The danger of DRM: Yahoo will remove keys for authorizing music playback

Like Microsoft before it, Yahoo is ending digital rights management (DRM) support for an old music service. Beginning on October 1, users who downloaded songs from Yahoo Music will no longer be able to play them back on new computers or operating systems.

In a recent e-mail, Yahoo alerted customers that it will stop distributing keys for unlocking DRM on Yahoo Music tunes.

Yahoo claims to have made the change known earlier this year, as part of its announcement of a partnership with RealNetwork's Rhapsody. A check of the company's migration FAQ, however, offers no warning of the DRM license issue. In fact, the document specifically states "Yahoo!-purchased tracks can be imported into and played in Rhapsody," with no mention of songs no longer playing.

Although it took Microsoft longer, Microsoft in April announced plans to stop releasing DRM keys for its own MSN Music service, some two years after replacing the older music service with Zune Marketplace.

Perplexingly, though, Yahoo doesn't seem to have learned a lesson from Microsoft's experience. After a large public outcry, Microsoft in June extended the availability of DRM keys by another three years beyond the initially announced end date of August 31, 2008.

As previously reported in BetaNews, a number of MSN Music users signified their displeasure after receiving a letter from Microsoft 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 in June, Microsoft told MSN users that, after "careful consideration," the company had revised its plans.

In a quick check this afternoon of online user forums, BetaNews didn't uncover as intense a reaction to Yahoo's move. Could that be because Yahoo Music never had as many users as MSN Music, anyway?

The full text of Yahoo Music's letter to users follows.

Greetings,

The Yahoo! Music Store, along with the ability to purchase and download single songs and albums, will no longer be available as of September 30, 2008.

Songs and albums that were purchased through the Yahoo! Music Unlimited Store are protected by a digital rights management system that requires a valid license key before they can be played on your computer.

After the Store closes, Yahoo! will no longer be able to support the retrieval of license keys for music purchased from Yahoo! Music Unlimited, and Yahoo! will no longer be able to authorize song playback on additional computers.

After September 30, 2008, you will not be able to transfer songs to unauthorized computers or re-license these songs after changing operating systems. Please note that your purchased tracks will generally continue to play on your existing authorized computers unless there is a change to the computer's operating system.

For any user who purchased tracks through Yahoo! Music Unlimited, we highly recommend that you back up the purchased tracks to an audio CD before the closing of the Store on September 30, 2008. Backing up your music to an audio CD will allow you to copy the music back to your computer again if the license keys for your original music files cannot be retrieved.

For further information on the closing of the Yahoo! Music Store, please refer to the Frequently Asked Questions or contact Customer Care.

Stay tuned! While the Yahoo! Music Unlimited Store will no longer be available, Yahoo! Music has partnered with Rhapsody so you can still purchase your favorite tracks. Plus, Yahoo! Music will continue to offer users a complete online music experience with the largest collection of music videos, Internet radio, exclusive artist features, music news, and more!

Thank you for using Yahoo! Music.

The Yahoo! Music team

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