WalMart slaps legitimate music fans

Legitimate music consumers are once again at the receiving end of the bad half of the deal on news that giant US retailer, Wal-Mart, plans to close its DRM-server on October 9, meaning previous purchasers of music through its previous music service will lose their collections.

This move follows similar steps by Microsoft and Yahoo this year. All three companies elected to end support for the DRM keys required to transfer music between computers, which need to be authorised in order to play the tracks. Lack of a DRM server means this authorisation doesn’t take place, effectively depriving music buyers of access to their collections.

Sure, there’s work-arounds to this, such as burning the music to CD in order to attempt to reimport it, but why consumers should bear the brunt of these steps, and why they should be forced to use valuable time and resources in order to do this when they originally paid for the convenience of these online means with which to purchase music hasn’t been explained. Was this kind of hassle described within the T&C’s at time of purchase?

The music labels won’t be too concerned. Their attitude was best articulated by BPI chief exec Geoff Taylor, who last week publicly said music consumers should expect permanent use of music they legally download online, but warned, “Technology changes to take place”, and pointed to the move to CD and other music delivery media as expressions of this.

This implies labels will see the slow move to end support for old purchases as tantamount to such technology shift – even though the technology used was insisted on by the labels in the first place. The honourable thing music labels could do for customers affected by these changes in DRM would be to offer free replacement of purchased music to affected customers in the currently accepted MP3 standard. (WalMart began selling music in this format in August last year).

Whether the labels will do the honorable thing to those customers who resisted the urge to steal music early on in the legitimate digital music industry’s evolution is open to question. Perhaps they hope to teach honest customers to steal, by dint of such mistreatment.

It’s more likely labels will simply argue that compensation should be provided by the service provider, in this case, Wal-Mart.

Whatever the outcome, it’s a sad and sorry state of affairs which effectively punishes the exact same tranche of already honest music consumers the industry should be giving five star treatment too.

Meanwhile, the question remains as to just when labels will move to offer digital music purchasers the right to bequeath their music collections to their children after they shuffle off this mortal coil – such transfer of music ownership is not something that’s allowed under current t&c’s for most online services. Another thing which sucks.

To make it personal for a second – I still believe artists should be paid, and pay for all my music as a result. With an earlier background in band management, I know just how little most musicians end up with, even after moderate success. It continues to confound me why this is the case.

As we say in our mission statement, Distorted-Loop is pro-artist and pro-consumer. We seek the magic mix of ideas which will generate just the best possible outcome for both. We don’t think destroying the digital music collections of legitimate fans when they have done nothing wrong other than pay for their music is particularly likely to be part of that.

Image courtesy of Crashing Out, features a WalMart music kiosk having a bad day one day in 2005.

2 thoughts on “WalMart slaps legitimate music fans

  1. Migdalia Secrest

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