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Puretracks Music Store Drops DRM 236

Posted by kdawson
from the apple-could-do-this dept.
khendron writes "The Canadian online music store Puretracks (a store I have generally avoided because of their Microsoft-specific solutions) has announced that it will immediately start selling part of its catalog as DRM-free MP3 files. The site's unprotected catalog, which includes artists such as The Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan, will initially feature only 50,000 of its 1.3 million tracks, but their number will grow weekly. The Globe and Mail says the move will likely profit Puretracks because its DRM-free-music will be playable on iPods. It quotes one industry watcher saying 'We're seeing the death of DRM.'" Essentially Puretracks is relaxing the major-label mandated DRM rules that it had initially applied to all labels, even the indies that wanted no part of DRM.
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Puretracks Music Store Drops DRM

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  • by daveschroeder (516195) * on Thursday February 22, 2007 @11:16AM (#18109474)
    ...as the from the apple-could-do-this dept. statement opines, but only for the artists and/or labels with direct legal standing to make such a request with Apple. Hint: it's not anywhere near the number people think it is. Even some artists who sell or provide DRM-free music via other channels may not actually have such a (legal) capability with Apple, for example, because their label's contract with Apple (or other stipulations) doesn't currently allow it.

    And while we're at it, let's fix the title of this submission:

    Puretracks drops DRM from less than 4% of its tracks; even less when you consider well known commercial artists on major labels; changes format and delivery mechanism for such songs

    Let's face it: like it or not, that's important.

    I do agree that Apple should aggressively work toward this, and they should absolutely drop the "all-or-nothing" mentality with DRM on the iTunes store, because dropping all DRM at once won't work. They definitely need to start somewhere, even if it's with relatively unknown artists and/or labels. Consider, too, that some of Apple's existing contracts may have stipulations that all other music sold on the same store or via the same mechanisms have the same protections.

    The article notes:

    Essentially Puretracks is relaxing the major-label mandated DRM rules that it had initially applied to all labels, even the indies that wanted no part of DRM.

    What if Apple isn't currently in a legal, technical, business, and/or support position to do that? What if it is, in fact, planning to do just that, but can't move quite as quickly as people seem to think it should be able to. This isn't a "2-3 day" operation as some people think it should be. It may be months before any fruits of this are seen on the iTunes Store.

    Consider further that Apple may not want to sell, e.g., MP3 format specifically, for a variety of reasons. If a label (like EMI, which is talking to everyone BUT Apple about its possible no-DRM experiment - perhaps some ulterior motives of their own?), specifically wants "unprotected MP3", what if Apple's format of choice is "unprotected AAC"? Should Apple start selling multiple formats as well as multiple protection levels? How much of the years-proven consistency of operation and ease of use should Apple sacrifice on the iTunes Store?

    There are a lot of unknowns here that don't automatically mean that Apple "doesn't really want to drop DRM."[1] Yes, actions speak louder than words, but Jobs' landmark statement on DRM, concisely shredding any arguments in favor of DRM, is, in fact, a pretty big action in itself. But Apple has a lot invested in the iTunes Store ecosystem, and they're not going to make rash decisions, screw things up, break support models, confuse customers, or do anything that would cause them to lose one or more large commercial content providers.

    So while other fringe and marginally known stores may be able to make moves in this direction, it's a delicate situation for Apple. Hopefully Jobs' strong words, which have already caused a firestorm of circling wagons among some pro-DRM entities, and other stores with the luxury of being able to move more quickly into experimental areas, will push the balance toward "no-DRM". Regardless of what the bloggers and pundits think, who instantly came out with all of these "Apple doesn't really want to get rid of DRM" arguments believing this was a carefully crafted PR play, Jobs' DRM statement is the strongest stance from anyone at such a high level in music and media, and that's exactly what it will take to move the industry forward.

    [1] Also, Apple doesn't use "DRM" or trusted computing/TPM on Mac OS X, in any way [osxbook.com]. The restriction is a manifestly a licensing one, and any technical difficulties of running Mac OS X on non-Apple hardware are incidental (even if intended to make it non-trivial).
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      ...as the from the apple-could-do-this dept. statement opines, but only for the artists and/or labels with direct legal standing to make such a request with Apple. Hint: it's not anywhere near the number people think it is. Even some artists who sell or provide DRM-free music via other channels may not actually have such a (legal) capability with Apple, for example, because their label's contract with Apple (or other stipulations) doesn't currently allow it.

