As reported throughout the blogosphere, a tool for evading Windows Media DRM has been made widely-available online. Will Microsoft block music fans' ability to make fair use of legitimately acquired music and respond with DMCA threats or even lawsuits, perhaps at the record labels' behest?
Engadget makes the case for why they shouldn't in an open letter published today:
"We're big fans of the subscription services [which currently use Microsoft DRM] ... but let's face facts: the damn things don't work very well. It's pretty easy to download tracks, but it's a serious pain in the ass to successfully transfer them to a portable device.... [W]e get tons of emails from consumers complaining about how hard it is to get Napster, Rhapsody, Yahoo Music Unlimited, etc. tracks on to their players, or, god forbid, Macs.
"Are a lot of people going to pay $15 to sign up for a subscription service, download a ton of music, and then cancel a month later? Absolutely, but that's not a big deal. Those people were never, ever going to sign up for a service that offers locked down music anyway, so be happy that you squeezed any money out of them at all. (Yeah, this does make it tougher to offer free, unlimited trials, but that's not the end of the world.) Could those same people then put all the music they've just downloaded up on the P2P networks? Sure, but all that music is available there anyway, so it shouldn't make a bit of difference in the grand scheme of things."
Well said -- the DRM doesn't do anything to stop music "pirates," but it does discourage potential customers from ever using licensed music services. In turn, the DRM hurts not only music fans, but also online music download and subscription businesses, as Yahoo! is quite willing to admit. Let's hope Microsoft and the major record labels lay off the lawsuits and, ultimately, the DRM.