EFF's New Guide to Digital Music Services Reveals the Truth About DRM

San Francisco, CA - If you buy music from an online music store, you may be getting much less than you thought. Today the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) released "The Customer Is Always Wrong: A User's Guide to DRM in Online Music," which exposes how today's digital rights management (DRM) systems compromise a consumer's right to lawfully manage her music the way she wants.

The guide takes a close look at popular online music services with built-in DRM created by Apple, Microsoft, RealNetworks, and Napster 2.0. Although these companies claim their services allow consumers "freedom" and the ability to play music "any way you want it," the reality often does not live up to the marketing hype. When you download in these formats from online music services, the services don't trumpet the fact that your music contains hidden restrictions that complicate your life and limit the universe of devices you can use to play your music. CDs purchased 20 years ago not only continue to play in every CD and DVD player, but can also be used with any of today's PCs and digital music players. Thanks to DRM, however, a similar investment in music downloaded today may be much less valuable to you 20 years from now.

And yet bypassing the DRM to make perfectly legal uses puts people at risk of liability under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). "In this brave new world of 'authorized digital music services,' law-abiding music fans often get less for their money than they did in the old world of CDs," said Derek Slater, the Harvard student and EFF intern who authored the guide. "Understanding how DRM and the DMCA pose a danger to your rights will help you to make fully informed purchasing decisions."

The Customer Is Always Wrong: A User's Guide to DRM in Online Music


Fred von Lohmann
Senior Intellectual Property Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation

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