Thursday, July 31, 2008

Yahoo make vague promise of DRM cashback

The decision by Yahoo to turn off its DRM servers continues to generate a PR disaster that will end up costing more than just leaving the server switched on, as - having delivered its subscribers to the more expensive Rghapsody service, Yahoo attempts to deal with the people who bought their hobbled files outright and how to cope with the realisation that they've got files that will not work any more if they change machines:

"You'll be compensated for whatever you paid for the music," [Carrie Davis, spokeswoman for Yahoo Music] told InformationWeek. "We haven't said exactly what we will do, but we will take care of our customers."

Compensated for whatever you paid sounds pretty clear - you get everything back - but "we haven't said exactly what we will do" sounds somewhat less definitive.

The company planned to reimburse customers on a case-by-case basis, and has posted an FAQ page that includes a "contact customer care" button at the bottom for former Yahoo Music Store customers. Davis said customers could be reimbursed in several ways, including getting back the money they paid for the music or receiving MP3 versions without DRM technology, which means they can be imported into any music playing software.

Getting an mp3 file - at a lower sound quality than the original file you paid for - isn't quite the same thing as being "compensated for whatever you paid", is it? We'd suggest that "getting your money back" would be the only way you could do that.

And why on earth is it going to be done on a "case-by-case" basis? Since Yahoo must have records of who bought what, why can't it just decide how it's going to fix this, and then fix this? A cynic might suspect that by doing a piecemeal compensation package would enable Yahoo to make it an opt-in offer, rather than a blanket compensation package.

Whatever, though, in terms of costs of administration and reputation, is it really worth the savings made by switching off the computer?

[Thanks to Karl T - who suggests that the Yahoo customers would only spend compensation "on magic beans or something"]


Spence said...

"..customers could be reimbursed in several ways, including... receiving MP3 versions without DRM technology"

What a concept! Reimbursing them by giving them the product they should have given them in the first place (and thus avoiding this whole mess).

James said...

Innit? In a week when illegal downloading has been in the news, this isn't exactly a great advert for the legal alternatives.

"Since Yahoo must have records of who bought what, why can't it just decide how it's going to fix this, and then fix this?"

Reminds me of the way ITV, GMTV etc dealt with refunds when their premium-rate phone-scams were rumbled, i.e. Asking anyone who wanted a refund to lodge an official claim, complete with itemised bills, which they could then check against their own records. Much easier than simply using those records to arrange refunds for everyone scammed, with the added bonus that most people probably couldn't be bothered to go to all that trouble for a few pounds.

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