Wal-Mart DRM Downloads Are Toast

Wal-Mart has become the latest online music retailer to shut down the encryption-key servers for its DRM-encrusted downloads. As a result, anyone unfortunate enough to have bought the latter will have to burn them to CDs for archiving. Otherwise it will become impossible to transfer them to other computers and players in the future.

As Engadget points out, this makes Wal-Mart the latest dancer in a conga line that includes Yahoo, Microsoft, and Virgin.

Years ago, it looked as if digital rights management would always rule the roost in online music retailing and anti-DRM advocates were seen as starry-eyed idealists out of touch with reality. Today, it's the pro-DRM side that's out of touch, as most major online retailers have switched over to DRM-free MP3s for music sales. DRM may still have its uses in subscription services and streaming. But for library-building music lovers, MP3, FLAC, and other DRM-free codecs are the ones marching into the future.

Update: Wal-Mart later relented and turned its DRM encryption-key servers back on for an unspecified time. The company still warns customers to back up their downloads to CD.