Here’s an article asking a reasonable question – how long will it take for consumers to become angry at the limitations and cost of downloaded music encumbered by “digital rights management” restrictions? Songs downloaded from iTunes can only be played on iPods; songs downloaded from Napster can only be played on compatible portable devices, currently a very short list indeed.

“In case you’re not familiar with Napster To Go, it’s a service that uses Microsoft’s Windows Media digital rights management, code-named Janus, to let you essentially rent digital music for $15 per month, transfer it to any Janus-compatible device, and listen to the songs as long as you keep paying the monthly fee. On the other hand, you have Apple’s iTunes Music Store, where you can buy any song you want for $1 and do whatever you want with it. Except, of course, play it on any other digital audio player that doesn’t support Apple’s proprietary AAC format (unless, I know, you convert it to MP3).

“In my mind, there’s hardly any difference between these two options. They’re both bad choices, although Napster To Go looks marginally better, since it has a nice big library, a low subscription cost, and a much wider range of available players. But the iPod’s not on the list, and that’s what I own–for now–so there goes that idea. See, there are a lot of possible combinations I’d like to try, here. I like the iTunes Music Store just fine, but I’d sure like to have one of those Rio Carbons or a Creative Zen Micro. Too bad I’d have to trash all the songs I bought from Apple, unless I’m willing to painstakingly convert them to MP3–and then they wouldn’t sound all that great, because they’re encoded at 128Kbps. Oh, and the Carbon and the Zen Micro aren’t Janus-compatible either.

“I’m in a digital music bind, and I don’t like it. And I’m getting a little impatient waiting for the rest of the public to catch the DRM outrage bug. I can’t imagine why people don’t object more strongly to the idea that you can’t choose a music player without choosing a compatible music service and vice versa. Maybe it’s because the model is similar to ones we’re already enslaved by, such as our forced cell phone/carrier marriages. But that’s thinking about things all wrong. I wouldn’t buy food that can be cooked only in a GE microwave. I wouldn’t buy a car that I could drive only while wearing Adidas shoes. . . .

“So where’s the outrage about the creeping death of digital media DRM? I blame the iPod, in part. If you’ve got one, by golly, and 90 percent of hard-drive-based MP3 player-owning consumers do, you just don’t care that your iTunes songs won’t play on anything else–and once the iPod Shuffle wins over the rest of the flash player holdouts (and it will, I’m sure, despite its baffling lack of display and even more baffling lack of decent features and included accessories), no one will care about snapping up all those locked-down songs. As long as you have your little service-to-player synchronicity, you’re happy. But doesn’t it bother you, even a little bit, that you can’t sync your iPod with your home computer and your work computer? That if you lose or erase one of your iTunes-purchased songs, you can’t just download it again, you have to buy it? That if you buy your wife, daughter, or pal an iPod and load up a bunch of songs from the Music Store as an additional gift, wife/daughter/pal can’t copy those songs onto a computer because they’re tied to your iTunes Music Store account? If it doesn’t, it should.”

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