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Zune Won't Play Old DRM Infected Files 463

Posted by Zonk
from the do-as-we-do-not-as-we-say dept.
Spritzer writes "According to the EFF, the new Zune portable media player from Microsoft won't play files infected with the old Microsoft DRM. It seems that all of the 'PlaysforSure' media that has been sold and is currently being sold will not play on the Zune. In addition, Microsoft has now advocated violating the DMCA in order to transfer files to the player. Microsoft Zune architect J Allard was quoted as saying there's 'Lots of DVD ripping software out there that encodes to those formats, so the most popular formats out there, whether it's MPEG-4 or H.264, we'll support those.'" ZDNet offers up additional commentary on this revelation.
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Zune Won't Play Old DRM Infected Files

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  • Re:DRM (Score:5, Interesting)

    by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @09:32AM (#16137619)
    You would think that cases like this would illustrate to the world that DRM is an inanely stupid idea that doesn't serve consumers. Maybe when a company like Microsoft tells it's users that they have to break the law in order to view media they purchased, Congress should consider repealing the law.

    This was bound to happen. Let's see if anything good comes of it.

  • Re:PlaysForSure? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Gr8Apes (679165) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @09:33AM (#16137626)
    This certainly looks like an excellent candidate for exhibit A in any argument against DRM.
  • End to End Solution (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Winterblink (575267) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @09:34AM (#16137637) Homepage
    It's obvious Microsoft is shooting for an iTunes-ish end-to-end solution for music, a tightly integrated store+software+player solution. It's just interesting to me that URGE and Windows Media Player aren't it to them, which shows a pretty shocking lack of confidence in their own services and products, as far as the Zune is concerned.

    RealNetworks and Sandisk have already stated their intent to do something similar, which reeks like all the PlaysForSure partners aren't too impressed with this move by Microsoft.
  • How cute! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by corroncho (1003609) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @09:37AM (#16137649)
    Ah look at Microsoft trying to appeal to the masses. How cute. Sounds to me more like an excuse because they have no mechanism in place for delivering media for this device.
    ____________________
    Free iPods? Its legit [wired.com]. 5 of my friends got theirs. Get yours here! [freepay.com]
  • It's a trap! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @09:38AM (#16137656)
    It's a trap. I expect a later announcement that the Zune will, in fact, Play For Sure (tm). This move has been taken to discredit opponents of DRM, like the EFF and most of the people who comment on this site. Every opponent of DRM will use the Zune as an example of how DRM fucks the consumer in the ass, and then Microsoft will reveal that they are wrong about this speciifc case, suggesting that perhaps they are wrong about DRM in general, too.

    Just think about it.. just how dumb do you think MS are?

  • by imkonen (580619) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @09:48AM (#16137729)
    Why can't there be legal format conversions? Why can't MS (and other DRM happy companies) release a tool that converts "old" DRMed media to "new" DRMed media...still locked to the same computer. (I realize there are other complicated permuations of DRM like getting data off of a DVD in any manner, but in terms of online purchased, DRMed media...) Wouldn't it only be "circumventing" if it stripped the DRM? I realize media companies have no incentive to do that willingly, but if MS and other compatibility challenged hardware manufacturers are serious about marketing the Zune et al., actually solving this problem for their customers would seem like an obvious step.
  • Makes Sense (Score:4, Interesting)

    by WiseWeasel (92224) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @09:48AM (#16137730)
    Although it's not the smartest tactical move, it does make some sense that Zune won't play PlaysForSure content, as it guarantees some additional revenue (beyond the PlaysForSure licensing fees MS charges those other vendors) as customers are forced to use the MS music store. It will also make customer support much more straightforward; having every aspect of this music device from a single vendor will ensure a better user experience. Personally, I think the addition of PlaysForSure would have been an effective selling point, and could have helped MS get a foot in the market's door. On the other hand, those other music services haven't been too successful, so it isn't that big of a penalty.

