Yahoo is shutting off support for Yahoo Music after September 30, which means starting October 1, if users want to move music to new hard drives or computers, they will be out of luck.
The Los Angeles Times reported Thursday that Yahoo Music alerted customers in an e-mail that it will no longer release keys to unlock digital rights management on its music. Sound familiar?
I've just spoken with a Yahoo spokeswoman who said that the move was announced earlier this year as part of Yahoo Music's partnership with RealNetwork's Rhapsody music service. Yahoo Music users will be allowed to transfer their music libraries to the new service.
That's fine for people who just used Yahoo's subscription service. If they choose not to make the jump to Rhapsody, well, they knew going in that when they stopped paying they would lose their libraries. But what about the people who purchased songs from Yahoo Music? That music was also wrapped in DRM.
Yep, these people will be prevented from transferring songs after the deadline.
Surprisingly, Yahoo has chosen to dive headlong into a controversy that entangled Microsoft earlier this year. MSN took a public relations lashing in April after announcing it would no longer furnish authorization keys for music purchased from the defunct MSN Music service. The keys unlock the copy-protection software built into these companies' songs and without them, music owners can't transfer them to new computers or digital music players.
Without the keys, the music is stuck. If a user's computer goes on the fritz, say good-bye to Yahoo's music.
To Microsoft's credit, it announced last month that it was extending the deadline and would continue issuing keys for three more years. Yahoo should have learned a lesson there. The Yahoo spokeswoman said the company has spent six months warning people to back up their music to disc. The problem with this, however, is that you lose sound quality.
Yahoo's decision will surely draw the anti-DRM crowd, which will use the situation to illustrate how DRM-wrapped music can never be truly owned by consumers. Copy-protection schemes allow companies to snatch the music away at any time.