Reason #9,358 For Not Buying DRM'd Music: Wal-Mart Shuts Down DRM Servers

from the and-again dept

Following the misguided lead of both Microsoft and Yahoo, it appears that Wal-Mart has decided to turn off its DRM servers, basically screwing over anyone who trusted Wal-Mart to make sure that music bought from Wal-Mart would keep working. What’s amazing is that Wal-Mart would do this after seeing the backlash that made both Microsoft and Yahoo eventually back down (with Yahoo even going so far as to offer refunds). Wal-Mart, on the other hand, just told people they have a week to burn their music to a CD and re-rip it — or they lose it entirely. Obviously, by this point, you should know that buying DRM’d music is a mistake, because you’re leaving the music in a situation where the company you bought it from can “turn it off” at some point, but what’s more amazing is that Wal-Mart would make the exact same mistake after seeing what happened to both Yahoo and Microsoft.

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Companies: microsoft, wal-mart, yahoo

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Comments on “Reason #9,358 For Not Buying DRM'd Music: Wal-Mart Shuts Down DRM Servers”

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Ima Fish (profile) says:

buying DRM’d music is a mistake

Nowadays, buying anything with DRM is a mistake. Sure DVDs have DRM, but they’re not constantly changing it making bricks out of players.

With Blu-ray, unless you buy a PS3 you’re never certain if some new DRM scheme will make it impossible to play new Blu-rays.

And even if you think you’re safe by buying a PS3, what happens when the PS4 comes out? Do you know for certain that Sony will keep updating the PS3 so you can keep playing new Blu-ray discs? I wouldn’t put my faith in Sony to keep doing what does not make it money, especially when not providing updates to the PS3 gives consumers an incentive to buy the PS4.

And all those idiots who buy Unboxed movies or Kindle books are in for a rude awakening. If you buy a DVD or a book, and you treat it well, it will last a long time. Books last centuries. Do you really think the digital DRMed content you buy from Amazon will be usable for that long?

Twinrova says:

Re: Re:

“Nowadays, buying anything with DRM is a mistake. Sure DVDs have DRM, but they’re not constantly changing it making bricks out of players.”
Actually, this isn’t true. Many people, myself included, have had to scrap DVD players because they couldn’t interpret the copy protection layer installed on DVDs after 2006.

Luckily for me, Samsung worked with me to replace my DVD player at no cost to me.

On topic, now.
This story just goes to prove how stupid the average consumer is. Even if a company tells its consumers “Use it or lose it”, it’s still wrong to shaft consumers in this manner.

Corporate America no longer cares about “consumer rights” and it’s getting worse by the day. Many consumers, such as myself, who choose not to buy DRM media have no alternative (legally).

I have no problem in purchasing media legally but all this crap regarding DRM is about to push me into the torrent world as, given no choices to me, is my only choice.

The MPAA, RIAA, and ESA should learn from consumers instead of trying to screw us over by treating us like non-paying thieves.

While I do believe much of the media available is overpriced, I am willing to make purchases. Most of the time, I wait until the price drop to do so, which is what every consumer should do.

Instead, they rush out and buy the “latest” thing which does nothing more than fuel DRM’d media.

I am truly getting sick and tired of paying for the activities of others who feel it’s in their power to circumvent the law of copyright instead of doing what they should have done in the first place: Not buy the damn thing.

Sorry for the rant, but these stories just irk me because they remind me of just how much I’d like to have compared to what I do have.

SteveD says:

So the solution is to 'pirate' it?

Its funny how the Wal Mart solution to their DRM is to ask customers to by-pass it entirely by burning to disk and re-ripping, a flaw that was always there. But its sad that no ones stopped to consider how a lossy track burned to a CD then re-ripped might degrade in quality.

Its also funny how Wal Marts responsibility to their customers just vanishes with the flip of an off-switch. The company isn’t even collapsing.

johnfordummies (profile) says:

Not that surprising.

“but what’s more amazing is that Wal-Mart would make the exact same mistake after seeing what happened to both Yahoo and Microsoft.”