    While the decision will surely harm MS in the short term, and completely alienate all the other PlaysForSure software and hardware licensees (probably killing the format), it would definitely improve MS's long-term prospects, assuming it isn't pulled off the market after a year of dismal sales. If history is any indication, MS will stick with it, keep improving their offerings, and eventually have something that appeals to the lowest common denominator on the market.
  • Re:Hold up a sec (Score:1, Interesting)

    by xlr8ed (726203) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @09:57AM (#16137784)
    Pure EFF FUD!!

    Even if Zune doesn't use Playforsure, how do we not know that the software included with Zune will allow the DRM to be modified to run on Zune. And before someone pops off about changing the DRM violates the DMCA, that is not true if you have the proper permissions from copyright holders/distributors.
  • by orb_fan (677056) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @10:03AM (#16137820)
    I hate to do it, but it sounds like a mis-reading of the press release, or at least bad PR writing. I imagine that the Zune software will add M$ DRM to any un-protected files you IMPORT into the software, and this is why Play4Sure is missing from the list - you don't need to import it, just copy it to you Zune.

    I hope that I'm wrong about this, as it would be too funny if the Zune couldn't play DRMed music.

  • by Sloppy (14984) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @10:06AM (#16137837) Homepage Journal
    Wouldn't it only be "circumventing" if it stripped the DRM?

    Nope. Changing DRM means you have to remove the old DRM and then add the new DRM. By the time you add the new DRM, you have already violated the law. It's not like adding the DRM somehow retroactively makes the earlier violation become not a violation.

    Sure, it's ridiculous. But it's also ridiculous that playing a DVD without permission from the copyright holder is a violation. Yet it is. What can I say? It's a ridiculous law that no honest person voted for. It was intended to harm the innocent, and be as bewildering and unfair as Catch-22.

  • Re:PlaysForSure? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by networkBoy (774728) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @10:11AM (#16137864) Homepage Journal
    Oh, I don't know about that.

    AllOfMP3 plays for sure (as long as the site is up).
    supernova &&|| all it's vairents tend to play for sure as long as the torrent isn't comprimised.

    While the legality of the former is questionable and the latter is, well, known for sure, these are still legitimite competitors to the DRM media.

    -nB

    To clarify legitimate competitor != legal competitor. The media companies need to understnad that if they break their own rules then they are opening the gates to others ignoring the rules a bit wider every time.
    -nB
  • by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @10:24AM (#16137957)
    Correction: There STILL are.

    They're being phased out, and the next generation of content containing media will ALL have DRM deeply embedded into them. So the only choice, if you don't want DRM, is to abstain from buying ANYTHING at all.

    How many do you think will do that?
  • by CaymanIslandCarpedie (868408) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @10:27AM (#16137988) Journal
    Thx, I was just going to say the same thing. The footnote lists unprotected formats which can be imported. Protected WMA and WMV are the devices native formats! To read this and take away that the device won't support its own native formats is quite a stretch! ;-)

    Its like reading some whare that IPods and import MP3 and since protected AACs are listed assuming IPods won't be able to play its own format. STUPID article!
  • by c (8461) <beauregardcp@gmail.com> on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @10:33AM (#16138045)

    I'm hardly what you'd call a Microsoft fan-boy (I'm not even a Microsoft user), but I'm not seeing where it says that it can't play this stuff. I haven't seen any confirmation from the horse's mouth. I mean, this is all coming from a footnote in a PR document which says:

    Zune software can import audio files in unprotected WMA, MP3, AAC; photos in JPEG; and videos in WMV, MPEG-4, H.264.
    It doesn't say that other applications can't put protected music onto the device, nor does it say that it can't play that stuff. It just says that the built-in software can't do it. Which makes sense, really, because it would imply that Microsoft is ready, willing and able to break the protection applied by a partnering online music store. That's pretty nasty, even for a "stab your partner" company like them.