      I'd say the chances are about 80% that one of Apple's agreements with the RIAA stipulates that all music sold from the iTMS will have DRM on it regardless who it is from. It is likely Apple is contractually obligated to not provide DRM free tracks of any music, regardless of that label's wishes. I don't know why everyone seems to assume this is not the case in light of other contracts the RIAA has put such stipulations in.

      • by 1u3hr (530656)
        I'd say the chances are about 80% that one of Apple's agreements with the RIAA stipulates that all music sold from the iTMS will have DRM on it regardless who it is from.

        I'm not a lawyer, but that sounds illegal. Surely non-RIAA companies could sue Apple and/or the RIAA about such terms being forced on them by a competitor.

        • I'm not a lawyer, but that sounds illegal. Surely non-RIAA companies could sue Apple and/or the RIAA about such terms being forced on them by a competitor.

          It's only illegal if you get caught. These agreements are almost always trade secrets and no one has standing to reveal them to the courts. Just because Apple says they won't sell you music without DRM does not mean the courts will let you see the trade secret agreement between Apple and the RIAA. Apple could reveal the info voluntarily, but unless the courts were effective they would have just flushed their licensing agreement down the toilet and seriously damaged their multimillion dollar iPod business.

  • by TheWoozle (984500) on Thursday February 22, 2007 @11:25AM (#18109584)
    I wonder if this is just a variation on a theme we've seen before:

    1. Drop DRM on a bunch of music that nobody cares about
    2. Collect sales figures for 6 months
    3. Issue a report saying that sales did not increase for non-DRM'd music - "See, removing DRM doesn't make people want to buy more music!"
    • by cHALiTO (101461)
      "See, removing DRM doesn't make people want to buy more music!"

      Probably not, but it won't make people buy less, and it surely will reduce production/distribution costs (no DRM-related development/soft/licenses/etc). So even if sales stay the same, they're better off without DRM.

      The only case where they will want to keep DRM is if they're right and drm-free mp3s induce piracy to such an extent that they start loosing more money on that than what they save on avoiding DRM-related costs.

      And I honestly doubt th
  • by scuba_steve_1 (849912) on Thursday February 22, 2007 @11:26AM (#18109596)
    I was a very early adopter of MP3s. I converted much of my collection in the mid to late 90s when conversion took place at 0.5x real time on standard home PC. That said, I have never bought one track online. Why? DRM. Funny thing is, I hardly buy CDs anymore either.

    DRM-free music may actually motivate me to get excited about buying music again. It may also, however, hasten the death of CD-based commercial music sales. Ability to rip from a CD and yield DRM-free content seems to be one of the few remaining advantages of this format. Why the heck would I drop $14.99 for a CD now if I can just grab the one or two tracks that I like for a fraction of that price? Sure, I may not discover deep tracks that do not enjoy radio play, but this still does sound like a major advantage to me. How many of us have CDs that seem like a collection of marginal tracks surrounding the one or two that we actually like?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gEvil (beta) (945888)
      was a very early adopter of MP3s. I converted much of my collection in the mid to late 90s when conversion took place at 0.5x real time on standard home PC.

      Ahhh, yes, the good old days of mp3. Back when Audioactive was a decent player. Back when the Shockwave export plugin was the ONLY way to encode an mp3 on a Mac (although it ended up in a .swa wrapper). And back when it cost far more to store your mp3s than it did to just go out and buy the actual CDs...

