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July 25, 2008

You think you bought the music?

(This is not really an incentive design entry, just information economics more broadly. But too interesting to pass up.)

Yahoo! Music store announced yesterday it would be closing this fall. All that music you bought (well, not many people actually bought from Yahoo! Music, but still)? They are taking down the DRM servers in September, and your computer will not be able to "phone home" to get the key. The only solution: burn to CD (which of course, made DRM pretty ineffective in the first place). Apparently the same problem occurred when Microsoft and Sony announced the shuttering of their online music stores.

Conventional notions of "owning" property generally involve control over the use of that property in perpetuity (including transfer of ownership). When there are significant use restrictions and rights retained by the provider, it's licensing, not buying. This has been drummed into us over the years with software licenses (you can't take a copy of Windows off your old machine and install it on your new machine, for example). With music, I think the general sense is that we are buying it, not licensing it, however. Be that as it may, DRM imposes licensing-like restrictions, and apparently one of them is "you may not be able to listen to this music if we decide to shut down our service in the future."

Note to self: Finish burning backup CD copies of all of my iTunes music!

Posted by jmm at July 25, 2008 07:51 AM

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