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Microsoft steals music back from paying customers


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

This post was published more than 12 years ago

I keep old posts on the site because I often enjoy reading old content on other people's sites. It can be interesting to see how views have changed over time: for example, how my strident teenage views have, to put it mildly, mellowed.

I'm not a believer in brushing the past under the carpet. I've written some offensive rubbish on here in the past: deleting it and pretending it never happened doesn't change that. I hope that stumbling across something that's 12 years old won't offend anyone anew, because I hope that people can understand that what I thought and felt and wrote about then is probably very different to what I think and feel and write about now. It's a relic of an (albeit recent) bygone era.

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

  • My views may well have changed in the last 12 years. I have written some very silly things over the years, many of which I find utterly cringeworthy today.
  • This post might use words or language in ways which I would now consider highly inappropriate, offensive, embarrassing, or all three.
  • Factual information might be outdated.
  • Links might be broken, and 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?

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

This 1,325th post was filed under: News and Comment, Technology.

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