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Microsoft steals music back from paying customers

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Hold up! Before you read on, please read this...

This post was published more than 10 years ago

I keep old posts on the site because I often enjoy reading old content on other people's sites. Not everything that is old is bad. It can be interesting to see how views have changed over time: for example, how my strident teenage views have mellowed and matured.

But given the age of this post, please bear in mind:

  • My views might very well have changed in the 10 years since I wrote this post. I have written some very silly things over the years, many of which I find pretty embarrassing today.
  • This post might use language in ways which I would now consider highly inappropriate or offensive.
  • Factual information might be outdated.
  • Links might be broken; embedded material might not appear properly.

Okay. Consider yourself duly warned. Read on...

MSN MusicThe music industry may find that convincing consumers to pay for legally downloaded DRM protected music is about to get a whole lot harder this autumn, as Microsoft has decided to use its immense tech industry muscle to make an utter mockery of the whole business.

In the wake of iTunes making a huge amount of money from selling DRM protected music, Microsoft desperately wanted to get in on the act, and so set up its own competitor – MSN Music. However, somewhat predictably thanks to the ubiquity of the iPod, the draconian restrictions of Microsoft’s PlaysForSure format, and the complexity of the whole system, Microsoft failed to make much of an impact, and so is now closing down it’s MSN Music store.

However, in a move that looks purely incendiary and vindictive, it’s also taking the servers used to validate the DRM licences offline (as reported – with relish – by Googler Mark Pilgrim).

Essentially, if you’ve ‘bought’ music from the MSN Music store, in a few weeks’ time you’ll find that any major change to your PC setup – be that changing devices, buying a new portable music device, or even upgrading Windows – will render your music unplayable.

So, having taken your money, Microsoft seem to no longer care whether the product works any more.

This leaves us with a huge number of unanswered questions, the most pressing of which would seem to be: Will they begin taking the same approach to old versions of software, and stop running software validation servers? Whilst MSN Music and Microsoft Software may be different beasts, it doesn’t seem unfeasable to suggest that this approach to licensing isn’t the corporate philosophy.

Most tech-savvy individuals have been aware for a long time that something like this could theoretically happen, but I’d be willing to bet that many thought that Microsoft was trustworthy enough to continue to allow you to access products you’ve paid for. This no longer seems to be the case.

It’s the strongest argument yet against DRM, and – for that matter – against buying any Microsoft product. If you’re running Microsoft Software, who knows if the next install will work or if the Validation Servers will have been taken offline?

ยป Image Credit: MSN Music screenshot by Luke ‘Duke’ Newcombe, modified under licence

This 1,327th post was filed under: News and Comment, Technology.

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