updated 04:50 pm EDT, Wed October 3, 2007
No Zune MP3 Watermarks
Microsoft is hoping to distinguish the Zune MP3 Marketplace from other DRM-free stores by eliminating the digital watermarks that trace songs back to their individual buyers, according to the company. The Redmond-based firm will sell its unguarded MP3 files that should be the same for every user. This contrast sharply with Apple's iTunes Plus songs, which drop copy protection but add account data that could theoretically be used to track a pirated copy to its original source. Other stores selling MP3s, including the eMusic audiobook service, either use similar watermarks or less direct forms of fingerprinting to follow their paid downloads.
Microsoft was unavailable for comment at press time but may use its approach to MP3 purchases to counter notions that the company and the Zune are more restrictive than Apple, which appeared to take an initative by making an open call for removing rights management on tracks and later becoming the first DRM-reliant store to offer a separate, unrestricted format.
Microsoft has frequently been criticized for agreeing to pay a royalty to Universal Music for every Zune sold to allay piracy fears. The Zune has also seen its own criticism from users complaining that Zune-to-Zune wireless sharing applied DRM to unprotected songs, even when artists officially endorsed looser copyrights.