Electronic Frontier Foundation blasts defunct Yahoo! Music; calls for refunds, apology

“Just over a month after consumer backlash caused MSN Music to rescind its decision to deactivate the digital rights management (“DRM”) servers that allowed MSN Music purchasers to “reauthorize” music files after upgrading operating systems or buying new computers, Yahoo! Music has decided to deactivate its own DRM servers,” Corynne McSherry writes for The Electronic Frontier Foundation.

“The ironically named ‘Yahoo! Music Unlimited Store’ will shut its virtual doors in September, and, as of October 1, will no longer provide license keys for music purchased from the store, nor will it authorize song playback on additional computers. That means Yahoo! Music customers will not be able to transfer songs to ‘unauthorized computers’ or access the songs after changing operating systems. Yahoo! advises customers to back up their music to a CD if they want to be able to access it in the future. In other words, Yahoo! wants its customers to invest more time, labor and money in order to continue to enjoy the music for which they have already paid. In fact, the more music they bought, the more work they’ll have to do. What is worse, this suggestion could put customers at legal risk, as they may not have documentation of purchase. Furthermore, there is no certainty that all relevant copyright owners would agree that making such backup copies without permission is lawful,” McSherry writes.

McSherry writes. “We’ve warned music fans for years that they could lose their DRM-wrapped music if vendors decided to withdraw support for it. Nonetheless, we hoped that the experience of MSN Music would encourage other vendors to think twice before making their customers pay the price for the vendors’ own faulty business decisions.”

If Yahoo! wants to make things right, it should do the following:
• Issue a full public apology to your Yahoo! Music customers.
• Offer to refund the purchase price of the affected downloads or, at the customer’s option, provide replacements from an online store that offers the same tracks in a DRM-free format.
• Ensure that all Yahoo! Music buyers have (or have permanent access to) receipts identifying dates, amounts, and titles purchased, so they have proofs of purchase. Or, better yet, offer to cover their legal costs if they are hit with a copyright infringement claim based on a song purchased through Yahoo! Music.
• Widely publicize the above measures so that Yahoo! customers know their options. That publicity should include, at a minimum, advertising in major music magazines and newspapers in every major U.S. city, as well as targeted keyword advertising.

McSherry writes, “At the very least, this announcement is further evidence (if such evidence were needed) that DRM is just bad business. It’s bad for the consumers who don’t actually own the music they pay for; it’s bad for the rightsholders who lose out when legal copies of their songs are worth less than illegally obtained copies; and it’s bad for the companies that must choose between maintaining technology that is defective by design or violating the trust of their customers.”

Source Electronic Frontier Foundation

…Abolish DRMs entirely. Imagine a world where every online store sells DRM-free music encoded in open licensable formats. In such a world, any player can play music purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is playable on all players. This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat. If the big four music companies would license Apple their music without the requirement that it be protected with a DRM, we would switch to selling only DRM-free music on our iTunes store. Every iPod ever made will play this DRM-free music.

Why would the big four music companies agree to let Apple and others distribute their music without using DRM systems to protect it? The simplest answer is because DRMs haven’t worked, and may never work, to halt music piracy… Convincing them to license their music to Apple and others DRM-free will create a truly interoperable music marketplace. Apple will embrace this wholeheartedly.Apple CEO Steve Jobs, February 6, 2007


  1. “if Microsoft manages to buy Yahoo, they’ll slap a DRM on it, then shut the server down.”

    but if they merge, no one will ever know about the DRM, because their search system will be unable to find reference to it….

    plus, microsoft will have to change all its products names. isn’t there a law about putting “!” after “yahoo”? no more vista, but rather vista!!! and office?!? and probably microsoft bob%$#&@!

  2. @Moo,

    iTunes users with protected tracks would be in the exact same situation in the unlikely event Apple closes it down sometime in the future. We also would be forced to burn all our protected AAC files to a music CD and re-import them.

    This is a problem with DRM in general–it just happens to bite people who back the underdogs.

    Thankfully Apple does have some DRM-free options, but the music industry is forcing Apple to keep DRM for most music, while allowing Amazon to sell all their music without DRM. Their strategy is obvious–try and force down iTunes store marketshare, then once Apple no longer has the overwhelming bargaining power that it does now, revoke Amazon’s DRM-free privileges and fsck the consumers again.

  3. Microsoft is so lame as a company now and the Microhoo crap has so injured and crippled Yahoo! that the company will likely never recover. Microsoft never seriously wanted Yahoo! if they did a Billion or so more dollars would not have made a difference to them. The attempted take-over and hits of hostile take-over were just overtures and blustering to injure Yahoo! in an attempt to drive it’s users to Microsoft’s Live Search and other Live Products. Icahn doesn’t understand the MS strategies. The MS buying of Yahoo! has all the smell of the MS buying of Intuit all over again. The only difference being Yahoo! had the brains to keep the MS Leaches outside the gates before a deal was done. By keeping MS at arms length Jerry and gang saved their IP, the question becomes can they save their customer base. Inuit on the other agreed to the MS Buy out and let Microsoft’s engineering leaches in past the gate before the deal was finalized once the leaches extracted all they could the leaches withdrew and MS Canceled the buy out. MS sad crapping, poorly written Application MS Money was transformed with the infusion of Intuit trade and software secrets. Now MS Money (which as 5 to 10 years behind) competes with Intuit’s Quick Books feature by feature, but, it should really as the base of MS Money was basically stolen from intuit.
    As Ballmer said at the time while buy it if you can just get them to give it to you, they can never prove we stole it and it’s not theft if if they give you complete open access to the code.
    The Failed merge with Microsoft has seriously damaged Intuit and it’s seriously damaged Yahoo! While I think that Yahoo! users will slowly start to move on to other services, Microsoft is not going to be the beneficiary in the Yahoo! declining user-base. The damage to Yahoo! will likely make them smaller in online share then Microsoft but, that’s not going to be because Microsoft expanse it’s user-base and share by more then .5% or less a year.
    Google might very well be the big winner in the Yahoo! collapse. If Google lets Yahoo! now start to collapse Ichan will back a deal with Google or anyone that can get him out of Yahoo! with only a little bit of a lose will be welcome.
    Let’s be fair here Yahoo! was dealing with the Microsoft in a way that damaged it the least then Ichan got involved and cased as much or more damage to Yahoo! then Microsoft had. If investor are looking to sue they should sue Ichan for turning their Yahoo! Investment into steaming piles of crap.

  4. The dumb thing is this is how it used to be with physical media-you bought it, you played it. Sure, people made copies, but back then we never considered those to be the real thing; it was a test to see if we might want to buy the real thing. Used record swaps and shops (where neither the label or the artist get any of the profits) have existed for decades upon decades, and everybody stayed in business . . . I don’t know why the original model was abandoned to begin with. The reaction to Napster and the like was totally knee-jerk, it was essentially a digital record swap, and though we didn’t have bit-torrent back then, but we did have public libraries where records could be borrowed for free and copied.

    This is all insanity! I doubt the people at Apple even considered any of this when they first created the iPod; it had never been an issue before.

  5. I think what we are all missing is the side story here, the EFF. EFF is committed to fighting for our rights and civil liberties. I encourage all of you to visit their web site and donate something.

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