DIAF, Amazon Music (and DRM)

It used to be that Amazon Music was a decent choice for playing the music you purchased. Not only did the AutoRip feature mean you had an automatic digital copy of participating CDs you purchased, playable from any web browser (I used TenFourFox for this purpose up until recently), but you still had the physical disc and discs you bought before got automatically added to your AutoRip library if Amazon got rights to do so. It was cool to watch my music library just fill in over the years from past purchases and still have the original CD if I needed it.

Well, turns out I'll need those CDs after all, because guess what Amazon Music does now?

"Amazon Music Unlimited" my pasty sculpted white butt. The message is almost intentionally misleading. What I've "disabled" in my browser is the Google Widevine EME component, because it doesn't exist for ppc64le, and while Amazon's community staff are as useless as ever that "deficiency" appears to be the real reason it won't work. Amazon, in fact, is claiming Linux on any platform isn't supported for the browser version or the dedicated client at all.

I wasn't going to take no for an answer. I used uBlock Origin to remove as many of the elements as I could. I couldn't get the blurring away easily but I was able to get into my old albums library and try to play something. It looked like it was starting, but no music issued forth. In the Browser console was this damning message:

No, you lying sack of filth. I didn't pref anything off. I didn't do anything. You did.

How did this work before? Amazon Music would say it required Flash, but it actually didn't (TenFourFox hasn't supported NPAPI plugins for years). The music files were just MP3. You could stream them or download them, and while some of the tracks were watermarked, I considered that a reasonable tradeoff for the convenience. Now it won't even let you in to download them.

I'm no Stallmanite. I could live with a compromise where music I don't own requires some sort of DRM, because I'll just preview it (at least for as long as they'll still allow it, which currently they still seem to), and I'll buy it if I want it. The problem is that Amazon has now effectively defined everything I've ever bought from them (and I have, in fact, bought a few tracks that I don't have a disc for) as "music I don't own." You can't even download them again despite Amazon's instructions because the browser client doesn't let you get there, even if you block the restraining elements. I'm not going to stop buying CDs from Amazon if they have a decent price, but I won't consider AutoRip as part of the value calculation anymore, and I certainly won't buy any form of digital music from them until this changes.

If there's going to be choices in computing, then this kind of crap has to stop. DRM isn't compatible with open source by definition. Worse, locking down a service that previously didn't enforce DRM is not only a still greater sin, but it's even potentially actionable. When DRM like Widevine is the only choice for playing content, then that means the only computers that can are the ones they control, and I wouldn't run some potentially untrustworthy blob on my Talos II anyway even if a ppc64le version were one day offered. Amazon Music can die in a fire.


  1. So I didn't make a mistake when still buying CDs from my favourite artists :-)

  2. Well, technically, I think it's actually open source's problem that it is incompatible with DRM - it has to deal with this incompatibility somehow or give up, not vice versa. It sucks for alternative platforms, but running alternative platform always faces being at the margin of other people's interests and not being catered by them. Just like tablets don't get to play optical discs without jumping through hoops.
    DRM is something which the creators in the end are entitled to, IMHO, given how internet is not going to stop pirating. There are arguments that it is not effective and so it should be dropped, but that's flawed reasoning.

    But aside from that it is absolutely true that buying CDs is the right choice. I would not be against DRM per se, but I want a guarantee that I will be able to play it or back it up in the future. If I have that, okay. So DRMed digital download that requires licensing servers and such - bleh. DRMed disc that plays in offline device/program = sorta ok.

  3. Clearly someone doesn't remember Betamax or Laserdisc. Your DRMed disk is illegal to play on unapproved hardware, so when the original players break and go away you're stuck with a pile of encrypted bits and lose access to the content you "paid" for.

    The problem with DRM of any form is that breaking it /even for legal purposes/, such as creating a player for otherwise long lost content, is illegal. Fix that legal problem and I won't have a problem with the DRM.

    I have a simple rule of thumb: either I can play the content the way I want to (not copy and distribute, that would be clearly illegal) or I won't pay the producer for it. If I can't put a disk in my open source computer and have it play, forcing me to jump through hoops to go somewhere I don't want to be to put the disc in something that would love to spy on me, forget it -- if it's important I'll get the disc used secondhand and deny the producer any additional revenue.

    Copyright is a balance. The balance has shifted far too much in the direction of the content producers to the detriment of society /and/ those same producers. Copyright was supposed to stop copying without permission, not put a permanent tentacle controlling how, when, where, and with whom you could view the copyrighted material.

    Amazon Music/Video and Netflix can DIAF. I don't use either one and never will, even if it means going back to paper books and eschewing all modern media (hint: that means no visits to the movie theatre either, Hollywood).

  4. "Just like tablets don't get to play optical discs without jumping through hoops."

    The main point here is that it's not explicitly illegal to add an optical disk drive to your tablet. Bypassing DRM even for legal purposes (e.g. to view the thing you "purchased" on a device that is different than the one intended / licensed) is illegal. That disk drive can be added with enough time and effort, but a player for DRMed media cannot be developed by legal fiat. That's not right, and throws into question whether DRMed media is even really a "purchase" or more of a persistent, limited rental.

  5. When using libre hardware and software, it's also important to make do without proprietary, unethical services as much as possible. Else using libre hardware/software gets a lot of wasted use.

    Amazing how DRM itself isn't illegal. Pen-pushers have so much power, are so corrupt and self-centered that, instead of making something harmful illegal, they instead make illegal what prevents said harm from happening. (Remember how it's now impossible to legally research/test for DRM vulnerabilities, even for a right cause?)

    tl;dr Boycott Amazon and many other services. Convenience will be sacrificed at first, but then will pop back without the associated trash we have today. Much like how choosing POWER over x86 is today.


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