Walmart to pull plug on DRM servers

Walmart to pull plug on DRM servers

Summary: So, Walmart is to pull the plug on its DRM servers and leave all the suckers customers who bought DRM-encumbered music up a creek without a paddle.


So, Walmart is to pull the plug on its DRM servers and leave all the suckers customers who bought DRM-encumbered music up a creek without a paddle.

Here's the email sent out to customers:

Important Information About Your Digital Music Purchases

We hope you are enjoying the increased music quality/bitrate and the improved usability of Walmart's MP3 music downloads. We began offering MP3s in August 2007 and have offered only DRM (digital rights management) -free MP3s since February 2008. As the final stage of our transition to a full DRM-free MP3 download store, Walmart will be shutting down our digital rights management system that supports protected songs and albums purchased from our site.

If you have purchased protected WMA music files from our site prior to Feb 2008, we strongly recommend that you back up your songs by burning them to a recordable audio CD. By backing up your songs, you will be able to access them from any personal computer. This change does not impact songs or albums purchased after Feb 2008, as those are DRM-free.

Beginning October 9, we will no longer be able to assist with digital rights management issues for protected WMA files purchased from 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. Your music and video collections will still play on the originally authorized computer.

Thank you for using for music downloads. We are working hard to make our store better than ever and easier to use.

Walmart Music Team

So, you choose to buy something legitimately, despite the fact that it's shackled by DRM, and the company decides to pull the plug on the life support system of the DRM servers in order to save money. Sheesh. And this system is supposed to prevent piracy.

Something that I do find interesting from the email is how Walmart are encouraging users to make use of the analog hole in order to carry out a little damage limitation.

But why not take the simple approach to solving this problem. Give everyone who bought a DRM-time-bombed song access to the DRM-free version. Problem solved.

Topics: Security, Hardware, Mobility, Servers

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  • The lie in their email

    Beginning October 9, we <strike>will no longer be able</strike> [b] [i] refuse [/b] [/i] to assist with digital rights management issues for protected WMA files purchased from
    Edit: Whoops! How do you do a strikethrough in Talkback?
    Edit edit: Thanks to Linux User for the quick learn.
    • .....

      <STRIKE>strike</STRIKE> through ]:)
      Linux User 147560
      • Like this...

        <XSTRIKEX>strike</XSTRIKEX> through

        Just delete the X's and it should work. ]:)
        Linux User 147560
        • Thank ye kindly, sir

  • Are you purposely being silly?

    I agree that Walmart could just give people MP3 copies of their DRM music.

    However, are the catalogues 1:1? There are probably DRM songs that are still not available as MP3-only and therefore it would create a needless administrative mess for Walmart and the user.

    Furthermore, how is "making use of the analog hole" an issue? Isn't this exactly what tens of millions of iTunes users would do?

    Next time stick to the core of the story, which in this case was the danger of a DRM system no longer being available and as a consequence leaving unusable orphaned files.

    It would have been interesting to see a story listing any past DRM systems that were phased out or turned off, and what happened to the customers in those cases.

    I guess that would be the difference between an informative article and a blog about "suckers".
    • Wow....

      [i]Furthermore, how is "making use of the analog hole" an issue? Isn't this exactly what tens of millions of iTunes users would do?[/i]

      If you had been reading Adrian's and others' articles on ZDNet for a while, you wouldn't have to ask.

      But rather than attempt to learn what the point was by doing a bit of reading, you decide instead that it is easier to trash the author.

      How sad.

      Oh, and so you won't embarrass yourself in the future:

      Some, mostly content owners, say that by the letter of the law, the DMCA makes using the analog hole for the purpose of removing DRM a crime. Others, mostly consumers and groups such as the EFF, disagree.

      In response the RIAA and their ilk have for some time attempted to make new law or modify the DMCA to explicitly make using the "analog hole" illegal.

      So the point is, a major retailer is advising their customers to be, or possibly become, criminals just to maintain use of content they purchased.

      Do you get it now?
      Hallowed are the Ori
      • How clever for you

        Far from being embarrassed, I see instead you seem to have made stuff up to suite your argument.

        Firstly, the ability to burn a CD was part of the iTunes DRM from day one. If a person can waive a constitutional right, a rights holder can certainly waive a provision of the DMCA in order to sign a distribution agreement. The agreement between Apple and the rights holders trumps any law, and consequently in the case of iTunes, would probably require Apple's cooperation in removing the burn-to-CD right. That's a completely separate issue if Apple would want to do that.

