Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Yahoo says DRM issue overblown by media, but will offer refunds

Yahoo told BetaNews that the media was hyping the expiration of the company's DRM certificates and didn't expect a user backlash, but said it has decided to offer refunds to those affected anyway.

Last Week, Yahoo announced in an e-mail to customers that it would remove its DRM keys for authorizing song playback on October 1. This means that although purchased music would continue playing, it cannot be reauthorized, essentially locking it to the current computer. If a user buys a new PC or reinstalls the operating system, the purchased music would no longer be playable.

The move sparked criticism from industry groups and heavy media coverage. The Electronic Frontier Foundation rebuked Yahoo for suggesting users should simply burn all their purchased songs to CDs, saying the company "wants its customers to invest more time, labor and money in order to continue to enjoy the music for which they have already paid."

"What is worse, this suggestion could put customers at legal risk, as they may not have documentation of purchase," the EFF added.

For its part, Yahoo believes the situation is being overblown. The company claims it notified users of change in February, when it first announced it would be closing its Yahoo Music store. But although customers were told they would be migrated to Real's Rhapsody service, BetaNews found no mention of the expiring DRM on songs that were purchased.

Those customers who were merely paying for the subscription rates will simply see their music library converted over to Rhapsody songs, and shouldn't experience any problems. Yahoo said it will refund customers who opt not to switch to Rhapsody but still have time remaining on their subscriptions.

But after September 30, those who actually purchased songs from Yahoo will be left without any options. Yahoo says it is now considering how to make amends with such customers, although it seems they will need to contact the company directly and be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

A Yahoo spokesperson told BetaNews she could not disclose the procedure for reimbursing customers who purchased songs. Reports have stated the company is looking into providing customers with DRM-free versions of the tracks they bought instead of a refund, but the spokesperson could not confirm this to BetaNews.

Some are questioning why Yahoo isn't following in the footsteps of Microsoft, which shut down its MSN Music store two years ago and had planned to expire its DRM license keys on August 31, 2008. After a large public outcry, Microsoft reconsidered the decision and in June said it would continue to authorize DRM playback for another three years.

Yahoo Music customers should contact the company to find out how they can be reimbursed for their purchases.

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