I don’t really think it’s all that amazing. Wal-Mart has never really been a consumer-conscious company. They make decisions every day that totally ignore what’s best for the customer and their image. I haven’t seen the numbers regarding their online music sales, but with a company that reports profits in the billions every quarter, I’m sure any hit to their online music store will hardly be noticed. Besides, turning off your DRM servers is a great way to get people who play-by-the-book to purchase the same product again and again. Wal-Mart will never apologize and you can bet they will never hand out any type of refund.

Uneducated Consumer says:

I haven’t paid for music since 1998. I don’t really understand the way this DRM stuff works but I know it sounds like a bad deal. Why not just download a song for free and not jump through hoops? Can someone please explain how DRM is enforced because my current understanding of it is as follows (and this could be entirely wrong):

You go to some website (say Walmart) and you put in your credit card info and purchase some songs. Maybe you buy a subscription and have access to a bunch of songs… whatever. The files are somehow tagged and each time you play them they need to be verified by some server out there in the Interwebs thus limiting you to certain devices.?

Am I close?

Not being familiar with purchasing music online, how are these facts expressed to the customer before purchasing music? Is this all stuffed in an endless EULA? because who seriously reads those things and I’m sure 90% of people buying anything from Walmart (no, i can’t cite any sources… call it a guesstimate) could barely grasp such a concept.

Don’t get me wrong, I can see where I may be coming off as one of those people who doesn’t think an artist should be compensated for their work. I wouldn’t mind paying for music but it’s actually much easier to just get it for free. I really have two options if I wanted to pay for music:

1. Get it online through some pay site (iTunes??) but I don’t know anything about these sites other than the fact that I’m going to have give them a ton of info (credit cards, mailing address, etc.), sign up for some plan or pay as I go, and while that would be worth it, I’m still not sure if I have full rights to the music. Can i copy it to multiple devices? Do I have to verify it every time I play it? Most of you already know the answers to these questions but I don’t and I don’t want to spend the time researching different sites to find out when I could just get the song for free.

2. Go to a store and buy it… That’s just ridiculous and I’m not even going to entertain it.

John Doe says:

Re: Re: Re:

Uh, here is a consumer/thief who knows enough to use the internet to steal music but can’t figure out how to buy it? Come on, the guy is a thief plain and simple. If you can use a computer, the internet and file sharing sites and copy your music from one device to another; I think you could figure out how to pay for it. Don’t you?

Chronno S. Trigger says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Are you paying attention?

This person is perfectly willing to pay for what he wants but is unwilling to risk the DRM. With the possibility of the “phone home” servers shutting down, bricking of devices, and security vulnerabilities, why would anyone?

I don’t know about you, Mr. Doe, but when I purchase something I like to own that product. It’s the same exact reason I don’t rent anything.

John Doe says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Apparently I am the only one who is paying attention. In point 1 he questions how to buy online. In point 2, he says he won’t go to the store to buy it. So you won’t buy a CD, but don’t want to figure out how to buy online? I think if you can figure out how to use file sharing, you can figure out how to buy. I am sure he has made many other online purchases.

I completely agree with the sentiment of not wanting DRM music/video/etc. But I don’t agree with stealing it. If you can’t get what you want, don’t buy or steal and just do without. Using DRM as an excuse to steal is pathetic.

Uneducated Consumer says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

I’m not making any excuses for my behavior. I was just asking how it worked. It seems silly to me that since the early days of Napster there was music for the taking and it was completely untethered so I was unaware of this DRM revolution. I started getting music online from a “free” site and just evolved with those applications. I never used them enough to look into any other options. I used Napster until it was shut down, then I used ScourExchange until it was shut down, now I use Shareaza. Each time one went down a friend of mine would say “use this instead” and that’s what I did.

Maybe I’m small time and don’t share thousands of songs but it never seemed worth it fix something that wasn’t broken.

Uneducated Consumer says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I never said I couldn’t “figure out” how to buy it. It’s not a matter of being cheap, it’s a matter of being lazy. I probably download about 10 songs per year 9 of those are artists that aren’t even around anymore (usually something I heard on a class rock station and didn’t already have). The majority of my mp3 collection was actually purchased legally(?) on cd then ripped to my PC when I was in college and had oodles of time to do such things.

