Napster Drops Out of Canada, Warns Users Of Lost Purchases Due to Digital Locks

Napster Canada has advised its customers that it is shutting down operations effective December 16, 2011. The move comes weeks after Napster US became part of Rhapsody and users were assured that Canadians would be unaffected by the move. The company warns users to create backup copies of downloaded music since purchases may be lost due to its digital lock system. The company warns:

These downloads are DRM-encoded WMA files and can be backed up by burning them to audio CDs. Doing this will allow you access to your music on any CD player and generally have a maintenance free permanent copy. If you do not back up your purchased Napster music downloads by burning them to CD and you later change or reinstall your computer’s operating system, have a system failure or experience DRM corruption, then the downloads will stop playing and you will permanently lose access to them.

The issue of lost purchases due to digital lock systems has arisen again and again over the years from Bell Video to Yahoo Music. Bill C-11 will only make matters worse, since consumers will be locked out of their purchases and face the prospect of being unable to legally access works they have paid for in circumstances where the company decides to drop out of the market and stop support for their digital lock system.


  1. Lock circumvention tools
    Sounds to me like a CD burner is a digital lock circumvention tool. I guess they’ll become illegal with Bill C-11.

  2. This is why I NEVER buy DRM locked video on-line and immediately remove the DRM from any music. I’ve purchased stuff from Napster in the past and that would potentially be gone if I had not removed the DRM and had not noticed they were shutting down.

    I don’t know how they notified customers, but I received no e-mails on any of my accounts of an impending shutdown from Napster. A notification on their web-site is not enough when their is potential monetary loss. I am a regular customer, but purchase in bulk, only a couple times a year so I would never have known.

    This highlights, yet again, why C-11 is so incredibly bad. Again, this punishes those who would wish to stay legit (While I do remove the DRM, which is not currently illegal, I still BUY my music), while really not affecting those who wish to download illicit copies. You can guarantee copies on Bittorrent or DDL sites will not have DRM protection. What will happen? Some of those who lose their music will then feel justified in downloading an illicit copy to replace it, especially if they lose a large, expensive library. THEN, some of those will realize just how easy it is to find and download stuff and life-long customers are potentially lost to piracy.

  3. @GPO
    “Sounds to me like a CD burner is a digital lock circumvention tool. I guess they’ll become illegal with Bill C-11.”

    No, I suspect they’ll be paying licensing fees for the right to decode the TPM. It could be compared to the likes of a DVD or BD player, where manufacturing companies must pay licensing fees for the right to decode CSS or AACS. C-11 will, however, make region-free/system-free DVD/BD players illegal to produce or sell.

  4. The side-note to this, of course, is that this is now one less service from our already extremely limited list of options we have in Canada.

    Further down the $h1t, ‘er, I mean, rabbit hole…

  5. And you switch from the almost 30 year old CD-Digital Audio to downloadable formats…
    …only to be told to burn them back on CD? I can understand this to be less of a technical issue with lossless formats, but with lossy formats you lose quality by having to rip these again as lossy – you can retain the quality “as is” only by ripping it to a lossless format like FLAC, but then you have considerably larger files to deal with (many but not all portable players support .flac).

    Are you a Napster Canada client and do you live in a Conservative riding? Do what Napster says; burn some to CD, print off a purchase history, take your mp3 player, and head on down to the conservative MPs office. Ask them to help you out since they are such supporters of digital locks, they for sure wouldn’t help establish that systems viability.

  6. XKCD Wisdom
    Once again, XKCD says it best.

  7. Consumer Choice
    I wrote my MP about concerns with bill C-11, and part of the canned response was that consumers will still have a choice to purchase or not purchase DRM-encumbered material. He’s rather aged, so I doubt “Napster” is more than a vague negative association in his mind, but I would like to think he’s got a device full of oldies which he will now have the choice to repurchase, with nothing more than a new DRM scheme from a new provider in a slightly less competitive market…

  8. @Danux
    “consumers will still have a choice to purchase or not purchase DRM-encumbered material.”