      *sniff* You're making me all teary-eyed...
    • by blueZhift (652272)
      I'm actually hoping those $14.99 CDs will drop in price to something like $9.99 or less because I still like being able to rip my own mp3s and have a physical backup without having to make it myself. Well, that last part may be a little lazy, but I do like having the physical artwork and occasional lyrics and liner notes. I guess I'm saying there is still a place for physical CDs, but only if the price drops considerably.
  • by sulli (195030) * on Thursday February 22, 2007 @11:26AM (#18109598) Journal
    Boing Boing [boingboing.net] debunks this story. In brief: stay the hell away.
  • Not True (Score:2, Informative)

    by govtpiggy (978532)
    This article is completely wrong. This store actually uses standard Windows PlaysForSure DRM on all it's tracks. The friggin' PlaysForSure logo is on their homepage. http://www.puretracks.com/ [puretracks.com]
  • They are NOT making their entire offering DRM free. If they did, then I would care. This is simply being done to make them look like "leaders" in this industry.
  • Not so fast (Score:2, Informative)

    by Wubby (56755)
    It looks like some users over at BoingBoing have already debunked this one Link [boingboing.net]. According to them, all the track on the site, including the supposedly "DRM Free" are Windows crippled WMA.

    Either they aren't doing this "immediately" or someone screwed up. I can't find a single BNL song that is available in anything other than WMA from Puretracks.
    • Re:Not so fast (Score:5, Informative)

      by Yer Mum (570034) on Thursday February 22, 2007 @11:38AM (#18109764)
      All tracks on the US site.

      If you go to the Canadian site and you're not in Canada it moves you on to the US site.

      So we need someone in Canada to verify the story.

      • by ThrasherTT (87841)
        I was able to see the Canadian version of the site from a US location, but I couldn't buy anything . It appeared that there were 50+ artists that had one or more albums available as MP3 as well as WMA.

        This might not work: MP3s for an artist [puretracks.com]...
      • Puretracks Help Desk
        to Rob
        date Feb 22, 2007 1:27 PM
        subject RE: USA buyer...
        Thank you for contacting Puretracks

        No we do not have a time frame as to when this will done. However, keep checking the website for any updates.

        Thank You
        Puretracks Help Desk
        -----Original Message-----
        From: Rob
        - Hide quoted text -
        Sent: Thursday, February 22, 2007 1:49 PM
        To: Puretracks Help Desk
        Subject: Re: USA buyer...

        Thanks.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Merlynnus (209292)
      Didn't try too hard did you? From the main page, click "MP3". Next, click a BNL album, like this one: http://www.puretracks.com/catalog/details.aspx?pid =indy_624284002354_mp3 [puretracks.com]

      Two clicks is too much to expect from the average Slashdot bandwagoner, I guess.
      • Re:Not so fast (Score:5, Informative)

        by saforrest (184929) on Thursday February 22, 2007 @11:54AM (#18109996) Homepage Journal
        Two clicks is too much to expect from the average Slashdot bandwagoner, I guess.

        I followed your link, and got this error page [puretracks.com].

        I suppose it might be the case that this system for auto-redirecting all Mac users to an error page dates from the time when all their songs were DRMed, and hasn't been updated. But it certainly doesn't convey the impression that they've changed anything.

        I am in Canada, btw.
      • The Canadian one, available only to people in Canada, sells WMAs and the new MP3s. The US one (which everyone else outside Canada gets, because I'm in Spain) sells only WMAs.

        If you see a Mac error page it makes sense because you're not in Canada and can only download WMAs.

        If you checked the links to MP3s that posters have given and you get told you're being sent to the US shop, now you know why.

        Finally, it might be useful to bear in mind that the world doesn't revolve around the US. Not completely, an

  • Now this seems like a step in the right direction.

    I was given an iPod shuffle at a company party last year, and am probably in the minority because I haven't gone hog wild downloading my favorite music from iTunes -- specifically because of the DRM restrictions. Now then, let's say that eventually Puretracks offers me those same tunes without DRM, and I can put them on my iPod for when I am out walking/jogging/etc., or convert the songs I paid for into one copy of a CD that I can play in my PC at work, o

  • (a store I have generally avoided because of their Microsoft-specific solutions)

    Do you mean Microsoft-specific DRM solutions? Because if you're avoiding them simply because they've chosen to build their website/infrastructure with ASP and .NET, you've gone off the deep end with your Microsoft-hating.
    • by khendron (225184)
      I mean that when I first tried to buy music from them (last year sometime) I was forced to use IE (Firefox was not supported at the time). There was no helpful error message or anything telling you to use IE. When you went to the checkout, you would simply get a message saying transaction failed. It's like they didn't even consider that other browsers existed. Only when I contacted their support was I told that IE was mandatory.

