Less than two weeks after Napster’s new
Napster To Go
subscription service launched, information on how to defeat the system’s Digital Rights Management (DRM) encoding has been posted online. With such information in hand, Napster To Go subscribers can make their music play on any computer or portable digital music player, rather than just Napster’s service and those few players vetted by Napster.
Hack, rip, burn
that Windows users armed with the popular music player software WinAmp and a utility called Output Stacker can convert the Napster To Go files from a protected format to another that can more easily be burned onto CDs. The music can then be re-ripped in unprotected form and shared on any computer or using any MP3-compatible player.
Napster To Go offers subscribers unlimited music downloads to special compatible third-party digital music players for a $15 per month. The service is the first to use Microsoft’s new Janus DRM system — technology that’s expected to be widely adopted by other Windows-centric commercial music download services later this year. The DRM system checks your account periodically to make sure it’s still active — if you fail to pay your monthly subscription fee, the system prevents you from listening to the songs you’ve downloaded.
Napster touts this as a good value compared to the $10,000 it would cost to fill an iPod with DRM-encrypted music bought from the iTunes Music Store, but that comparison has drawn criticism: Many people already own music on CD, for example, and for them, there’s no cost to rip that music from CD and put it on their iPod.
Teaching a new dog old tricks
The concept behind defeating Napster To Go’s DRM is nothing new. Similar workarounds have existed from the start for users of the regular Napster service, Apple’s iTunes Music Store and other a la carte music download services that encrypt their files with some form of DRM but allow users to burn those same files to audio CD. Downloaded music can be burned to CD and then imported back as MP3 or AAC files with no DRM. No service advertises the fact, for obvious reasons.
Napster seems to agree. A spokesperson said such efforts were “nothing new” and that as far as they’re concerned, their DRM remains intact. Napster To Go’s higher profile, she said, “has sparked such interest.”
The new Napster To Go service is the centerpiece of a multi-million dollar advertising campaign currently underway. Napster’s CEO, Chris Gorog, hopes to convince potential customers that ”
it’s stupid to buy an iPod.”