BigPond says goodbye to WMA

Online music retailer urges users to back up music before April 1 deadline

Online music retailer BigPond Music has announced that it will stop supporting the Windows Media Audio (WMA) file format after April 1, with users required to back up their music purchases.

Users will not be able to download Digital Rights Management (DRM) keys for WMA files after April 1. Because WMA files sold by BigPond Music rely upon a DRM key to unlock them and allow playback, users must update these before the end of March to ensure their music libraries are unlocked — any files not unlocked after April 1 will be unable to be played. These changes will not affect MP3 files downloaded by BigPond Music customers.

The WMA file format was popular amongst online music stores in 2008 and 2009 as it allowed the distributor to control how content was used — a DRM key system was implemented to unlock WMA music files for playback on personal devices and software.

Once a user’s BigPond Music DRM keys have been updated, WMA music files will work on the user’s existing computer but will not work on a new computer or operating system if the DRM key is not transferred. Users can back up their music by either burning their music collection to CD or copying the music files plus the DRM keys to a storage device.

BigPond Music said that the disadvantages with the WMA format were that protected files did not work on the popular Apple iTunes software or on Apple devices like the Apple iPod. WMA files are also harder to transfer between devices.

BigPond music offered downloads in the WMA file format until the end of February 2009, with every download including a DRM key. The MP3 format was adopted in August 2008 — these files do not have DRM restrictions. Downloads are now only offered in MP3 format, which is supported by more software applications and digital music players.

Information for backing up WMA files can be found on Microsoft’s Web site, with a procedure for copying files to CD also available.

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