Microsoft Plays For Sure Files Won’t Play on the Zune

Sep 18th, 2006 | By | Category: iPods & Portable Media Players

Microsoft Zune Music Player in Brown

Some are speculating that Microsoft is abandoning its Plays for Sure partners, because the recently announced Zune media player won’t play protected Windows Media files. Audio and video files purchased or rented from Napster 2.0, Rhapsody, Yahoo! Unlimited, Movielink, Cinemanow and other Microsoft partners are sure to not play on the Zune.

“The media that Microsoft promised would Play For Sure doesn’t even play on Microsoft’s own device,” said the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Derek Slater.

Microsoft’s announcement for the Zune (Word document) notes that “Zune software can import audio files in unprotected WMA, MP3, AAC; photos in JPEG; and videos in WMV, MPEG-4, H.264.”

In other words, if you’ve previously purchased Windows Media Plays for Sure files, don’t expect them to play on the Zune.

Microsoft’s decision to throw its weight behind a new media player that won’t play the files that its business partners sell is likely to strain its partner relationships. Meanwhile, Zune buyers may be unimpressed to find that the Windows Media files that they have purchased don’t play on Microsoft’s own media player.

EFF’s Slater argues that the blame doesn’t really lie with Microsoft, but with the US’ Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998, which makes it illegal for companies to create new technologies to play encrypted media files.
“Buying DRMed media means you’re locked into the limited array of devices that vendors say you can use,” notes Slater. “You have to rebuy your preexisting DRMed media collection if you want to use it on the Zune. And you’ll have to do that over and over again whenever a new, incompatible device with innovative features blows existing players out of the water.”

The real culprit here is the DMCA — but for that bad law, customers could legally convert DRMed files into whatever format they want, and tech creators would be free to reverse engineer the DRM to create compatible devices. Even though those acts have traditionally been and still are non-infringing, the DMCA makes them illegal and stifles fair use, innovation, and competition.

“With DRM (Digital Rights Management) under the DMCA, nothing truly plays for sure, regardless of whether you’re purchasing from Apple, Microsoft, or anyone else,” adds Slater.


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