February 22, 2005

Napster DRM workaround

Reuters ran a story last week about an unauthorized software “patch” that enables Napster subscribers to convert the protected WMA files they lease to WAV files that can then be permanently burned to a CD. A Napster spokesperson interviewed for the article noted that the workaround was not an unexpected or worrisome development and was essentially the same as recording off a sound card (though this assertion has been challenged).

While Napster maintains that its DRM technology was not hacked in order to facilitate this type of song transfer, the story raises interesting questions about the types of workarounds people are using to get free music.

If you’re interested in this phenomenon, keep your eyes peeled. The Pew Internet Project gathered some new data on this issue in our January Tracking survey that will be included in a forthcoming report.