So, another DRM scheme bites the dust. Last night, I got an email from Napster, whom I’ve bought music from over the years not a lot, but there were times when they were the only site I could find a song on, and most of the [non-iPod] mainstream MP3 players sold during the mid 2000’s supported the WMA Secure digital formats pretty transparently).

I’ve always known, however, that those formats can have issues if you buy new PC hardware and try to move songs, etc. Napster has since moved to MP3s…and then one just waits for the other shoe to drop, as it did last night.


Important Information About Your Secure WMA Digital Music Purchases
...
We're writing you with an important message about any music downloads
you purchased from Napster prior to May 2008. Due to evolving digital
music technology and related rights, Napster will no longer be able
to provide support for these downloads as of Sept. 1, 2010.

((nice!!! Thanks, Napster!))

...

Be aware of reasons your DRM-encoded WMA downloads may stop playing:

   * Changing or reinstalling your operating system
   * Purchasing a new PC
   * System crash or failure
   * DRM corruption

((ok…I’ll just keep this 8 year old desktop around…forever. Yeah.))

...

Back up your WMA files. If you haven't already, we strongly recommend
that you back up all of your DRM-encoded WMA files by burning them to
audio CDs. Doing this will allow you access to your music on any CD
player and generally have a maintenance free permanent copy.

Please note that if you don't back up your files, you risk permanently
losing access to your purchased music.

((and if you _do_ back up and re-rip your files, you lose your ID3 tags. FTW!! Oh, they didn’t mention that, did they…?))

...

Thank you for your understanding as we make this transition and strive
to bring you the best subscription services and download store
possible. And as always, thanks for listening.

((*sigh*))

In fact, a DMCA exemption for breaking these files for precisely this reason was requested at this year’s review process, but turned down. Thanks for waiting just long enough that you weren’t another example, Napster!

Note: I always back everything up to CD, so I’m set; but you do lose your ID3 tags when doing that (the custom playlisted CD you burn won’t be found on CDDB-type databases.)

There are ways to fix this; last.fm recently updated their song fingerprinting api, and I’m just about finished with a little python wrapper app that lets me identify, rename, and tag (at least with artist and title) the songs ripped off on these custom CDs. It’s pretty neat to watch 01 Track.mp3 become Cutting Crew – One For The Mockingbird! There are other tools that do this, but the last.fm API is easy to use and pretty accurate; I’ll upload my utility script to my gitorious account over the weekend, if anyone wants to check it out.

Short of it: get anything DRM’d burnt and re-ripped ASAP. Those servers ARE going away, and content providers don’t see any problem with it. MP3 or Ogg Vorbis FTW!

UPDATE: My git repository for this tool is here: http://gitorious.org/pyfmid/pyfmid

10 thoughts on “Napster to stop supporting WMA secure files they sold you

  1. CD Text…I had to look that one up, but it does ring a bell now that I think about it. Hm…this actually looks pretty useful; iTunes and Nero both support burning CD-Text when ripping (though not as a default, it appears). Nero and WMP 10+ can read it, as well when ripping! That should actually work. I'll have to try that out. Thanks for reminder, Benjamin!

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