Yahoo recently notified customers by e-mail that it would shut down the servers that manage the copyright-protection technology embedded in the music files on Sept. 30, the tech news site Ars Technica reported. As a result, those files would no longer play if the user moves them to another computer or to a portable music player, or makes changes to the operating system in the original computer.
Carrie Davis, spokeswoman for Yahoo Music, confirmed that the digital rights management servers would be taken down, severely limiting the use of the files. However, Yahoo did not intend to abandon its customers.
"You'll be compensated for whatever you paid for the music," Davis told InformationWeek. "We haven't said exactly what we will do, but we will take care of our customers."
The company planned to reimburse customers on a case-by-case basis, and has posted an FAQ page that includes a "contact customer care" button at the bottom for former Yahoo Music Store customers. Davis said customers could be reimbursed in several ways, including getting back the money they paid for the music or receiving MP3 versions without DRM technology, which means they can be imported into any music playing software.
Yahoo said in April that it would close its store and music subscription service and migrate the operations to RealNetworks, which operates the Rhapsody music service. Only people who bought music from Yahoo would be eligible for reimbursement. Customers of its music subscription service would be transferred to Rhapsody, which offers the same service at a similar price, Davis said.
Yahoo has not said how much music it sold from its store, but it was a minor player in comparison to market leader iTunes from Apple. The portal's subscription service had only about 400,000 customers when Yahoo announced that it was closing the service, market research firm Inside Digital Media told USA Today.
Yahoo's experience with shutting down its music store highlights the problem DRM technology can have on consumers. While Apple still uses the technology to ensure music can only be played easily on its iPod player, others have switched to selling DRM-free music, including Amazon.com, RealNetworks, and Napster.