Zune’s “Viral” DRM Wraps Your Personal Content in Microsoft DRM!


So details have arisen in the blogosphere, merely a day after the Zune was revealed in a private press gathering yesterday that the only real innovation in the Zune is “viral DRM,” meaning that using the Zune’s new “social networking” feature that allows other Zune owners to stream music to one another wraps up YOUR OWN MUSIC in Windows Media DRM before streaming, and, of course, doesn’t let it go. Blatently violating Creative Commons and trampling on your own personal rights to your own music-not just music you might download from Microsoft’s “Urge” music service-and enforcing DRM on music that Microsoft has no idea how you obtained; you could have ripped it from your own CD without DRM, and suddenly it has DRM if you own a Zune.

Not a smart opening salvo, Microsoft. Seriously-what are you guys thinking?

I know what they’re thinking-in order to prevent copyright infringement through their sharing service, they essentially default to encrypting your tracks with DRM before sending them to a friend. It makes some sense, but in the end it’s simply not Microsoft’s business how you obtained your mp3s, and if they want to put in a feature that allows other people to hear your music, it’s not their responsibility to enforce that aspect of copyright law; although it seems that either that or the music industry believes they have the right to take one that responsibility themselves. From BoingBoing:

The new Microsoft Zune player (their soi-dissant “iPod Killer”) applies DRM to all the files you move onto it, even the Creative Commons-licened music. The problem is that CC licenses prohibit this. What’s more, CC licenses are machine-readable and could, theoretically, be detected by Microsoft, if they cared enough about copyright to ensure that they were adhering to the license policies set out by creators.

There currently isn’t a way to sniff out what you are sending, so we wrap it all up in DRM. We can’t tell if you are sending a song from a known band or your own home recording so we default to the safety of encoding.

The link to that story, which includes a link to the information at a site called “ZuneInsider,” is here:

[ Microsoft Zune Will Violate Creative Commons Licenses ]

The story goes on however, and that’s horrifically sad. We’ll see what Microsoft has to say about it in time, but knowing them they won’t back down. Bad Microsoft, bad bad bad. People complain all the time about Apple’s DRM and protected AAC format and how you’re locked into iTunes and the iPod, and apparently that part of the complaint hasn’t fallen on Microsoft’s ears-as this is sure to mean that any content ported to the Zune will only be playable on the Zune, and likely only really compatible with either Microsoft’s Urge service, or compatible subscription-based services like Napster, and we all know how subscription services are.

At least Apple’s DRM is so easily hackable and breakable that it’s incredibly difficult to consider it real DRM-you can always burn your music to CD and then re-rip the CD to mp3, (although the nitpickers will claim you lose audio quality, I truly wonder if that quality is hear-able to anyone but the most die-hard audiophile and not just an excuse by Apple haters to spout nonsense) and if it’s that easy, in my mind, it doesn’t count. The existance of the Hymn Project, and the fact that the DRM in iTunes 7 was cracked after only ONE DAY, makes me wonder how serious Apple is about DRM, and the fact that they’re walking the line between being serious about it and being soft enough that users who care enough can actually get around it makes me very happy.

[ Wired:: iTunes 7 DRM Already Cracked ]

Apple’s taking the approach to DRM that many analysts have been arguing for for a long time. In order to reduce piracy, you don’t have to cripple people’s computers with DRM like Sony did, you don’t have to intrude on all of their music like Microsoft is doing, you just have to make it so the majority of people either don’t know how or can’t figure out a way around it, and subsequently just comply with the law. Apple’s even given the layperson a way around it in the form of burning and re-ripping, but the Apple haters apparently can’t figure that out either. The trick is to make DRM restrictive to enough people that MOST people don’t pirate and MOST people go the legal route, and the people who truly care about DRM and want their music to be playable everywhere on any platform can figure out ways around it-they buy their music legally, they just want the freedom to take it where they want to go, and they don’t want to be treated like criminals-that’s what programs like Hymn allow. As for the rest? Just complaining.

But Microsoft’s taking the entertainment industry’s side in this-they want aggressive, intrusive enforcement of copyright, and apparently Microsoft has swallowed their coolaid. All this, and on top of it news is breaking that the Zune doesn’t even support Microsoft’s own “PlaysForSure” DRM scheme. Things are looking worse and worse:

[ Wired: Microsoft Zune Still Doesn’t Support PlaysForSure ]

All this, the mysterious disappearance of Microsoft’s promise to let users trade in their iTunes songs for content from Urge (wow-trade Apple’s DRM for Microsoft’s more intrusive DRM! What a great idea!) and instead just import them to the yet-unspecified jukebox software Microsoft is supposedly releasing with the Zune (yet another player-jukebox binding bundle-that should make the Apple haters turn on Microsoft as well, but I doubt it…it’s just too vogue to hate Apple) which will do the conversion for them (which then raises the question-will Microsoft be violating the DMCA by breaking Apple’s protected AAC format in order to change it to Windows Media DRM? Probably-so how are they going to make this work? Not well, looks like the early answer…) presents even more points of failure for the Zune.

This is looking worse and worse as every new detail arises, and more and more like the Origami fiasco-a decent idea, something that could have forced an entire industry to innovate and come up with new features and ideas and stay competitive, but instead looks to be turning out to be another device in a cluttered market that does the same things that others do already, just worse than the existing products.

More on the Zune’s viral DRM as Medialoper:

[ Zune’s Big Innovation: Viral DRM ]

2 thoughts on “Zune’s “Viral” DRM Wraps Your Personal Content in Microsoft DRM!

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