SONY and the Great DRM Threat (Do not buy Sony music or music players)


A while back, I got into a heated discussion on a new Sony audio player called the HD5: HD5 doesn't play mp3s!!! The device claims to be an MP3 player, but in fact, it doesn't play MP3s at all. It will convert MP3s into a proprietary Sony format and then play them, but if you copy actual MP3 files to the device, it will not play them. I specifically wanted an MP3 player in order to manage my music the way I want to. I will not have anything whatsoever to do with audio files that have been crippled with "Digital Rights Management" (DRM). Unfortunately, most consumers are not aware that any time they buy music from Itunes, Microsoft, Sony, or many other distributors, they are buying music files that are crippled with DRM. You may look at this whole DRM controversy and say, "who cares?, it plays on my device." This may be true for you right now. However, if you ever find yourself involved in of the following tasks, you may change your tune:

  • Move music from your hard drive to your portable player
  • Move music from your portable player to a computer hard drive
  • "Rip" music from CDs that you have purchased into MP3 format
  • Make a backup copy of a CD to take on a trip
  • Move yourself and your music to another country
  • Turning your computer on and finding that the drive where you store all your DRM infected music files has crashed

Any of the above activities may render DRM files useless, or worse, require you to re-purchase your music library. Recently Sony took the DRM movement a step further, deciding it would surreptitiously install malware called a "rootkit" on computers that attempt to play CDs produced by Sony. This gives Sony unrestricted (and unauthorized) access to your entire computer! Now simply playing a CD purchased from Sony can result in Sony having full access to your entire personal computer. Sounds crazy, but it's true. To protect yourself from the nightmare that is DRM, do the following:

  1. Do not buy music from online sources that don't offer music in MP3 format
  2. Do not buy CDs produced by Sony/BMG
  3. Rip your CDs into MP3 format only. Windows Media Player 10 finally supports creation of MP3 files. There are also any number of software packages that are truly MP3 friendly. Whatever software you use, check the music files after you rip your first album. If they are not in MP3 format, reconfigure your software, or if your software doesn't support MP3 format, get software that does
  4. Do not purchase DRM crippled portable players from manufacturers such as Apple and Sony. Buy only from MP3-friendly manufacturers such as Creative (I'm sure there are many others)

The number of ways that DRM can prevent you from listening to your music the way you want to is beyond the scope of this rant. The details of how DRM can cost you every dollar you've ever spent on your music collection is also not gone into here.

Please feel free to posts questions and comments. I'd be happy to help you avoid the DRM nightmare.