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Walmart is shutting down its online-activation servers for DRM protected songs


Magister Lajciak

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Here is a recent piece of news which basically confirms my fears that online activation can seriously impact the longevity of games. The article can serve as a cautionary tale for those who hold the belief that company size and success are guarantees that DRM online activation servers will be maintained indefinitely.

 

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.

 

But don't worry, this will never ever happen to all those other DRM companies -- unlike little fly-by-night mom-and-pop operations like Wal*Mart, the DRM companies are rock-ribbed veterans of commerce and industry, sure to be here for a thousand years. So go on buying your Audible books, your iTunes DRM songs, your Zune media, your EA games... None of these companies will ever disappear, nor will the third-party DRM suppliers they use. They are as solid and permanent as Commodore, Atari, the Soviet Union, the American credit system and the Roman Empire.

 

Source: http://www.boingboing.net/2008/09/26/walma...utting-dow.html

 

The rest of the article is essentially the e-mail notice sent by Walmart to warn of this situation. On a positive note, Walmart is giving its customers a window of opportunity to burn their DRM-protected songs to a CD (it is by no means clear that all other companies would even do that - it would depend to some extent on the reason for their server shutdown), but to be honest I almost never check corporate mail, which I actually divert to a separate account that I use for online registration and the associated spam mail. I only check the account for retrieving passwords if I need to do so. I bet lots of people do the same.

 

Ironically, Walmart is transitioning to a DRM-free business model of music distribution, which is itself a very positive thing, but it no longer feels the need to maintain the online activation servers used in its old business model (one of many reasons why a company might shut down its online activation servers). At least the customers can burn their music to a CD if they react in time, but if you are like me, you create a special e-mail account for all the corporate/junk mail when asked to register and access it only to retrieve passwords, so I am guessing many people will miss that and simply lose access to their purchased music after a while.

 

If this kind of thing can happen with Walmart, it can happen with any company. Walmart is absolutely huge in comparison with EA. Just to illustrate, market capitalization of Walmart was over $223 billion a year ago (the latest figure I could find), while EA had a market capitalization of comparatively meager $14.1 billion in July (again, the latest figure I could find). If Walmart feels it can no longer economically justify running its online activation servers and it has so much more money than EA, I am entirely unconvinced that EA could be trusted not to make such a decision, should it become more profitable to shut these servers down. That's not even taking into account the possibility of EA going out of business or a plethora of other events that might lead to the impossibility of online activation.

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but to be honest I almost never check corporate mail, which I actually divert to a separate account that I use for online registration and the associated spam mail. I only check the account for retrieving passwords if I need to do so. I bet lots of people do the same.[...]

 

but if you are like me, you create a special e-mail account for all the corporate/junk mail when asked to register and access it only to retrieve passwords, so I am guessing many people will miss that and simply lose access to their purchased music after a while.

Frankly, that's pretty stupid. You subscribe to a service and then categorise all mail coming from the provider of that service as spam and junk mail? And then, when you fail to heed an important notice with regards to the service you have subscribed to and the consequences take you by surprise... it's somehow THEIR fault?

 

Wow. Er, yeah. Customer's always right, eh buddy?

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Gotta agree with random, if you are going to buy DRM music from Wal-Mart, you should be capable of staying somewhat aware of what is happening to their service.

 

Also, it's not like the music goes boom when they shut down. You just can't back it up after a certain date. I have a few cassette tapes lying around, but I don't cry about the fact that I haven't had a car that can play cassettes for the last eight years. If you don't burn it onto a CD, that's the risk you run.

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but to be honest I almost never check corporate mail, which I actually divert to a separate account that I use for online registration and the associated spam mail. I only check the account for retrieving passwords if I need to do so. I bet lots of people do the same.[...]

 

but if you are like me, you create a special e-mail account for all the corporate/junk mail when asked to register and access it only to retrieve passwords, so I am guessing many people will miss that and simply lose access to their purchased music after a while.

 

Frankly, that's pretty stupid. You subscribe to a service and then categorise all mail coming from the provider of that service as spam and junk mail? And then, when you fail to heed an important notice with regards to the service you have subscribed to and the consequences take you by surprise... it's somehow THEIR fault?

 

Wow. Er, yeah. Customer's always right, eh buddy?

 

It's not stupid at all - indeed in economics we call that concept rational ignorance - one should not waste his time on things unimportant to him. The vast majority of 'corporate mail' are various advertisements of their products, which is spam and I have no interest in that. Also, I don't subscribe to DRM-services like that, so for me it is an issue only insofar as it illustrates that even a huge company such as Walmart is ready to shut down its online activation servers. Frankly, I doubt I have ever missed anything important by not reading corporate spam-mail and I am not about to start reading it for the sake of monitoring if a company decides to shut down its online activation - much better to have stuff requiring no online activation. :(

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It's not stupid at all - indeed in economics we call that concept rational ignorance - one should not waste his time on things unimportant to him. The vast majority of 'corporate mail' are various advertisements of their products, which is spam and I have no interest in that. Also, I don't subscribe to DRM-services like that, so for me it is an issue only insofar as it illustrates that even a huge company such as Walmart is ready to shut down its online activation servers. Frankly, I doubt I have ever missed anything important by not reading corporate spam-mail and I am not about to start reading it for the sake of monitoring if a company decides to shut down its online activation - much better to have stuff requiring no online activation. :(
Ah. So, since it's a well-known phenomenon and it has a technical name, it's of course a sound and sensible practice - take lobotomy, for instance!

