Feeds

Watchdog demands MSN Music mea culpa

Run some Google ads, Steve

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is demanding that Steve Ballmer make a public apology to all people silly enough to purchase tunes from MSN Music, Microsoft's long-defunct iTunes wannabe.

This morning, the San Francisco-based tech watchdog floated an open letter (PDF) to the hulking Microsoft CEO, criticizing the company's recent decision to unplug its MSN Music DRM servers. Without these servers - due to die at the end of August - users can't migrate their MSN tunes to new OSes or new machines unless they start burning CDs.

"Microsoft’s only suggestion for its customers — that they export the music to a CD and then copy it onto their new computers — is woefully insufficient to redress the problem," EFF executive director Shari Steele writes to Ballmer. "Microsoft is asking 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, Microsoft’s best customers will be the most heavily burdened — the more music they bought, the more work they’ll have to do."

Steele also argues that these CD burners could face the wrath of the Record Industry Ass. of America. "What is worse, this suggestion could put customers at legal risk, as they may not have documentation of purchase," he says. "There is no certainty that all relevant copyright owners would agree that making such backup copies without permission is lawful."

When we asked Microsoft for a comment, a company spokesman wouldn't give one. "Unfortunately, we are unable to participate in this request," he said. But in an interview with Cnet, Microsoft exec Robert Bennett defended the company's decision to destroy its MSN servers, arguing the move will affect only a small number of people.

"Every time there is an OS upgrade, the DRM equation gets complex very quickly," Bennett said. "Every time, you saw support issues. People would call in because they couldn't download licenses. We had to write new code, new configurations each time." So the company is moving the hassle off its own shoulders onto someone else's.

Bennett says that "going forward, the best thing to do is focus exclusively on Zune," the iPod wannabe Microsoft launched in November 2006, right around the time the company killed off MSN Music.

Of course, Zune's music service, Marketplace, uses DRM too. As Microsoft "focuses exclusively on Zune," the EFF questions whether Marketplace buyers will also face CD burning hell.

"While this announcement has directly affected MSN Music customers, users of other Microsoft products (particularly current and prospective Zune customers) are deeply concerned as well. Your customers are forced to ask, 'If Microsoft treats its MSN Music customers so shabbily, is there any reason to suppose that it will treat other customers any better?'"

How can Microsoft right this wrong? Naturally, the EFF has all the answers, telling Ballmer he should immediately and publicly "issue a full public apology to your MSN Music customers [and] 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."

But that's not all. The EFF also wants proofs of purchase for all MSN tunes, and it wants DRM removed from the Zune Marketplace. "Microsoft has said it would like to provide DRM-free tracks — it is time for the company to make that happen. Unless and until DRM is eliminated from the catalog, publicly commit to compensating customers along the lines outlined above should Microsoft’s business decisions cause Zune customers to lose the full value of the content they purchased through the Zune Marketplace."

But, wait, there's more. EFF won't be happy if Microsoft merely obeys these demands. It also wants Ballmer to publicize them with "advertising in major music magazines and newspapers in every major U.S. city, as well as targeted keyword advertising."

Presumably, the watchdog means targeted keyword advertising on Google, not Microsoft Live. We're sure they want those ads to have some reach. ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
Scrapping the Human Rights Act: What about privacy and freedom of expression?
Justice minister's attack to destroy ability to challenge state
WHY did Sunday Mirror stoop to slurping selfies for smut sting?
Tabloid splashes, MP resigns - but there's a BIG copyright issue here
Hey Brit taxpayers. You just spent £4m on Central London ‘innovation playground’
Catapult me a Mojito, I feel an Digital Innovation coming on
Google hits back at 'Dear Rupert' over search dominance claims
Choc Factory sniffs: 'We're not pirate-lovers - also, you publish The Sun'
EU to accuse Ireland of giving Apple an overly peachy tax deal – report
Probe expected to say single-digit rate was unlawful
Inequality increasing? BOLLOCKS! You heard me: 'Screw the 1%'
There's morality and then there's economics ...
While you queued for an iPhone 6, Apple's Cook sold shares worth $35m
Right before the stock took a 3.8% dive amid bent and broken mobe drama
EU probes Google’s Android omerta again: Talk now, or else
Spill those Android secrets, or we’ll fine you
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.