      They've fixed the Firefox support problem (I just bought some mp3s), but they
  • by edunbar93 (141167) on Thursday February 22, 2007 @11:35AM (#18109708)
    When I bought my wife her Sony Network Walkman [sony.co.uk] she decided to try Puretracks so that she could get digital music legally. After a week and the realization that "we won't let you copy the songs *you bought* off your computer", she dropped them like a hot rock.

    "I'd rather get my music illegally, and have them work on my MP3 player," she said.
  • by torstenvl (769732) on Thursday February 22, 2007 @11:35AM (#18109712)
    Is this what's meant by "immediately" ???

    FTFWS:

    http://www.puretracks.com/res/img/macsplash.gif [puretracks.com]

    Ah, you're on a Mac. Here's the thing about that.

    Thanks for visiting.

    Our current music sotre uses Windows Media technology to play our music files. Unfortunately that means our songs are incompatible with your operating system. Furthermore, Aple's iTunes FairPlay system is currently not available to us for use with iPods.

    We'd love to offer our music to Mac users, and we are currently working to offer content in new formats.

    Ah, comme ça vous êtes sur Mac. Sauf que...

    Merci de votre visite.

    Notre magasin de musique utilise présentement la technologie Windows Media pour jouer nos fichiers musicaux. Malheureusement, cela signifie [sic] que nos fichiers musicaux sont incompatibles avec votre système d'exploitation. De plus, le système iTunes FairPlay de Apple [sic] ne nous est présentement pas [sic] disponible pour fins d'utilisation avec des [sic] iPods.

    Nous aimerions offrir notre musique aux utilisateurs [des] Mac[s], et nous sommes en train de travailler sur la possibilité d'offrir notre nouveau contenu sous de nouveaux formats.
  • by FuzzyDaddy (584528) on Thursday February 22, 2007 @11:35AM (#18109718) Journal
    I can search for only DRM free songs. I've just checked out the website, and found no way to look only for non-DRM music.

    Even if 90% of their music was DRM free, if I don't find out until I get to the song in question, it's going to be a very aggravating browsing and shopping experience. Imagine finding a song you want to here, only to discover you can't use it. Unless they offer a way to filter out the stuff I can't use, why should I waste my time looking through their stuff? It would be bad enough if it was mostly DRM-free - but given that it's mostly stuff I can't listen to, why would I waste my time?

  • I have my doubts that this article can possibly be true. Remember that the music is only being sold because the big labels of this world - the RIAA (do they cover Canada as well?) say that it may be.

    As soon as any of the music stores start selling RIAA-covered music without DRM, expect the RIAA to come down on them like a ton of lawyers.
    • Re:Come off it (Score:5, Informative)

      by despisethesun (880261) on Thursday February 22, 2007 @11:48AM (#18109924)
      The RIAA specifically does not exist in Canada. That's a U.S.-only cartel for American-based record labels. In Canada, there's the CRIA, which is made up of the Canadian branches of those major labels, plus whatever Canadian-based indies have decided to join. So it's basically the same thing, but specific to each country.
  • ...what did 'DRM' stand for, exactly...?
  • by Magorak (85788) on Thursday February 22, 2007 @12:21PM (#18110348) Homepage Journal
    After reading a lot of people from the USA claiming this was bullshit and making a big fuss about it (something you do a lot of) I went to the site myself, and sure enough, there's PLENTY of albums available in MP3 format.

    I live in Canada and we're seeing the links. I suspect that since the RIAA rules your dominion, you guys are stuck living in a DRM world for Puretracks but for Canadians, we're finally seeing some MP3's on this site.

    You guys gotta stop flaming other people and claiming the story is bullshit until you do a little research. Just because you live in the US doesn't mean that you can get to it. It's the same thing that pisses me off about American websites that advertise the ability to stream TV shows but the moment I try it, no luck because I live in Canada.

    BTW, since I have bought stuff from Puretracks in the past, I received an email from them just prior to reading the post on Slashdot. Here's a copy of the letter.