The fact is I’m not really a big music fan, I listen music radio when there’s nothing good on the talk stations (usually 3 hours during Rush Limbaugh and 3 hours during Don Imus) and I don’t even have an iPod. The question of copying to multiple devices was merely inquisitive as I know there is a large number of people who would look for that capability. I do transfer the media from work to home, would you consider it stealing to make multiple copies? I don’t really care.

So sure, I guess I’m a thief but I’m certainly not going to spend 2 hours looking for a pay-as-you-download site so I could download a Led Zeppelin song from 1970 and not have to worry about copying it to my laptop.

Oh, I also prefer to play mp3’s in Winamp by just dragging them from one music directory. I don’t like having to play them through some ridiculous proprietary app that comes with an online music service. Now I’m not entirely sure that I would have to but as I’ve already mentioned, I’m not going to take the time to find out.

John Doe says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Dang, your response makes me sorry I was so harsh. I am used to reading replies from so many pirates it seems that everyone is one.

I am like you, I don’t buy/rent/steal music. I listen to the radio when I am in the car, but I don’t buy music. I haven’t bought a CD in many years.

I have too many other hobbies to spend money on so music ranks pretty low. If it were cheaper and DRM free, then I would buy. Until then, I will just sit it out.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Doesn’t this individual’s experience sum up the problem? It’s just as easy, just as fast, and free – why would anyone bother to jump through hoops to buy something when they get a better experience obtaining it for free? That’s the problem – a business model hasn’t been introduced that can compete with bit torrents and still turn a profit.

Once they do that, they’ll see business come in droves.

zealeus (profile) says:

Re: Uneducated Consumer

The moral of the story is you’re too lazy to pay for any music and will endlessly make up excuses. There are good pay-for-mp3 sites out there without any DRM. Download it once and voila, and endless supply of music. If you’re too cheap to buy music, at least man-up and admit it instead of using “I’m too lazy to figure this stuff out” lame excuses.

Wesley says:

Re: Re:

If you are interested in buying music to support the artists, many of the on line music stores sell DRM free MP3 files now. A good place to buy music from is because all of their music is DRM free. On their home page, mouse over “Movies, Music & Games” on the left side of the page and then select “MP3 Downloads.” From there, you can do a search for the music you want or brows the store. You can easily buy individual songs or whole albums and even play a sample of the songs before buying. The files can be played on any portable MP3 player on the market and can be copied to as many devices as you like for your own personal use.

Tony says:

Re: Uneducated....Please GET Educated

It is VERY unfortunate that you don’t care that the artist whose music you have the pleasure of listening to is not being compensated accordingly for their work. What if your boss decided not to pay you for two hours of work each day that you actually worked? You probably wouldn’t be too happy about that. NOT knowing how to obtain music legally is NO excuse to break the law; which is exactly what you are doing. There are many ways to BUY DRM-FREE music on the internet that is just as easy as obtaining it illegally. You’re just being LAZY and using the “It’s too complicated” line as an excuse to steal.

Uneducated Consumer says:

Re: Re: Uneducated....Please GET Educated

Why would even reply to this. Is it because you think your analogy of my boss not paying me is original and insightful? It’s neither. It, or something similar has been used on this site ad nauseam. As for insightful it has the opposite effect. I don’t have a boss, I work for myself and if someone doesn’t pay me I cut my losses and stop working with them and don’t cry about. My services can’t be copied and shared even though the product can. The artist doesn’t have a boss, they also produce a product that can be copied but they’re services (concerts, fan experience, relationship) cannot. So they, like myself, have two options:
1)Pack it up and go home. Frankly, I wouldn’t miss anyone that’s still producing music…
2)Create an experience for your customer that will be worth paying for rather than trying to sell shiny disks.

As a side thought, If I go on a DRM-free pay site and pay $1(?) for a song by Stevie Ray Vaughan, am I in any way supporting the artist whose music I had the pleasure of listening to?

“There are many ways to BUY DRM-FREE music on the internet.”
I find it interesting that, with the exception of Wesley, no one offered a place to get DRM-Free music yet insisted that they are plentiful

As for the rest of your comment, you just paraphrased my comment.

me: …I don’t and I don’t want to spend the time researching different sites to find out when I could just get the song for free.

you: You’re just being LAZY and using the “It’s too complicated” line as an excuse to steal.