    This is not only il-informed, it’s completely incorrect and misleading. For instance, 99.99% of all commercial DVDs are encrypted with CSS and ALL BluRay disks, by design of the standard, are encrypted with AACS. In a vast majority of cases, for commercially purchased movies, there are no options to buy non-encrypted content.

  9. …I read that wrong.
    “consumers will still have a choice to purchase or not purchase DRM-encumbered material.”

    I read this wrong. Still, for movies, it’s really not much of a choice is it. I either buy DRM encumbered media or I don’t buy movies at all. Regardless…I should be allowed to break the DRM for my own purposes, such as back-ups. The Napster case highlights that all to clearly.

  10. @IamME
    “…99.99% of all commercial DVDs are encrypted with CSS and ALL BluRay disks, by design of the standard, are encrypted with AACS…”

    It occurred to me to respond that, rather than force consumers to choose whether to purchase encumbered material (as you say, basically the entire market), the proper course of action would be to tell suppliers to choose whether to continue supplying a Canadian market niche free of DRM. This retains consumers rights, allows the market to self-correct in proper capitalist fashion.

    But why bother countering? It is clear that I was given a form letter, my concerns probably didn’t even make it into his FOV. I’ve basically written off the possibility of our government changing any aspect of the bill; if it passes without public reaction, then so be it. I have over a hundred co-workers, and (AFAIK) not a single one of them is even aware of bill C-11 (or were aware of C-32). They just don’t care, and their eyes glaze over if I speak about it for more than 30 seconds. Those who do have a reaction, seem to have the impression that, one day, they’ll think of that “next big thing” which they’ll copyright/patent, and then they’ll be on easy street forever, therefore this kind of market control will some day work in their favour. It feels a lot like the belief people have in winning Lotto 6-49, I think.

    So, I can :
    – Funnel money into “free” projects. Money that would, in the past, have gone into mainstream media.
    – Create creative commons media. Anything really, just be prolific and flood the digital world with it. Give others as much as they need to create their art.
    – Contribute money/effort into private, large scale local networks that are apart from the commercial internet. I’ve used the phrase co-operative fibre in the past, and I suspect that will ultimately be the only course of action for an internet fully buttoned down by private interests, but it’s a significant amount of effort and organization. There would have to be a lot of outraged people, near each other, for that fire to catch.
    – I still believe customer-determined-value is the path of least resistance for Information-Age open-market economics, and would say that this bill doesn’t stop me from pursuing that ethic (unless the legal vultures start using copyright to sue indies into the underground markets). A controlled internet, though, would make independent promotion more difficult.

    What this is going to boil down to, I think, will be whether artists capable of producing quality pieces will be interested in independent promotion & consumer-determined income, or if they will simply submit to the re-established market authorities. Without supply, the unmanipulated market withers. Free supply of material that doesn’t belong to the corporate dominators is the base of the pillar which undermines those who would enforce control through copyright.

  11. Giving hackers something to do…
    This is why, due to all the efforts of the industries, piracy will never die. It’s like Mary Shelly’s Frankenstien, piracy wasn’t born out of evil hearts and minds… it was created as a survival skill to deal with the situations the industries created themselves.

  12. Napster should be obligated to stay in Canada
    Napster should be obligated to stay in Canada and support the DRM system indefinitely.

    I am looking at you, provincial governments.

  13. Michael,

    How is that like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein? I’m not getting the comparison.

  14. “A human being in perfection ought always to preserve a calm and peaceful mind and never to allow passion or a transitory desire to disturb his tranquillity. I do not think the pursuit of knowledge is an exception to this rule.”

    — Victor Frankenstein (after he realized the horrendous error of his ways).

    There are some great lessons in that book about personal responsibility in one’s professional pursuits. If only more law professors read it.

  15. Franken-art
    Frankenstein might have been an even more interesting comparison, had the creature actually lived.

    How much control should Dr. Frankenstein have been allowed to maintain? When should he have been required to relinquish control and let the creature grow on its own?

    Once a creative work is set upon the world it can become incorporated into our common culture and take on a life of its own. People start incorporating it into their lives through the evolution of language and creative works such as what appears on youtube and fanfic sites, and every day conversation. How much should the original creator be allowed to interfere with this natural process?

    Pity the story ended as it did.