See this fascinating blog post from the web site BoingBoing.
Glyn sez, “Buying DRMed content, then having that content stop working later is fair writes Steven Metalitz, the lawyer who represents the MPAA, RIAA in a letter to the top legal advisor at the Copyright Office.”
“We reject the view,” he writes in a letter to the top legal advisor at the Copyright Office, “that copyright owners and their licensees are required to provide consumers with perpetual access to creative works. No other product or service providers are held to such lofty standards. No one expects computers or other electronics devices to work properly in perpetuity, and there is no reason that any particular mode of distributing copyrighted works should be required to do so.”
This is, of course, true, but that doesn’t make it any less weird. The only reason that such tracks are crippled after authentication servers go down is because of a system that was demanded by content owners and imposed on companies like Wal-Mart and Apple; buyers who grudgingly bought tracks online because it was easy accepted, but never desired the DRM. To simply say that they are “out of luck” because they used a system that the rightsholders demanded is the height of callousness to one’s customers. While computers and electronics devices do break down over time, these music tracks were crippled by design.
I’ve got 78RPM records from my grandparents’ basement that play just fine today — and I’ve got Logo programs I wrote in 1979 that I can run today. I own a piano roll from 1903 that I can play back if I can clear the space for a player piano. I’ve got books printed in the 17th century that can still be read — and if they can’t be read, they can be scanned and the scans can be read. This is what an open format means.
It’s hilarious that the same yahoos who argue for perpetual copyright (implying that copyrighted works have value forever) also argue for time-limited ownership (implying that people who buy copyrighted works should be content to enjoy them for a few weeks or years until the DRM stops working).
Remember: when you buy DRM, you really rent, until such time as the DRM company goes bust or changes its mind. When you buy DRM-free, you get something your great-grandkids can enjoy.