DanC says:

Re: breaking the law

It isn’t illegal, because burning a CD is allowable by the DRM itself. Since the DRM cannot be translated over to the CD, the DRM essentially allows for its own removal. Re-ripping the audio tracks off the CD afterwords is simply a case of fair use.

Additionally, if you actually read the DMCA, you will see that it provides an exemption for fair use:

Section 1201 divides technological measures into two categories: measures that prevent unauthorized access to a copyrighted work and measures that prevent unauthorized copying of a copyrighted work. Making or selling devices or services that are used to circumvent either category of technological measure is prohibited in certain circumstances, described below. As to the act of circumvention in itself, the provision prohibits circumventing the first category of technological measures, but not the second.

This distinction was employed to assure that the public will have the continued ability to make fair use of copyrighted works. Since copying of a work may be a fair use under appropriate circumstances, section 1201 does not prohibit the act of circumventing a technological measure that prevents copying.

Basically, the DMCA creates an idiotic situation where circumvention is allowed in some cases, but the tools required to accomplish the task are illegal.

Vincent Clement says:

Wal-Mart, on the other hand, just told people they have a week to burn their music to a CD and re-rip it — or they lose it entirely.

A little misuse of exaggeration, there Mike?

The Wal-Mart email said that “your music and video collections will still play on the originally authorized computer”. Hardly sounds like they will lose it entirely.

I know, I know, people change computers or change or reinstall their OS. But that’s not what you said 😉

Cunk says:

Was this a subscription service?

If so then I don’t understand why everyone is trashing it. You pay a monthly fee to listen to any music you want. You can only keep it as long as you pay the monthly fee. Sounds reasonable, IMHO.

Yet people didn’t seem to understand what they were paying for. It’s like if XM or Sirius went out of business and stopped broadcasting and everyone felt they were entitled to keep the music they used to listen to on their stations. The only difference is that the music subscription services took it further than the traditional broadcast model and allowed you to essentially program your own station and even move it to a (supported) portable player.

The biggest problem with music subscription services is that most customers seemed to believe they owned the music they were downloading. I blame both the customer and the service provider for that misconception.

However, if what’s being discontinued isn’t a subscription service and people actually paid $1 or song (or whatever) and they are now losing access to them then I agree with most of the sentiment above — this is bullshit.

Anonymous Coward says:

I really think an acceptable compromise would be to offer an upgrade to DRM-free higher quality files like itunes does with “itunes plus” for $.30 per song.

You would think the RIAA could use some good will about now and just letting these people who paid for these songs upgrade to DRM free songs for at no cost would be a good first step.

DanC says:

Making music less valuable...

I think Cory Doctorow over on Boing Boing summed it up very nicely:

But don’t worry, this will never ever happen to all those other DRM companies — unlike little fly-by-night mom-and-pop operations like Wal*Mart, the DRM companies are rock-ribbed veterans of commerce and industry, sure to be here for a thousand years. So go on buying your Audible books, your iTunes DRM songs, your Zune media, your EA games… None of these companies will ever disappear, nor will the third-party DRM suppliers they use. They are as solid and permanent as Commodore, Atari, the Soviet Union, the American credit system and the Roman Empire.

Boy, the entertainment industry sure makes a good case for ripping them off, huh? Buy your media and risk having it confiscated by a DRM-server shutdown. Take it for free and keep it forever.

nasch says:

Re: Making music less valuable...

As someone else pointed out, WalMart is not shutting off your music, they’re shutting off the ability to authorize more computers. If you’re going to buy DRM music, just make sure you can burn it to CD, though with Amazon and others selling MP3s, there seems to be less reason to do so.

DanC says:

Re: Re: Making music less valuable...

If you’re going to buy DRM music, just make sure you can burn it to CD

As has been noted by many others, burning the tracks to CD and then re-ripping them is basically performing a double lossy encoding, which degrades the sound. Also, you are making the customers perform an annoying task to bypass the DRM placed on the tracks you sold them.

The best method is to find a utility to rip the crap DRM out of the tracks so you don’t have to re-encode them. That’s how I made a DVD of the video I purchased from Amazon’s unBox.

