Wal-Mart Pulls The Rug Out From People Who Actually Bought Music From Its Web Site

noah | September 29, 2008 11:00 am

Retail giant Wal-Mart have notified customers of their digital-music store that, come Oct. 9, they won’t be able to play any files purchased before August 2007 and many of those purchased before February, thanks to those files being protected by the Microsoft-crafted digital-rights management software Playsforsure. In the wake of Microsoft stopping development and support of that nasty little bit of DRM, Wal-Mart switched its entire digital-music store to MP3s in February. So now, the higher-ups there have decided that the time is right to shut off the “license key” that allows those files to be played by people who purchased rented them. The Bentonville-issued missive to customers after the jump.

Important Information About Your Digital Music Purchases

We hope you are enjoying the increased music quality/bitrate and the improved usability of Walmart’s MP3 music downloads. We began offering MP3s in August 2007 and have offered only DRM (digital rights management) -free MP3s since February 2008. As the final stage of our transition to a full DRM-free MP3 download store, Walmart will be shutting down our digital rights management system that supports protected songs and albums purchased from our site.

If you have purchased protected WMA music files from our site prior to Feb 2008, we strongly recommend that you back up your songs…

by burning them to a recordable audio CD. By backing up your songs, you will be able to access them from any personal computer. This change does not impact songs or albums purchased after Feb 2008, as those are DRM-free.

Beginning October 9, we will no longer be able to assist with digital rights management issues for protected WMA files purchased from Walmart.com. If you do not back up your files before this date, you will no longer be able to transfer your songs to other computers or access your songs after changing or reinstalling your operating system or in the event of a system crash. Your music and video collections will still play on the originally authorized computer.

Thank you for using Walmart.com for music downloads. We are working hard to make our store better than ever and easier to use.

Walmart Music Team

Of course, this has led the more tech-“savvy” types out there to bray about how this is the latest example of DRM being broken, people never needing to pay for music, etc. It would seem that Wal-Mart would agree with the thesis of this statement, although I guess misunderstanding an antagonist’s argument never stopped people on the Internet from attempting to filibuster against what they perceive as injustice.

OK, I can’t believe I’m sort of taking Wal-Mart’s side on something. (I already took one shower today.) So I will add that the right thing for the folks in Bentonville to do would be to somehow allow people who purchased protected downloads to re-download those songs an albums in MP3 format, so as to avoid the aural degradation that occurs when a WMA file gets burned to disc and re-ripped as MP3s. Thanks to the store’s ever-present desire to squeeze any bit of profit it can out of its doings, however, the chance of that happening ranges between “not bloody likely” and “haahahahaahahaha.”

Blue Light Special: Wal-Mart Ends WMA 10/9 [Hypebot, who apparently thinks that Wal-Mart = K-Mart]Wal-Mart latest store to shut down DRM key servers [Ars Technica]