 

But the next bit is the most interesting. You say that doesn't affect you, since you aren't subscribed to that kind of DRM-using services. And then you take that premise, and apply it to justify people who ARE subscribed NOT paying attention to official notices sent to them by their service provider. I'm not sure if that's circular logic... or simply nonsense.

 

Further, I have been subscribed to online services and made purchases online and I have yet to receive advertising mail that I couldn't choose not to receive.

 

The bottom line is you subscribe to a service, you establish a business relationship with a company. Disregard the notices they send you at your own risk.

 

edit: I suck. :)

Edited by random n00b
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It's not stupid at all - indeed in economics we call that concept rational ignorance - one should not waste his time on things unimportant to him.

well, if it's that unimportant to you, why'd you start the thread?

 

seems to me that if you care about the music you download, you'd pay attention to the emails that come from the folk who're selling it to you, e.g. "WARNING: YOU WON'T BE ABLE TO BACK UP YOUR PURCHASES AFTER OCTOBER 9".

 

BUT if you don't bother to pay attention to the emails you get, then who else do you have to blame?? it's not like they're shutting it down and not telling you.

dumber than a bag of hammers

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btw, there is a way to convert DRM music to MP3s legally. tunebite. it is actually a recording, taken from the stream that is being sent to the DAC of your soundcard. i use it and the recordings actually turn out pretty good. at least, you can't tell the difference between the recording and the original, DRM version.

 

taks

comrade taks... just because.

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btw, there is a way to convert DRM music to MP3s legally. tunebite. it is actually a recording, taken from the stream that is being sent to the DAC of your soundcard. i use it and the recordings actually turn out pretty good. at least, you can't tell the difference between the recording and the original, DRM version.

 

taks

 

This and burning it onto a cd and re-ripping it. If it's a high quality mp3 most people can't tell the difference.

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I got a scratch on my CD of Appetite for Destruction and I can't play it anymore

You should have taken better care of your CD. The Walmart customers didn't get that choice.

See, you take a mortal man and put him in control. Watch him become a god, watch people's heads a'roll.

That's Megadeth, not GnR!

Edited by neckthrough
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Isn't Wal-mart well known as an incredibly dickish corporation? If I were American then I would do my utmost to not shop there.

 

In many small towns, the Wall-Mart is the only store available that carries a large selection of goods. It also tends to sell stuff at very low rates, which is where they get that reputation from. They drive mom and pop shops out of business.

 

I avoid it, but I've got a Target :)

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Yeah I know but why would anyone download from Wal-mart?

 

No one in their right mind have ever argued that servers would never be taken down, by the way. Arguments have been that the companies will allow for continued use through other means if they do so and Wal-mart did this by telling their customers to burn their msic to a CD.

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Isn't Wal-mart well known as an incredibly dickish corporation? If I were American then I would do my utmost to not shop there.

yes and no.

 

pros

1. walmarts end up employing a lot of people.

2. walmarts were always paying higher than minimum wage, even for the greeters (hence they supported the wage hike, since it improved their competitiveness... hmmm)

3. walmarts generate a TON of tax revenue for the counties/towns that they are located in

4. walmarts do provide a very large, low-priced selection for those that would otherwise have to drive quite a ways and pay higher prices.

 

cons

1. walmarts drive lots of mom and pop shops out of business

2. walmarts ultimately steer local politics (unavoidable for such a large business)

3. walmarts offer lower-end products (anecdotal, and not always a "con," except to those that prefer top of the line stuff)

4. hmmm...

 

i don't shop at walmart because, well, because i'm a snob. i want higher-end products. i'd rather buy something expensive that lasts a long time, than something cheap that i have to keep rebuying every few years. quite frankly, not all their stuff is cheaper, either. particularly when you compare same level items (my new tv was considerably more expensive at walmart, for example).

 

best buy is now offering "digi-paks," btw. it seems you go in and buy the pak, then hit the online thing to DL them. DRM all the same i guess.

 

taks

comrade taks... just because.

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In summary, they suck. Want something better? Don't buy from Wal-mart, don't by DRM products, and finally: Do what Google did to Microsoft, come with a smarter businessidea/product.

"Some men see things as they are and say why?"
"I dream things that never were and say why not?"
- George Bernard Shaw

"Hope in reality is the worst of all evils because it prolongs the torments of man."
- Friedrich Nietzsche

 

"The amount of energy necessary to refute bull**** is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it."

