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Yahoo! shoots DRM servers, swallows keys to tunes

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Like Micro, like Hoo. Following in the footsteps of Steve Ballmer and company, Yahoo! plans to destroy the DRM servers propping up all those people misguided enough to purchase tunes from its failed music store.

It's called Yahoo! Music Unlimited. But there are limits. The online tune store/subscription service will close on September 30, and when it does, Yahoo! will no longer provide license keys for downloaded tunes. That means that buyers can't transfer their tracks to new machines or new OSes without burning them to CDs and ripping them back off.

Naturally, the digital watchdogs at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) have barked. "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," reads a blog post from EFF staff attorney Corynne McSherry. "In fact, the more music they bought, the more work they'll have to do."

McSherry also repeats that running EFF argument that buyers who burn DRMed songs to CD run afoul of the Recording Industry Ass. of America. "[Yahoo!'s] 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."

Back in April, when Microsoft announced the impending death of the DRM servers backing its aborted MSN Music service store, EFF raised a similar stink. And in June, Redmond gave the servers an extra three and a half years of life. The company won't pull the plug any earlier than the last day of 2011.

But MSN Music tracks still have an expiration date. Ballmer and crew have simply pushed the problem back, refusing to refund the purchase prices of those DRM-saddled downloads or provide DRM-free replacements. Microsoft has a vested interest in extending the world's DRM nonsense. You'll still find DRM shackles over at the company's MSN Music replacement, the Zune Marketplace.

As you might expect, the EFF has also called on Yahoo! to refund purchase prices or provide DRM-less replacements. Yang and Co. are now offering access to Real's Rhapsody service, which just embraced DRM-less MP3s, but that doesn't mean the company will do the right thing retroactively. We've asked Yahoo! to explain its thinking, but a promised response has yet to arrive. ®

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