Engadget is reporting that users of Zune are encountering purchased songs that their Zune won't share with its 3 days x 3 plays wireless functionality. According to ClicZune, a number of artists' songs won't share, and they are distributed by Sony Music and Universal Music Group.
Perhaps that Universal $1 per Zune deal was to allow for “some” of their songs to be freely shared? It's not clear as to whether Microsoft initially negotiated for the 3×3 sharing with the labels or not, but a footnote on the Zune support page reads:
“ The Zune to Zune sharing feature may not be available for all audio files on your device, and works only between Zune devices within wireless range of each other. This feature allows recipients to play full-length sample tracks up to three times in three days. Recipients cannot re-send music that they have received via the sharing feature. To enable your Zune to share media, first install the Zune software and connect your Zune to your PC so your device can be updated.”
So this is no surprise, at least to Microsoft, Sony and Universal, that some songs can't be shared. But how about the users? Perhaps the comparative buyer was able to find that footnote and knew when she bought her Zune. But how much did they know before they bought music (whether per track or via subscription)–which song could be shared. One tester discovered that tracks weren't shareable during the process of sharing, when an error message popped up. How is a user to know which songs are freely shareable and which are not. Does the Zune store sell them side-by-side without clearly showing the difference?
This shouldn't be construed on beating up on Microsoft–especially since they were adding functionality to their device that competes in an Apple iPod dominated market. These issues need figured out, not just by the Zune developers, but by all manufacturers who are looking to provide innovative functionality, like wireless music sharing, in their new products.
On issues of DRM, PK is against government mandates, but not necessarily against DRM that evolves in the market place (aside from the inability to make fair use under the DMCA which we would like to see changed). As long as there are competitive markets for DRM and consumers can vote with their dollars, we believe DRM will eventually wither on the vine because consumers will choose the most flexible and least restrictive technologies. That said, if consumers are not properly informed about what they are purchasing, they won't have the opportunity to choose a competitive product / service.
Of course, if passed, Rep. Rick Boucher's previously introduced HR 1201 would have required clear labeling of this type of protected content, as well as allowing fair use of it. Hopefully, we will see that bill reintroduced in the 110th Congress.