While no longer functioning today, in its heyday MSN Music sold
DRM-protected music playable on devices with the PlaysForSure logo, a
compatibility campaign designed to unify the disparate authentication schemes
between different MP3 players. The company seemingly abandoned that campaign
with the introduction of the Microsoft Zune, which carried a newer, independent
DRM system that only works with the device’s separate music store, dubbed the Zune
MSN Music customers will now be able to authenticate their music through the
end of 2011, after which Microsoft will continue to provide availability
depending on customer demand.
The decision, announced Thursday in an e-mail to MSN Music customers,
represents a complete turnaround, as previously customers could only authenticate
their music purchases until August 31, 2008. While customers would have been
able to listen to their music after the cutoff date, they would only be able to
do so as long as their existing authentications are intact; since
unauthenticated files are essentially unusable, the decision essentially forbid
users from upgrading, formatting, or otherwise revamping their operating
system, or migrating their music collection to a new computer.
The cutoff drew the criticism of a wide variety of bloggers and commentators,
and earned Microsoft a strongly-worded
letter from the Electronic Frontier Foundation: “The decision means that
every customer that bought an mp3 from you … faces losing music if she upgrades
her PCs or her hard drive crashed after August 31, 2008,” said the group, who
went on to demand a public apology, refunds, and the assurance that customers
would have easy access to receipts.