Wal-Mart Finally Drops DRM

Dennis Faas's picture

Wal-Mart's online store has undergone a major redesign that makes its massive catalogue of songs entirely DRM-free. Digital rights management (DRM) is a term used to identify restrictions placed on digital media to prevent piracy.

Wal-Mart's online store had previously made use of the Windows Media DRM, limiting the playback of songs to devices sanctioned by Microsoft. However, the growing popularity of mobile media devices such as the iPod, which cannot play songs limited to the Windows Media DRM, has forced the retailer to carry out a complete switch-over.

Wal-Mart had announced its intention to carry out the switch to the unprotected MP3 format as late as August 2007, but only within the previous week has it completely removed all DRM protected music from its online store. Industry analysts have been critical of the lack of organization on the part of the retailer, which no longer holds any music from Warner Music Group and Sony BMG.

As the top two record labels, they represent thousands of artists including major names such as Madonna, Britney Spears and Michael Jackson, whose music at present is unavailable on Wal-Mart's online store. Industry insiders claim that the record labels are demanding major concessions in order to approve licensing on DRM-free music. This looks to be a temporary situation and the record labels are expected to eventually agree to the DRM-free concept.

Other problematic issues concerning Wal-Mart's online store include the fact that only the Internet Explorer web browser seems to be completely compatible with the redesign. Users using alternate web browsers are greeted with the following message, "We notice you're not using Internet Explorer. Other browsers may be able to access our original Music Downloads store which has fewer user features than our latest version but offers the same music. We will be making enhancements to our updated version in the future to support the Firefox browser. If you want to take advantage of all the features in our updated design now, please get the latest version of Internet Explorer." (Source: walmart.com)

Despite recent reports that Wal-Mart has been surpassed by iTunes as the largest music retailer in the U.S., a company spokesperson said "We've been pleased with the overall growth and customer response to our MP3 offering since our launch last August." (Source: betanews.com)

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