Digital music shoppers have one less store; Walmart is closing its online MP3 downloads...although the retailer is keeping up support for protected tracks needing 'authentication'.
The information comes courtesy of the Digital Music News website, which shared the contents of a certified letter that was sent from Walmart to various "distribution and licensing partners."
"After eight years in business, the Walmart Music Downloads Store located at mp3.walmart.com will close on August 28, 2011. All content in the Store will be disabled and no longer available for download from the store," read the letter. "The sale of physical record music products on Walmart.com as well as in Walmart US retail stores will remain unaffected. Walmart Soundcheck (soundcheck.walmart.com) will remain operational as a live streaming site without any download options."
The leaked document was later confirmed by DMN with an unnamed Walmart exec, who also promised that owners of tracks with DRM (digital rights management) protection that they would not be left with unusable files. "We’ve made a business decision to no longer offer MP3 digital tracks as of August 29, 2011," the executive told DMN, but "we'll continue to provide support to our customers who previously purchased digital music through Walmart Music Downloads so they may continue to enjoy and manage their existing WMA files."
DRM was a method of copyright protection heavily promoted by a number of high-profile media and distribution companies around the turn of the century. Because of the major limitations that it places upon the customer, DRM has been consistently controversial and criticized, and in some jurisdictions the technology has been legally banned as anti-competitive.
In response to the criticisms, companies like Apple and Walmart began selling "DRM-Free" tracks (although with varying degrees of truthfulness) beginning around 2006 -2007. However, in many cases, the media corporations' licensing would not permit the digital music stores to simply replace already-purchased DRM tracks, so the stores were forced to maintain the servers that authenticated and decoded the files.
While no specific reason was given for Walmart's closure of its digital msuic store, it has been assumed by some that Walmart's lower track prices were insufficient motivation to draw customers away from the more integrated & streamlined (not to mention more effectively marketed) downloading or streaming alternatives such as iTunes.
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