Like Yahoo, Walmart plans to shut down DRM servers


— 10:58 AM on September 29, 2008

Remember back in July, when Yahoo announced the impending demise of its DRM servers and urged customers to burn their music to CDs? Despite the ensuing backlash and Yahoo's subsequent change of policy, Walmart has decided to follow in the controversial footsteps of its competitor.

According to ZDNet, Walmart has sent an e-mail to customers that says in part:

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.

Walmart's solution presents the exact same disadvantages as what Yahoo suggested in July. Not only does burning music to 80-minute CDs cost both money and time, but it also puts customers on potentially shaky legal ground. At least, that's what Electronic Frontier Foundation attorney Corynne McSherry stated about the Yahoo fiasco.

Because of heated criticism and pressure from folks like McSherry, Yahoo eventually decided to offer both refunds and MP3 download coupons to unhappy customers. Walmart music store users probably wouldn't mind getting the same options. Either way, Walmart's DRM servers will go dark on October 9, after which customers will lose access to downloaded songs if they switch computers or reinstall their operating systems.

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