If you have not been following this story, the BBC has a good overview: Microsoft's iPod killer, the soon to be released Zune, uses DRM (digital rights management) technology that is not compatible with Microsoft's own PlayForSure technology.
That's right. Apple iTunes competitors (AOL, Yahoo, etc.) who have licensed Microsoft's old DRM technology now find themselves in the position of potentially having the tunes they sell not being compatible with Microsoft's new DRM standard. (I'm using the term "potentially" since I still find it hard to believe that Microsoft is doing something as bone-headed as this; it reminds me of the bad old days when PowerPoint slides and Excel files were not always compatible across different versions of software upgrades.)
So what, you say? Well, if the BBC report is accurate, and you have purchased music from these other sources that used PlayForSure DRM technology from Microsoft, and you want to play them on the new Zune player from Microsoft ... you have to re-purchase the music from the official Zune source ... assuming it's available in the new format.
Now you understand why I stopped buying from iTunes. What guarantee do you have any more that digital music purchased from any one source will be usable on multiple media in your home without having to repurchase or re-license it some time in the future?
Having grown up collecting phonograph records that could be played on any "record player" from any manufacturer, there was a time when I was outraged by this situation. I stopped being outraged months ago when I got it into my thick skull that the media companies are not interested in protecting copyright or artistic expression. Their commercial interests have less to do with combating piracy than with creating and monopolizing distribution channels on behalf of their stockholders. When the interests of companies and customers coincide, that's a good thing, but when national legislatures craft laws to artificially protect monopolies, that's bad.
Have you been "Zuned" yet?
I finally saw a "Zune" commercial for the first time last night -- at the movie theater where a friend and I went to see THE DEPARTED. The commercial looked like a watered down version of the giant underground rave in the final MATRIX movie but without the cool music, people, clothes, moisture, or dance moves.