Unshackle your music before it shackles you

One of the big items from last week’s Macworld convention was Apple’s announcement that it was moving away from digital rights management on the music it sells on the iTunes Store. Apparently, Apple was able to win this concession from the large music companies in exchange for selling song tracks at different rates, including 69¢, 99¢ and $1.29.
A friend kinda scoffed at the move especially Apple’s plans to let users pay to “upgrade” their iTunes purchases to the new service. I think this is big news. I didn’t think Apple’s DRM policy was particularly onerous although ultimately your music was tethered to up to five computers, iPods that were paired with those machines and burned compact discs.
This applies to iTunes Store purchases and not music ripped from your compact discs or other sources.
Although I’m happy with the previous iTunes system, I will be upgrading my library to remove the DRM for one simple reason — there’s no way to know if Apple will keep its DRM service active for music. If you’re on a new computer and want to listen to your DRM’d music, you have to log in with Apple’s DRM service. Usually, it’s not a problem, but it could be if Apple ever decides to turn their DRM computers off. If there’s no way to log in, there’s no way to listen to the purchased music.
This nearly happened with several defunct online music stores. The retailers sent notifications that it was going to turn off its DRM service — and leaving customers in a lurch. Many of the companies backed off from the move, but it does point out the scary possibility that you might not fully own or control the music that you purchased online unless there is no DRM strings attached.
This doesn’t mean that DRM is going away — there are some pretty ridiculous technological strings attached to online video purchases, but ultimately moving away from DRM’d music is a good thing.