Clive (profile) says:


I used to buy a lot of music on iTunes. However after moving from the USA to Canada, changing computers several times, and forgetting my old iTunes account info…I’ve given up on DRM iTunes. I don’t have time to fiddle with all this crap, or get my old “locked” files retrieved on another computer.

I don’t want to “steal” music either, and I’m tired of having to figure out how to deal with DRM (burn to CD, re-rip, email Apple to figure out the latest bug with iTunes and my library) so I’ve gone back to BUYING physical CDs.

Enough of this DRM, iTunes, iPod crap. It’s become too much work. I just want to listen to the damn music. The small difference in price for a physical CD versus iTunes (14.99 vs. 9.99 for an iTunes album) is well worth the savings in time and frustration.

Screw online music.

Piracy is not Theft says:

Musicians vs Record Companies

I’m sure this will stir things up a bit, but oh well…

People keep saying that file sharing is theft. It’s no different than borrowing a friend’s cd and making a copy of it, only you can have access to millions of copies at a time…

And Piracy isn’t theft. Piracy makes a copy, the original is still there. Theft is the removal of the item, the original is gone.

And…the record companies are the ones who get virtually all the money from record sales, not the artists. Musicians get the bulk of their money from tours and paraphernalia. With stores trying to sell cds for almost $20 each while Best Buy and Target have the exact same thing for $12-14, why would you encourage such high prices when you can get it elsewhere for cheaper?

I am one of the many who get their music for free. And all my favorite bands are still touring and going strong even without buying their cd. Where is the incentive to buy when as someone else said, it’s so much easier to get it for free?

SteveD says:

Re: Musicians vs Record Companies

“I’m sure this will stir things up a bit, but oh well…”

Probably not on this blog. 😛

No, piracy is not theft. But that doesn’t make it any less illegal. Copyright infringement is still a crime, albeit a civil case rather then a criminal one.

And while you’ll get lots of support for the ‘music should be free, because…’ argument round here, I wouldn’t try suggesting it to an artist. Even Trent Reznor still sells albums at the end of the day. Recording music at a good level of quality is simply too expensive for it ever to be a ‘promotional only’ tool.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Musicians vs Record Companies

“Copyright infringement is still a crime, albeit a civil case rather then a criminal one.”

To clear up some confusion, acts in violation of the rights conferred by copyright law are both civil and criminal matters, and this has been the case ever since the first US copyright act was enacted in 1790.

For those who keep saying theft is the taking away of a particular thing that denies the owner its use, this is a general description of theft as originally defined under what is known as “common law”. In many, if not most, jurisdictions the common law has given way to statutory definitions of theft, and at both state and federal levels its scope has been expanded.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Musicians vs Record Companies

Can you cite a jurisdiction that has actually changed the basic definition of theft to remove the element of depriving the owner of possession?

Jurisdictions have added new crimes such as “theft by swindle”, but I’m not aware of any that have changed the basic definition of simple theft.

hegemon13 says:

Re: Re: Re: Musicians vs Record Companies

If I were in a museum and took a high-resolution picture of a painting on the wall, did I steal it? I may have broken museum policy, and they have the right to kick me out. But, is it the same as sneaking in at night, dressed in a black ninja suit, and stealing the painting for my own wall? I think it’s pretty clearly NOT the same thing.

TW Burger (profile) says:

Downloads - It's too complicated and unreliable

Downloading and ripping and it takes too much time, I don’t want to steal music, and the quality sucks.

Buying CD’s at discount stores and garage sales for $1 or $2 each for new or near new albums works out well and you get a interesting variety. If you do not like an album you’re only out a dollar and can drop it off at the Sally Anne.

You may not be able to get the latest releases, but most of the new releases are complete dreck anyway.

Overcast says:

Worst part is – the mass of people who bought DRM laden music, are not always the most computer saavy – they likely won’t even know this until they have to re-load their OS and then, at that point, find out they can’t listen to what they’ve purchased.

Or rather, I guess ‘rented’.

I agree with the above though – they basically are stealing from their customers.

Would be interesting to see a class action law-suit on this, to force these companies to maintain these servers, regardless if they want to or not.

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