Wal-Mart Strands Music Buyers By Ending DRM Support

Wal-Mart has just given people one more reason to hate DRM. While the retailer has sold music online without DRM since February, it previously sold tracks bundled with software that aims to restrict users' ability to transfer the songs.

Now, Wal-Mart says it will stop supporting DRM by Oct. 9. After that date, users won't be able to transfer their tracks to another computer. Wal-Mart is therefore advising users to burn their songs to CDs now, so they'll be able to still play them later. "If you do not back up your files before this date, you will no longer be able to transfer your songs to other computers or access your songs after changing or reinstalling your operating system or in the event of a system crash," Wal-Mart tells customers in an e-mail obtained by BoingBoing.

Wal-Mart's move comes shortly after Yahoo and MSN announced similar decisions -- though Yahoo is offering refunds and MSN said it will delay its shutdown.

Still, when major companies like Wal-Mart, Yahoo and MSN can all decide to end DRM support -- in effect requiring users to spend time and money burning their music to CDs -- one has to wonder how much longer anyone, including Apple, will be able to continue to sell DRM-bundled tracks.

So far, there doesn't seem to be a backlash against iTunes in the U.S. (The situation appears different in Europe; Norwegian officials have just ordered the company to revamp its DRM so that tracks purchased at iTunes can be transferred to devices other than iPods, according to Ars Technica.)

Still, even in the U.S., it's only a matter of time until some people change computers and learn they can no longer play music they've purchased. And when that happens, few people are going to be eager to again spend money on tracks burdened with DRM.

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