    Of course, that won't make it much of an iTunes killer. "Oh, you want to import music from some other store. Okay.... open their player app, and see if they'll let you export each individual piece of media to the Zune. Including the stuff you ripped from CD and it helpfully 'protected' for you. Then, if you're lucky and they haven't changed the terms and conditions or you've moved computers or devices or something..."

  • Why can't the Zune store recognize that that you own a PlaysForSure-protected version of a music title, and allow you to download the same title in Zune-protected format at no charge?

    Probably because of the "copy" in "copyright". Every new copy they allow you to download is presumably another copy they have to pay for to the RIAA, regardless of whether you owned it or not (unless the RIAA made an exception for the above situation and refused money in that case... yeah right).

  • by Ubergrendle (531719) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @10:57AM (#16138254) Journal
    Because if you want to have an intergrated solution, allowing users to download music straight into the player, you'll need a DRM solution. Apple would rather NOT have DRM in their iPods, but the labels won't distribute via iTunes without it.

    Of course, a recent study suggested only 10-15% of iPods are populated with iTunes downloads. So the integrated solution is not an absolute necessity to being successful in this space. I think ipods are more successful due to a) well engineered, b) highly usable, and c) good advertising. But Microsoft doesn't want to leave any stone unturned, they're fighting uphill here.

    Frankly, I didn't realise that 10% of the iPod user base was stupid enough to buy overpriced music via iTunes. I figured it was just useful as a podcast aggregator, but then again the Home Shopping Network is profitable too. :/
  • Re:DRM (Score:5, Interesting)

    by badasscat (563442) <`basscadet75' `at' `yahoo.com'> on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @11:01AM (#16138289)
    Maybe when a company like Microsoft tells it's users that they have to break the law in order to view media they purchased, Congress should consider repealing the law.

    I'm not sure he's advocating breaking any law, including the DMCA. He just maybe has a little different interpretation of the law than some. But neither his interpretation, nor the interpretation of those on the other side of the fence has actually been tested in court to my knowledge.

    The DMCA makes a specific exception to itself for fair use provisions. In essence, it says that if you previously had a right to do something under existing copyright law, you still have a right to do that thing. What the DMCA does is ensure that DRM is protected against those trying to break existing copyright law. It says "if you break DRM for the purposes of infringing copyright, then you are breaking the law." (The fair use exception comes after the actual restrictions, but you have to read everything together to know what the law itself actually is. I'm convinced some people just stop reading once they've read the restrictions.) But since fair use is codified into copyright law, you're not breaking the law by breaking DRM. At least, that would have to be J. Allard's interpretation of the DMCA.

    The ZDNet article says the DMCA makes certain exceptions, "none of which apply here." That's not necessarily true. The author is apparently assuming that breaking DRM to move your DVD's from disc to Zune or your PlaysForSure files from one device to another would not be covered under fair use provisions of copyright law. He may or may not be right, but the Supreme Court has in the past used format-shifting as an example of fair use, going all the way back to the Betamax decision. (The examples listed as fair use in the law itself are just that, examples. They do not encompass all potential fair uses.)

    The DMCA is no doubt a draconian law. But a) it has not really been fully tested in court yet, mainly because the individual users it most directly affects don't have the money to pursue a lengthy court case, and b) it is open to as much interpretation as the fair use provision in existing copyright law.

    The long and the short of it is I think this whole Zune thing is a big fiasco for Microsoft, but I don't necessarily agree that J. Allard is telling people to break the law.
  • by Chabil Ha' (875116) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @11:03AM (#16138300)
    I'm no knee jerk anti-drm demon here because I'm really trying to look at this in an agnostic way. This really bites for consumers and really instills a real lack of confidence in the whole scheme of content devices. Not only does the DRM itself kind of lock you into certain vendors, but now there is no guarantee that the content will work on a device from the same vendor. Honest to goodness I was considering a Zune, mostly because I didn't want to get an iPod because it was the trendy thing to do. But after looking at the options, I know without a doubt that the Zune is not for me. This, because of the latest news on how its tentacles get wrapped around your non-DRM files, AND there's really no way for me to be sure that MS will change its mind AGAIN about the future compatibility of its own file formats. What am I to do? I want to get an iPod, but I'm not not sure they are the answer either because now I can't be sure that if I buy music through iTunes that it won't break someday either. It seems to me that if I still want to buy legitimate music from iTunes, I need to get a pirated counterpart in a non-restricted format like MP3 or ogg, etc. so that as devices wax and wane, I'm still able to listen to my tunes...which really kinda defeats the purpose of going legit.

