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DRM “Dead” for Streaming Music Too?

19 08 2008

EFF’s Fred von Lohman and Seth Schoen wrote a post a few days ago that landed with surprising silence in the blogsophere. Using a packet sniffer and a quick look into the “temp” file on a PC, the two discovered that iMeem and LaLa, two of the hottest new streaming music services, are not using DRM on their files. Although the files appear to users as streams, they are actual fully downloaded, open files. They write:

“Yet another nail has been driven into DRM’s coffin, this time for streaming audio (PCPro has a nice overview of the state of DRM for digital music).

Two of the leading on-demand streaming music sites, iMeem and LaLa, are not using DRM on their audio streams, instead sending the music as MP3s dusted with a dash of obfuscation. This is significant because both sites have been licensed by all the major record labels — the very same record labels that were just last year pushing Congress to require DRM on all noninteractive webcasts. So it looks like the RIAA companies have changed their minds, dropping DRM requirements for the on-demand streaming music services.”

It’s unclear whether this “obfuscation” that Von Lohman describes tricks the majority of users who think they couldn’t, for example, move their iMeem files to an iPod. But either way, it does not rise to the level of a “technical protection measure” under the DMCA. So, to all of the future music services developing innovative and new music download models (I hope). You may or may not have deals with the labels (yet), but don’t worry too much about being forced to lock up files or build systems around expected TPMs. DRM is on its way out the door, not just for retail downloads in iTunes, but everywhere.

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