seller shuts down.



  • Posted by Tom (external link) on Fri 23 May 2008 at 4:04

  • The real problem in legal electronic music, at least for me, is that the lossy DRM-free music formats cost almost as much as buying the actual physical album. Even for a lossless format like FLAC that'd be truly a rip-off. Producing the case and the booklet and a physical CD is dirt-cheap, even in combination with all the transport costs involved and the putting it in the stores on display costs, but paying less than ⬠1 more for that, usually even much closer to that price? Not even FLAC warrants such costs in comparison, and it's not even available!

    Hence why I buy physical albums, which are roughly the same price as lower quality lossy files. I do then rip my albums to a similar lossy format, but at least my money hasn't been wasted in that case. Plus I can use the actual CDs in cars, or when can't or don't want to boot up my computer, or whatever.

    Posted by Frans (external link) on Fri 23 May 2008 at 6:03

  • I prefer digital files though because you don't have the issue of CD storage, which with a large music collection can be troublesome. I also like to perhaps just buy one or two songs instead of a few albums. I have a lot of songs from iTunes, but I think the main reason for that is because iTunes gift cards are popular gifts here.

    Posted by Ethan Poole (external link) on Fri 23 May 2008 at 6:13

  • My music listening is very album centric, I think it creates a sort of unity. Besides I tend to check things out before I buy them. <_< Anyway, this results in me buying more music, so yeah...

    Posted by Frans (external link) on Fri 23 May 2008 at 10:47