        Secondly, "..So the point is, a major retailer is advising their customers to be, or possibly become, criminals just to maintain use of content they purchased..." What kind of nonsense is that? Do you know for a fact that Walmart's agreement with rights-holders precludes recording to CD? If not, I suggest you stop spreading FUD.

        Do you get it now? Wow indeed.
        • What?

          [i]The agreement between Apple and the rights holders trumps any law[/i]

          Well, aside from the fact that this is about WalMart and not Apple, does any agreement nullify the DMCA?

          [b]Under its strictest interpretation[/b], which happens to be the interpretation the RIAA would like the courts to use, ANY method of removing or bypassing DRM for ANY reason is illegal. The RIAA points to the DMCA and says it prohibits it, no matter what WalMart, Apple or anyone else says.

          Now the courts aren't too keen on making millions of people criminals simply for exercising what is considered their fair use "rights". So the RIAA and their friends have been trying to get the DMCA modified to EXPLICITLY prohibit converting DRM'd content to non-DRM content, FOR ANY REASON. And if they can't get the DMCA modified, they want a new law to do it.

          The RIAA is saying don't do it because the DMCA prohibits it, and WalMart is saying go ahead and do it.
          Hallowed are the Ori
          • Stop fixating on the DMCA

            This isn't about the RIAA or the DMCA or anything else.

            This is about an agreement between a rights-holder and a distribution entity.

            In the case of Apple, all the rights holders being distributed on iTunes entered into an agreement with Apple knowing that record-to-CD was a right they were granting to Apple customers.

            In the case of Walmart, since there is the technical capability to record to CD, I would strongly suspect the distribution agreement between Walmart and the music labels also includes the right to burn a CD. I don't know for a fact it does, but you don't know that it doesn't. Whatever else Walmart may be, it isn't a stupid company.

            The real issue is what rights the distribution entity has NEGOTIATED FOR THE CUSTOMER, because the rights holders can ultimately enter whatever agreement they want, REGARDLESS of the DMCA.

            The overriding issue is therefore, understanding which distribution mechanism grants customers the most rights, and to do business only with those entities.

            And yes, obviously non-DRM is best, but if, at the end of the day a DRM customer has the ultimate right to burn a disc if the service goes under, I don't see what the big deal is. It's a non-story because Walmart's distribution agreement is probably ensuring their customers get to keep their music.
          • John - You Clearly Understand The Real Issue

            The right of "fair use"


            for entertainment media was established in the famous Betamax case of 1984:



            The entertainment industry has been trying to undermine the fair use doctrine ever since. The RIAA attempts to use the DMCA are the most threatening and odious threats to public rights yet, clearly trying to block people from protecting their DRM content from loss which can only serve to generate still more revenues, exactly as you state.

            Now, facing an attempt to be squeezed for more revenues themselves, Apple is threatening to shut down iTunes:


            Clearly, it is in no-one's interest to buy DRM content. David Berlind, Larry Dignan, Sam Diaz, Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, and Tom Steiner-Threlkeld of ZDNet forewarned the public beginning over two years ago:







            Larry Dignan, Sam Diaz, and Tom Steiner-Threlkeld of ZDNet warned the public that DRM was being abandoned by the music industry back in January 2008:


            The bottom line is that DRM is an effort to subvert the fair use doctrine of copyright law. Worse, customers have no basis for confidence in retaining any rights to the DRM content they buy. DRM and all similar technologies are therefore fundamental denials of consumer rights that should be boycotted.

            The Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) was signed into law by President Clinton in 1998:


            The DMCA was intended to prevent copyright violation on the internet and circumventing "access control" for copyrighted works. However, the DMCA also provided for adding exemptions for cases where such circumvention did not violate fair use. This is the aspect that the RIAA and others are trying hard to overturn, effectively circumventing fair use doctrine in the name of greed.

            It is irrelevant what "rights" distributors may think they can "grant" customers under the DMCA. The real foundation for customer rights is established under fair use in copyright law, of which DRM and efforts to restrict the DMCA are attempts at subversion.

            Ignore croberts. croberts is pursuing a separate, unrelated, and very narrow agenda with no desire to be informed by you.
          • One last time

            Why are you referencing all these links that have nothing to do with the types of rights a distribution service offers its customers?

