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10 June 2005

Hey Dave!

Recently - (a couple of Days ago actually), I was in the local Starbucks and spotted the new live Studio Album "Stand Up" from the Dave Matthews Band. I bought the CD and took it home to listen to. I haven't bought a CD physically for the last couple of years, mainly buying online or burning my own mix CD's from my music collection.

Well, my main CD player is a laptop PC and when I put the CD in - a EULA page popped up wanting me to install a bunch of RIAA spyware and DRM faldercarb on my machine (secure Windows Media files?). I clicked NO to installing this crap - and the CD ejected itself. Unusual, I thought - so I moved to another machine and the same thing happened again. Maybe it's a glich in the CD - but I took a trip over to the Dave Matthews Band website - and low and behold - it's not a glich. The CD is "protected" with a really poor implementation of a DRM.

I went over to the site and on the page for the studio album - I found this little note:

If you have a Mac computer you can copy the songs using your iTunes Player as you would normally do. If you have a PC place the CD into your computer and allow the CD to automatically start.

If the CD does not automatically start, open your Windows Explorer, locate the drive letter for your CD drive and double-click on the LaunchCD.exe file located on your CD.

Once the application has been launched and the End User License Agreement has been accepted(emphasis mine), you can click the Copy Songs button on the top menu. Follow the instructions to copy the secure Windows Media Files (WMA) to your PC.

Make a note of where you are copying the songs to, you will need to get to these secure Windows Media Files in the next steps. Once the WMA files are on your PC you can open and listen to the songs with Windows Media Player 9.0 or higher.

You may also play them in any compatible player that can play secure Windows Media files, such as MusicMatch, RealPlayer, and Winamp, but it will require that you obtain a license to do so.(emphasis mine again)

To obtain this license, from the Welcome Screen of the user interface, click on the link below the album art that says If your music does not play in your preferred player, click here. Follow the instructions to download the alternate license.

Using Windows Media Player only, you can then burn the songs to a CD. Please note that in order to burn the files, you need to upgrade to or already have Windows Media Player 9 or greater. Once the CD has been burned, place the copied CD back into your computer and open iTunes. iTunes can now rip the songs as you would a normal CD.

Please note an easier and more acceptable solution requires cooperation from Apple, who we have already reached out to in hopes of addressing this issue. To help speed this effort, we ask that you use the following link to contact Apple and ask them to provide a solution that would easily allow you to move content from protected CDs into iTunes or onto your iPod rather than having to go through the additional steps above.


The last paragraph is interesting - in that it's trying to say that a "more acceptable solution" is needed from Apple - and that's simply trying to divert attention from a bad DRM decision made by Dave Matthews Band.

Now - I'm not trying to burn a CD, copy the files to my machine, or rip an MP3 - just listen to the darn thing. And here I have the poorly designed DRM getting in the way. So now, if I want to listen to this album, I have to rummage around to find an old Sony Walkman to hook up to a headset or a set of speakers. Ridiculous.

So the CD gets demoted to the CD player in my bedroom - but no, trying to play this thing in this ancient CD player results in a error message on the LED of the unit! This poor dumb CD/Radio/Tape player can't even play it!

Incredible - now, I'm not going to start a flame war over the rights and issues over copyright and artists getting compensated, fair use issues, making copies for home use, etc. - but from my point of view as someone who is the end customer - this CD is defective. And it's going back to Starbucks.

Now to the Dave Matthews Band - I'm sorry if this doesn't jive with your plans to "protect" your album. I want to just listen and not Manage DRM and License software for you. You see, if I do it for your album - then I have to do it for ALL the CD's I buy from now on - and the dear lord knows that the implementation of different software licenses and DRM software means when you have hundreds of artists all using something different will turn into a nightmare to manage.

So, I'm going to "vote with my wallet" - I will not by a CD that requires me to load licenses to my machines or the so-called "secure Windows media files". As much as I like the WMA format for listening to - I don't want my machines calling up Microsoft or some RIAA database to get permission to listen to what I've paid for. Which also means that I won't be buying this album - or any other album that uses this technology.


So fair warning to artists who are trying to "protect" themselves with bad DRM software and RIAA spyware - remember it's about the music, man.
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