    Even for someone who's tech savvy, the uncertainty is disconcerting...
  • If history is any indication, MS will stick with it, keep improving their offerings, and eventually have something that appeals to the lowest common denominator on the market.

    If history is any indication, MS will abandon it for something else when they think it convenient, just like they're doing with Plays For Sure.
  • by twitter (104583) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @11:11AM (#16138351) Homepage Journal

    ... to have a public company say "Sure, violate DRM" is sort of flabberghasting, especially coming from Microsoft.

    This is exactly what you should expect from M$. Yes, they are going to encourage people to "steal" other people's copyrighted material and break the laws they promoted. From their point of view, this is natural. M$ has been the primary benefactor of software "piracy" all along. They thought that DRM was the same thing, just another "speedbump" to keep "honest users" paying. Wink wink, "steal" Windoze, photoshop and autocad they want you to know how to use it! Sounds familiar? The problem for them here is that the primary rightsholders in this case, the RIAA, is bigger than anything M$ has been up against yet. They are also more important for media players. If they get away with it, it's only because they came to an agreement with big media.

    I don't think that the RIAA is that smart. They demanded DRM to lock out competition and expand their little broadcast and physical media monopoly into cyberspace. The way they see it, Microsoft has just crossed the line between being a promoter of that monopoly and an a competitor making money by copying ancient recordings. The only worse thing M$ can do is promote "unsigned" bands and dilute the top 40 rip off.

    None of this will be pleasant for users. DRM will be the pain it's supposed to be. Users will have to creep around "pirate" sites to find the software they need to do the conversion. What they find will be a cesspool booby trapped by the music industry and spammers. Then the RIAA might come and sue them too.

    The best thing that can happen is for people to circumvent all of the greed heads. Musicians can go with less greedy promoters and users can buy unencumbered music from them and all this non free shit can die.

  • by ajs318 (655362) <sd_resp2 AT earthshod DOT co DOT uk> on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @11:18AM (#16138425)
    I wonder how much success you would have, taking a media player back to the shop on the grounds that it was "broken" (i.e. it didn't play the tracks which you had paid good money to download) when in actual fact the brokenness was in the DRM schemes?

    I think you might be in with a chance if it made it as far as a Court of Law. I doubt you'd be able to find a jury of twelve people who understood what "digital restrictions management" is. At least Beta and VHS cassettes were visually distinguible. The end result might be a chilling effect, with stores not daring to stock portable devices lest they be accused of misleading customers.
  • by kkiller (945601) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @11:31AM (#16138534)
    If you look at the original interview with J Allard, Microsoft's justification for the seperate Zune product seems to be paper thin:
    We've also found that there's a category of customers that say, "Give me a brand experience, advertise it to me on television; I want to be part of the digital music revolution, and that solution [PlaysForSure] doesn't work for me." So they're two complementary solutions -- not everyones gonna want Zune and not everyone's gonna want PlaysForSure. They're different paths there, and we're okay with both of them.
    I call bullshit, sir. What hordes of music listeners are waiting for Microsoft to give them a "brand experience", only to end up with a player which resembles their iPod and being totally unable to play any mainstream downloaded song they've purchased? That solution doesn't work for me, and won't work for anyone else - except gadget hungry idiots and people who believe what they read in press releases.
  • Re:PlaysForSure? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MrNemesis (587188) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @11:48AM (#16138686) Homepage Journal
    I don't know what the eMusic in the states is like, but I have a major issue with the one in the UK in that I have to hand over my credit card details before I even have half a clue what they're selling. All they offer without an account/login is the ability to... er... create an account and log in. Woudl you hand over your credit card on walking into a shop "just in case" you wanted to buy something? Keeping it secret suggests that either their catalogue is crap, they're secretive lock-in merchants (hello AOL) or (dare I say it) a scam site.

