Microsoft gives three-year reprieve to MSN Music users

Bowing to end user pressure, Microsoft has admitted a change of heart with regard to a decision it announced in April, to discontinue authorization for music downloaded through its old MSN Music service.

Those who downloaded music through that service will now have three more years -- instead of a little over two more months -- to get license keys for authorizing their music downloads, or authorizing new computers and devices for playing that music.

Microsoft informed users about both the original decision and its reversal by e-mail, telling users back on April 22 that as of August 31, 2008, support would stop for "the retrieval of license keys for the songs you purchased on MSN Music or the authorization of additional computers."

Under the previous scenario, although music would continue to play on computers authorized by that date, users would no longer be able to transfer tunes to any machine -- or even to play them on the same device if they installed a different OS, such as migrating from Windows XP to Vista on the same PC.

That's because Microsoft then planned to turn off the authorization servers on August 31 for MSN Music, a service essentially replaced by Zune Marketplace in 2006.

But a number of users signified their displeasure after receiving or hearing about Microsoft's letter in April. One of them offered an online definition of Janus -- previously the codename for the "Plays for Sure" DRM technology behind MSN Music -- as a Roman god "with two faces on opposite sides of his head."

In a second letter, issued this week, Microsoft told MSN users that, after "careful consideration," the company has revised its plans.

On April 22, Microsoft notified you that as of August 31st, 2008, we would be changing the level of support for music purchased from MSN Music, and while your existing purchased music would continue to play, you would no longer be able to authorize new PCs and devices to play that music.

After careful consideration, Microsoft has decided to continue to support the authorization of new computers and devices and delivery of new license keys for MSN Music customers through at least the end of 2011, after which we will evaluate how much this functionality is still being used and what steps should be taken next to support our customers. This means you will continue to be able to listen to your purchased music and transfer your music to new PCs and devices beyond the previously announced August 31, 2008 date.

Microsoft continues to recommend that you back up your music on CD or hard drive along with other important data.

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