            I will say it again. The distribution service can offer rights (or take a way) rights to the customer that are not bound by the DMCA.

            This happens because the rights you get as a customer are determined by the distribution agreement between the service and the music labels.

            I am not arguing that we should buy DRM content. In fact, I said exactly the opposite

            Maybe you can stop your canned anti-DRM ranting and understand that the DMCA is not the only way your rights as a music buyer can be determined.
    • Damn!

      But you're a tool. Too wrapped up in your blanket to understand the issues here? THEN DON'T COMMENT! Sheesh!
    • Analog Hole

      Apart from the already-mentioned legal situation burning to CD then ripping puts you in, there's the loss of your music. When you transcode from one lossy codec to another, you've lost twice. Your music is going to sound more like crap than it already did.

      Lots of people don't understand this, thinking, well, if I take my 128kb/s iTunes song, write it to CD, and convert to a 256kb/s MP3, I won't lose anything, but in reality, you do. You lose even more than you would think because the formats are lossy in different areas.

      This "workaround" that MS, Yahoo!, and Walmart all seem to think is fine really sucks for the end user.

      In fact, all DRM sucks. Buy from someone who gives you DRM-free files, preferably in a lossless format.
  • Users don't own DRM content: it is content owners who do

    People need to relealize that when they purchase DRM free tracks, they ultimately determine what they can do with them, but with DRM protected tracks, content owners ultimately determine what they can do with them.

    It is unfortunate that consumers have to endure content owners' vain use of DRM to lock down content in a medium (the Internet) that is conducive to the free flowing of information. Their failure is inevitable.

    I see a couple of good signs though such as on MySpace, where for some tracks, you can download them free as mp3s, so long as you look at ads before doing so. The problem with MySpace though, is that it desparately needs high quality client software to make the user experience rival that of iTunes.
    P. Douglas
  • There goes the neighborhood

    Walmart is a huge retailer in the US, with a much-envied and successful business model. If they drop DRM, others will swiftly follow. But I bet Apple is the last to go...

    However, "Wal-Mart Music Downloads is designed and optimized for Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser, version 6.0 or later." So I won't be buying from them anytime soon, because I use Linux, and I won't be switching back to Windows. So it really makes no difference to me.
    • I don't quite agree there

      Umm, actually Apple was the first to off major label music
      DRM free, when they launched iTunes Plus with EMI. Apple
      would like to offer all their music DRM free, as Jobs noted in
      his anti-DRM memo of February 2007. The record companies
      allow other companies like Amazon to sell drm free tunes
      because the record companies want to break down Apple's
      dominance in online music sales, thus giving the music
      companies more leverage in setting pricing and increasing
      the record companies profits.
  • Stop the DRM madness

    Finally, vendors are learning the key to success is a quality product rather than chains and shackles. DRM is a mess and WalMart has obviously had enough.

    At the same time, this policy is pretty lousy. I assume they aren't offering unprotected versions of purchased DRM songs to customers is because they would have to pay the content owner a second time. After all, why absorb the cost when you can pass it to your customer, who has no choice in the matter?
    • Just like iTunes

      You burn it to CD, then bring it back in, right?
      Oh, that is only 'acceptable' to those buying DRM'd crap from iTunes. It is simple and easy. Anyone else and it is suddenly unacceptable.

      I'm going to laugh my head off when Apple, at some point in the future, does the same thing. Hearing the apologists defend that will be entertaining.
  • This is why DRM >>IS<< illegal

    Wal-Mart need to be sue by all the consumers will lose the hability to use the content they HAVE PAID FOR. Burning to CD involve a conversion that will REDUCE the quality of the track and is unacceptable.

    How to fix the DRM fiasco:
    1. make (with a LAW) DRM illegal
    2. Force all companies who sell DRM infected product to give EVERY single consumer who own one of those product a FREE DRM FREE copy of it
    3. Shutdown (and the jail owner of) the MPAA/RIAA for crime again humanity

    Here you go DRM problems solve.
    • Is it, now?

      [b]How to fix the DRM fiasco:
      1. make (with a LAW) DRM illegal

      As you yourself point out above, there isn't a law that makes DRM illegal on the books currently. Until that happens, DRM is quite legal. Don't hold your breath for that to change either. There are too many people in Congress that are in the pockets of the RIAA/MPAA for that to happen.