Digital Rights Management technology is dying, it's becoming understood that hobbling tunes to enforce scarcity isn't the best way to monetize the music business online. What about all the suckers who bought DRM laden music in recent years, though? When the Yahoo! Music Store closes its doors this fall, the company announced today, past customers dependent on their music "phoning home" to get license approval before playing are out of luck. They'll be able to continue playing purchased tracks on a single computer, until they make any changes to their operating system.

The rise and fall of the Yahoo! Music Store will make for an interesting story some day, but for now the DRM story is particularly important.

Yahoo! now encourages customers to burn their music files to CDs. That may not be a terribly onerous requirement, but the point is that when you purchased a license for songs, everyone really meant it when they said this might not last forever.

As Jon Healey wrote on his LA TImes digital media blog, both Microsoft and Sony have tried to shutter their music services without providing ongoing support for already purchased material. Both faced a substantial consumer backlash. Sony extended their support through the end of this year and Microsoft did so for 3 more years. Healey suspects that too few people ever bought music from Yahoo! to create that kind of backlash and doesn't seem to think it's a big deal any way. Given that Yahoo! may be the most trafficked company on the web, we find this hard to agree with.

We think this is an instructive tale about technology, rights to user data and DRM - which is sure to rear its head again if content industries are unable to find more effective monetization strategies.

Here's the email Yahoo! Music sent out to customers last night:

The Yahoo! Music Store, along with the ability to purchase and download single songs and albums, will no longer be available as of September 30, 2008.

Songs and albums that were purchased through the Yahoo! Music Unlimited Store are protected by a digital rights management system that requires a valid license key before they can be played on your computer.

After the Store closes, Yahoo! will no longer be able to support the retrieval of license keys for music purchased from Yahoo! Music Unlimited, and Yahoo! will no longer be able to authorize song playback on additional computers.

After September 30, 2008, you will not be able to transfer songs to unauthorized computers or re-license these songs after changing operating systems. Please note that your purchased tracks will generally continue to play on your existing authorized computers unless there is a change to the computer's operating system.

For any user who purchased tracks through Yahoo! Music Unlimited, we highly recommend that you back up the purchased tracks to an audio CD before the closing of the Store on September 30, 2008. Backing up your music to an audio CD will allow you to copy the music back to your computer again if the license keys for your original music files cannot be retrieved.

For further information on the closing of the Yahoo! Music Store, please refer to the Frequently Asked Questions or contact Customer Care.

Stay tuned! While the Yahoo! Music Unlimited Store will no longer be available, Yahoo! Music has partnered with Rhapsody so you can still purchase your favorite tracks. Plus, Yahoo! Music will continue to offer users a complete online music experience with the largest collection of music videos, Internet radio, exclusive artist features, music news, and more!

Thank you for using Yahoo! Music.

The Yahoo! Music team