If you're going to DRM the crap out of music downloads, you may as well make them super-cheap, right? It looks like
Napster is going to be the first to take the plunge and use Microsoft's new digital rights management system (codenamed
Janus) that lets online music stores rent, rather than sell, downloads to people. We know what you're thinking, and
honestly, we don't like the idea of renting music either, but this time you can't mess with the price—for fifteen bucks
a month you can download as many songs from Napster as you want and copy them on your MP3 player as long as you keep
paying the monthly fee (or someone figures out how to hack the DRM). Have a 40GB MP3 player that can hold 10,000 songs?
It'd cost $10,000 to fill it with music from the various online music stores (not that anyone would actually do that),
but for $180 a year you can fill it—and refill it—with as much music as you want (and you'd basically be paying $0.0015
per song per month).
"Napster to Go" won't formally launch until early next year, and it'll only work with players that are PlaysForSure-certified (a small, but growing number), but this'll only work if Microsoft can make sure that the process of downloading songs, transferring them to a player, and all the other rights management garbage involved isn't a huge headache. It's at least somewhat encouraging that they aren't trying to charge people fifty bucks a month or anything outrageous like that. Fifteen a month we can handle. Maybe twenty or twenty five. But anything more than that and we'd be back to doing things the, uh, old-fashioned way (and we don't mean buying CDs in stores). We hate to say it, but they might actually be on to something here.