    Until then, I'll fulfill my music downloading tastes with unencrypted MP3, AAC and FLAC from Bleep, Tunetribe and 4AD.

    Please note: I'm not knocking eMusic or legal downloads in general (indeed, I spend about £20 a month buying tunes online compared to £0 on music two years ago). I just don't trust the way their UK store seems to be working. And yes, I did want a chance to try it out.
  • Re:DRM (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ktappe (747125) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @01:47PM (#16139610)
    You are not entitled to DRM-free content. The entitlement disease is rampant on Slashdot.
    Apparently so is the "fuck the consumer" disease. You seem to be confusing the concepts of "earned" and "entitled". When a user pays for content, they have the right to play it. That is not "entitlement", it is "receiving what one worked for and paid for." If you still disagree, then I suppose you are OK with not being able to drive your car anymore when the manufacturer suddenly decides to make it obsolete. And, actually, to continue that analogy, there are laws in the U.S. that force car (and other product) makers to maintain a supply of parts for their products so that exactly this type of thing cannot happen with material goods. Seems to me it's high time for the same to be legislated of digital media; you should not have your 6 month old purchase of a song or movie suddenly taken from you because they choose not to support it anymore. Or do you support the 'right' of big business to fuck with the consumer in absolutely any way they see fit? I'm sure you don't advocate additional consumer protection laws because you oppose government interfering in our lives, but it sure is interesting how you have no problem with corporations interfering with our lives. Why do you take diametrically opposing views on these two entities when they act (and misbehave) so much alike? And why is the concept of treating the consumer fairly such a low priority for you?

    -Kurt

  • by suv4x4 (956391) on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @03:31PM (#16140633)
    That continues to be the premise for devices that are branded in that category, and we think that we've clearly done a lot in that program, where there's a lot of devices out there, there are a lot of services out there, there are a lot of partners, and there are a lot of satisfied customers. We like that program. We've also found that there's a category of customers that say, "Give me a brand experience, advertise it to me on television; I want to be part of the digital music revolution, and that solution [PlaysForSure] doesn't work for me."

    I've accidentally tripped on an encrypted message in this statement. I'm posting it here for your own conclusions:

    "We were like: we wanna copy iPod, the branding and all, but everyone wants to sue us for abusing monopoly and other such crap. So we're like: we'll make the platform and open it for anyone to license.

    So we, like, waited and waited and waited and the competition never managed to outdo iPod since they are too many and they compete among each other instead of complement each other, and iPod is one: it's easy to market, and recognize.

    So finally we said: well, screw antitrust cases, screw PlaysForSure: we're ripping iPod."
  • by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Tuesday September 19, 2006 @10:07PM (#16143426) Homepage Journal

    DRM prevents an unlicensed user from accessing the legitimate content which I have.

    Yes, DRM is access control.

    It also prevents me from copying the content to a different media and/or format, which is fair use.

    No. Bits are bits. You can copy them to another player/medium, but other devices won't be able to decrypt them to play them.

    Access control, not copy prevention. Nothing stops you from copying DRM'd music, you just can't access it if you move it elsewhere.

  • Re:PlaysForSure? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by squidsquidsquid (520051) on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @11:14AM (#16146662)
    Yeah, only having x many downloads per month (which don't carry over if you don't use them) is a mild hassle. However, they do offer "booster packs"--sets of 10, 25, or 50 track downloads that don't expire. If you want more tracks in a month than your monthly plan allows, you can go for the boosters.

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