Microsoft’s yet-to-be-released iPod challenger, Zune, is already drawing a lot of attention. So, one of Zune’s innovative features is the ability to share musically via a wireless connection with other nearby Zunes. Cool. For copyrighted music, however, the receiver can only play the received content three times or within three days, whichever comes first. Okay, a big nod to the music labels. That in itself is generating a lot of controversy.
But here’s the part that astounds me, directly from the Zune blog:

I was going to leave a comment in my last post answering questions, but I decided to make a new one…
“I made a song. I own it. How come, when I wirelessly send it to a girl I want to impress, the song has 3 days/3 plays?” Good question. There currently isn’t a way to sniff out what you are sending, so we wrap it all up in DRM. We can’t tell if you are sending a song from a known band or your own home recording so we default to the safety of encoding. And besides, she’ll come see you three days later. . .

Just like the music industry attacked file sharing applications because it’s possible to use them to share copyrighted material, Microsoft is defaulting to DRM since it can’t know for sure whether a shared file is copyrighted. Better safe than sorry–safe for them, anyway. Well, that sounds pretty sorry to me. It’s a ‘guilty with no chance of proving your innocence’ strategy. Great way to treat your customers. Of course, a lot of people are observing, justifiably to me, that Microsoft’s primary customer is, in fact, the music labels. The consumer runs a distant second. In which case, the Zune will not catch on.
OK, so what about Apple’s DRM? First off, if I import a non-DRMed song into iTunes, iTunes doesn’t mess with it. Second, Apple doesn’t promise to let me legally share files with someone else. I don’t like DRM any more than Cory Doctorow, but Apple’s ‘five computers plus attached devices’ DRM for iTunes seems a reasonable limitation for personal use. Millions of other iPod owners seem willing to accept it, too.

Categories: Intellectual