Walmart Epic DRM Fail

Most people would agree that DRM crippled music is bad, and thankfully most retailers have come to their senses (notably Apple aside) and have switched to offering DRM free music sale. But what happens when retailers decide to shut of their DRM servers, disabling music legally purchased with DRM?

Walmart customers have just found out.

In an email to customers, Walmart advises that as of October 9, Walmart will be switching their DRM servers off. Not all DRM services rely on an external server, but the DRM service previously used by Walmart means that songs have to be validated as being legal on the external DRM server. Without the external server, music owners are able to continue to play the music on the machine it is currently on, but are unable to transfer the music to another machine (if they buy a new box, or reinstall the OS). The ultimate in crippled music.

Walmart has this helpful advice

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.

You read that right, Walmart are suggesting that users circumvent the DRM by burning the music, so that they can later import it back onto their computers. It may be an out of sorts, but it doesn’t overcome the fact that many people may not read the email, and even among those who do, we’re presuming they’ll understand the seriousness of the situation and will act on this act on the advice…presuming they know how to or have access to do so. For example, I can’t recall the last time I burned something to DVD or CD…many people simply don’t use physical media any more.

Cory Doctorow goes as far as saying that Walmart is a great example of why people should download music from P2P services

Hey suckers! Did you buy DRM music from Wal*Mart instead of downloading MP3s for free from the P2P networks? Well, they’re repaying your honesty by taking away your music. Unless you go through a bunch of hoops (that you may never find out about, if you’ve changed email addresses or if you’re not a very technical person), your music will no longer be playable after October 9th.

He has a point.

(image credit)