There is an increasing variety of options for purchasing music online, but also a growing thicket of confusing usage restrictions. You may be getting much less than the services promise.
Many digital music services employ digital rights management (DRM) â€” also known as “copy protection” â€” that prevents you from doing things like using the portable player of your choice or creating remixes. Forget about breaking the DRM to make traditional uses like CD burning and so forth. Breaking the DRM or distributing the tools to break DRM may expose you to liability under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) even if you’re not making any illegal uses.
In other words, in this brave new world of “authorized music services,” law-abiding music fans often get less for their money than they did in the old world of CDs (or at least, the world before record companies started crippling CDs with DRM, too). Unfortunately, in an effort to attract customers, these music services try to obscure the restrictions they impose on you with clever marketing.
This guide “translates” the marketing messages by the major services, giving you the real deal rather than spin. Understanding how DRM and the DMCA pose a danger to your rights will help you to make fully informed purchasing decisions. Before buying DRM-crippled music from any service, you should consider the following examples and be sure to understand how the service might limit your ability to make lawful use of the music you purchase.
More in the article including specifics on Apple iTunes, Microsoft’s Windows Media Audio DRM, Real Networks and Napster 2.0.
Much thanks to Cory Doctorow at BoingBoing.