Will Microsoft abandon DRM?

Ars Technica quotes an email apparently sent to customers of MSN Music:

As of August 31, 2008, we will no longer be able to support the retrieval of license keys for the songs you purchased from MSN Music or the authorization of additional computers. You will need to obtain a license key for each of your songs downloaded from MSN Music on any new computer, and you must do so before August 31, 2008. If you attempt to transfer your songs to additional computers after August 31, 2008, those songs will not successfully play.

Microsoft may not care about MSN Music any more, but this decision undermines all its DRM content sales and those from its partners.

Or will Microsoft abandon DRM? Seems unlikely; yet when I quizzed Microsoft on this general subject (what happens to DRM content when you switch PCs), the reply from Adam Anderson, Sr. product manager for Windows, included this phrase twice:

Music content providers and online music stores are increasingly moving to DRM-free downloadable tracks

As Anderson noted, this will “diminish user issues regarding rights restoration”. So will Microsoft follow this same principle in some future version of the Zune store, for example?

If it did, it might also do the right thing for its MSN Music customers, which would be to provide a tool to unlock the DRM on their purchased files. I suppose its agreement with the copyright owners does not allow for that; yet as the industry now seems willing to offer music DRM-free, it just might be possible.

Incidentally, I’d love to hear from anyone who has purchased music protected with Microsoft DRM, such as tracks purchased from Napster, CD Wow or Happy? Or if not, what problems have you had? I’m looking for examples for a future article.

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