    ----
    Thank you for being a Puretracks customer. We are very excited to announce that as of today Puretracks will be offering MP3 files for sale on our site at Puretracks.com: http://www.puretracks.com/content/viewer.aspx?cid= GlobalNav_MP3 [puretracks.com].
    And as the first North American digital service provider to launch 'a la carte' MP3 music downloads, we're happy to offer you a free MP3 track from the popular Canadian band The Barenaked Ladies.
    The track, called 'The Sound of Your Voice,' will be delivered along with the February 27th Puretracks newsletter. You will need to be a registered newsletter subscriber to be eligible to download this track.
    If you don't currently receive our newsletter (filled with weekly free tracks and exclusive content), click here to register.
    MP3s at Puretracks
    MP3 tracks are easy to download (no licenses required) and can be played on all digital audio devices. Puretracks currently offers over 50,000 tracks in French and English from popular artists such as: Sarah McLachlan, Broken Social Scene, Feist, The Barenaked Ladies, Jean Leloup and Richard Seguin. Track prices starting at $ 0.79 each.
    Be sure to register now for the Puretracks newsletter to get your free MP3 track from The Barenaked Ladies! Click here to register. If you are already registered, watch for your February 27th Puretracks newsletter to get your free track.
    Regards,

    Alistair Mitchell,
    CEO
  • the witch is dead, the wicked witch is dead...
  • Not the Only One (Score:2, Informative)

    by phyjcowl (309329)
    Though puretracks may have just dropped DRM, they're not the only company in Canada to offer that. Another company called Zunior ( zunior.com [zunior.com]) is doing the same but they take it a step further and offer downloads in FLAC format. They also include album images and such in the download. That's the way to do it. I wish every company would treat their music downloads this way. People have high-speed connections now, why not offer high-quality audio? I don't want to pay $8-10 for MP3s when I can get the CD for ne
  • Zunior.com has been selling music from these exact artists in DRM-free MP3 format for a while now. And unlike Puretracks, they do not block Mac users.
  • From: http://www.puretracks.com/content/viewer.aspx?cid = GlobalNav_MP3 [puretracks.com] (only from Canadian IP addresses. Seems to work with Firefox)

    Q: What are MP3s?
    A: MP3 files are the most common type of digital audio file found today. Flexibility is a key part of music these days, and MP3 files offer the most compatibility of any format. If you have a computer or a digital music device, odds are it plays MP3 files, no matter who makes it.
    Q: So does that mean I can use these songs on my Apple iPod? Phone? PDA? Sony P

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by The Cisco Kid (31490) *
      Yeah, but apparently they attempt (with some success) to check if your are in Canada, and dont sell MP3 if they think you are in the US. The labels arent going to pay much attention, really, until its available at least in the US and/or Worldwide.

      "We apologize, but www.puretracks.com is only available to Canadian residents"
  • by eno2001 (527078)
    Hitting the site I see a Polyphonic Spree album. Instead of the previously hippie-ish look, they now have this fascist thing going. Why do I expect to hear that the whole band offs themselves by drinking koolaide someday?
  • I am glad to see DRM go away on purchased music as I agree that its bad for numerous and already explained reasons but I absolutely do not want DRM to die. DRM is necessary to enable music subscription, movie rentals, game rentals and subscriptions and various other related ideas. In that case you don't "own" the file so its ok that they are enforcing some restrictions. Lock-in isn't even a huge problem as you can just resubscribe elsewhere if you get an incompatible device. Anyways, DRM has some beneficial
  • oh Canada (Score:3, Informative)

    by rakerman (409507) on Thursday February 22, 2007 @05:48PM (#18115426) Homepage Journal
    1. At this moment (17:45 EST Thursday Feb 22 2007) in Canada, PureTracks.com still gives the "so sorry, you're on a Mac, go away" notice page 2. If you go to PureTracks in Canada on a PC, there is MP3 music you can buy 3. But you might as well buy most of it from Nettwerk Music, which works on a Mac and has most of the big names you may be looking for, and which has been selling MP3s for years

    http://www.werkshop.com/ [werkshop.com]. I just wrote about this today: DRM and legal music in Canada [typepad.com]

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