Last night my wife and I decided it was time to finally dive into the digital music download world. I'm quite "techie" and I think even borderline "Techno-Geek", so this should be a walk-in-the-park.
We bought a MP3 player and we have been busy extracting songs from most of our CD collection (which is pretty extensive).
But there were a few songs that Andrea wanted that we didn't have on our CDs , so after much searching on-line for the best deal we decided on buying WMAs (Microsoft's Windows Media Audio format) from WalMart.com, these files have embedded DRM (Digital Rights Media) and gave us the right to:
Download the music to 1 computer and back up music to 2 additional computers
Make 10 burns to a CD
Make unlimited transfers to a portable device
It is a little restrictive, but tolerable.
The actual purchasing of the five (5) songs and the subsequent downloading was painless, almost even a pleasure. Kudos to Wal-Mart.
Then Came The DRM Monster!
After the music was on the PC that we had executed this entire transaction on we tried to play them in the latest Windows Media Player (WMP), they all played correctly.
Then we tried to burn them to a CD, three (3) of them burned fine, the other two (2) files said we didn't have rights to burn them...
WHAT! We just legally paid for the right to burn these files, and it says we don't have that right! ARGHHH!
OK, so we decided to copy the files to a different PC over our network. They copied fine, we tried to play the five (5) files in the 'new' computer using the latest WMP, the three (3) files that the first computer was able to burn would not play on the new computer, again it said we didn't have the right to do it (GRRRRRR!).
But the weird part was that the two (2) files that wouldn't burn on the first computer, would play on the 2nd computer (what's going on here?). But ,like the first computer, it would not burn them to CD.
I can understand that the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) doesn't want people to steal music, but the restrictions and enforcement of DRM is flawed, and people are not getting what they are expecting when they lay down good money.
Having the software that is on your computer act as judge, jury, and executioner is like having your car shut down if you were going 36 MPH in a 35 MPH zone. In my case it is like the car shutting down when I was going 5 MPH because it thought I was going too fast.
To The Rescue
I'm sure there are a number of ways around the DRM problem, I found one that is simple and elegant.
I found a program called tunebite that allows you to record anything that your sound card in your PC plays, you have the option of a few different formats, including MP3 ( yea!). This saved us and our investment, we will still voluntarily abide by the restrictions listed above that we agreed to when we bought the music, but I think I can do it myself better than software from Microsoft.
Problem Solved (?)
My wife has since called me to let me know that Wal-Mart has fixed the problem, it seems that the version of WMP we were using was too up-to-date , Wal-Mart sent us a new license and she says everything seems to be working fine.
Microsoft: <heavy sarcasim> Great job making your software backwards compatible .
Will we purchase music on-line in the future? Without a doubt.
Will we purchase that music from WalMart.com or other stores that only sell DRM embedded music? Maybe ... it would help if they change to selling a format of audio file that does not contain DRM.
What will we do? Right now I think we will use a prepaid MasterCard, filled with $100-$200, on sites that do not have such restrictions on the music you download.
What sites will we use? Right now ALLOFMP3, Audio Find, and MP3 Spy are at the top of the list. They are Russian, and I do not feel comfortable enough to use a real credit card at these sites (with rumors of credit card fraud, who could blame us). Although I feel good enough about them to use prepaid credit cards to limit or eliminate any financial damage that could be done.
Wal-Mart, RIAA, et al: Please take note of this incident (put on my Mr. Potato Head 'Angry Eyes' ), and try to come up with a better plan to sell music. Look at the Russian sites I mentioned above to get a clue about what people want, and are willing pay for.