- Some guy 

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The interesting thing here is that Walmart like Itunes is now moving towards an drm-free music store. It has taken the music industry ten years to come this far; how long do you think it will take the game industry to do the same? Another 10 years or so?

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"but to be honest I almost never check corporate mail, which I actually divert to a separate account that I use for online registration and the associated spam mail. I only check the account for retrieving passwords if I need to do so. I bet lots of people do the same."

 

That's your problem not WQal-Mart's.

 

Anyways, Walmart is awesome. They mostd efinitely not eveil. Nope, that's customers. Customers are TRUE EVIL.

 

Walmart sells lots of awesome stuff for awesomely reasonable prices.

 

And, from what i've seen and heard from people I know who have actually worked there, they treated their employees no worse than other companies - if not better.

 

 

 

"walmarts drive lots of mom and pop shops out of business"

 

That's a good thing. 'Mom and pop' stores are usually more expensive, and since they tend to have monopolies in the area theya r ein, not much you can do about it.

 

 

"2. walmarts ultimately steer local politics (unavoidable for such a large business)"

 

Not a positive or negative inofitself.

 

"3. walmarts offer lower-end products (anecdotal, and not always a "con," except to those that prefer top of the line stuff)"

 

'low end' or not, their stuff is awesome, and I tend to have o problems with the stuff I buy there.

4. hmmm...

DWARVES IN PROJECT ETERNITY = VOLOURN HAS PLEDGED $250.

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I can't believe how aggressively people here don't take DRM as the issue it is. I think this is the same as the "frog-effect" happening with the ever more pervasive surveillance in more or less public places.

Citizen of a country with a racist, hypocritical majority

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I don't personally like DRM -- but I don't see anything morally, ethically or legally objectionable about product producers and service providers including DRM in their products.

 

Producers and providers have a right to dictate the terms of an offer to sell you a product or service. You have a right to reject or accept their offer. Contracts are the basis of markets.

 

I also think that the issue is not so clear-cut. Public surveillance has pros and cons. DRM has pros and cons. Intrusive counter-measures are deplorable and should be guarded against; acceptable protections are a positive thing. It's a balancing act, there's no absolutely right or wrong answer.

 

Well-executed DRM that does not overburden the consumer really isn't any different than state-enforced intellectual property laws at a basic level; the main differences are of execution rather than intent or purpose.

 

Poorly-executed DRM that overburdens the consumer is just as bad as poorly-constructed IP laws that overburden the creators of new intellectual property.

 

DRM is a tool, just like a hammer or a hacksaw; it can be used constructively and effectively; or it can be used destructively and ineffectively.

Thanks for the awesome avatar Jorian!

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I can't believe I'm agreeing with Volourn & randomnoob at the same time, but yeah, I do. When I saw Magister's OP I cried foul as well, but when I read the full link I saw that it was part of a transition towards DRM-free song and they hadn't been selling DRM songs since February, it makes a lot more sense. They might have given more time for people, such as a full year, but it's definitely a move that makes sense.

 

Now, the bit about whether they're giving enough notice. Are there pamphlets & notices at American wall marts all over the place? Are there popup announcements at WalMart's site and the site where you buy/dl music from WalMart? If so, then nobody can complain about not checking their corporate mail (even if it is an understandable practice due to all the spam). If it's just one mail lodged in, say, 10 pieces of spam Walmart sends you every week, perhaps there is cause for complaint.

 

Still, I agree with Magister on one thing: this really shows how the closing of online activation servers is something that can really happen, and soon.

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I don't personally like DRM -- but I don't see anything morally, ethically or legally objectionable about product producers and service providers including DRM in their products.

 

Producers and providers have a right to dictate the terms of an offer to sell you a product or service. You have a right to reject or accept their offer. Contracts are the basis of markets.

 

I also think that the issue is not so clear-cut. Public surveillance has pros and cons. DRM has pros and cons. Intrusive counter-measures are deplorable and should be guarded against; acceptable protections are a positive thing. It's a balancing act, there's no absolutely right or wrong answer.

 

Well-executed DRM that does not overburden the consumer really isn't any different than state-enforced intellectual property laws at a basic level; the main differences are of execution rather than intent or purpose.

 

Poorly-executed DRM that overburdens the consumer is just as bad as poorly-constructed IP laws that overburden the creators of new intellectual property.

 

DRM is a tool, just like a hammer or a hacksaw; it can be used constructively and effectively; or it can be used destructively and ineffectively.

Agreed. If you read most of the anti-DRM posts you'll notice that most protesters don't necessarily abhor DRM as a concept. Many of us actually like Steam, for example. Several others have voiced their approval of pure rental-based models like Gametap, although such models involve DRM by definition. CD checks are also a form of DRM and they've been around for years without anybody throwing a tantrum.

 

What we're all opposed to is the *abuse* of DRM to impose unreasonable restrictions on consumers, and to a lesser extent bad implementations of DRM like SecuROM.

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