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Virgin sells music stores and closes music download service
Monday 01 October 2007 09:06:00 by Andrew Ferguson

Richard Branson is selling his share in the Virgin music stores which started off the Virgin brand and his rise to fame as part of a management buy-out. The stores will be re-branded as Zavvi. Virgin Digital, the music download service launched two years ago is the next to go, expecting to be finally closed on 19th October 2007.

Dear customer, we regret to announce that the Virgin Digital service is due to close.

We will be taking no new customers from Friday 21st September.

At midnight on Sunday the 30th September we will cease selling tracks and access will be for current Club users only.

On Friday the 19th October the site will close for all customers.

If you have purchased tracks from the service then we recommend that you back up your music files – Information about backing up and re-downloading your tracks

If you are a current Club member you will be able to continue using the service until the date that your next payment is due, after which the service will no longer be accessible to you.

To all our customers we would like to say thank you and offer our apologies for any inconvenience this might cause. We are happy to be able to offer you a 1-month free subscription to the Virgin Media digital streaming jukebox and this link will be available from next week.

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Normally when a store closes, customers who have already bought the goods are no worse off with warranties maintained through manufacturer agreements, etc. but with music downloads containing Digital Rights Management (DRM) it becomes more complex. For £9.99 a month, customers could download as much music as they liked and as long as they paid the subscription fee, they could play it without restriction. Those wanting to transfer it to an MP3 player had to pay £5 extra a month. It appears that once the service is closed there will be no mechanism for renewal of the digital rights on the monthly subscriptions so material will become unplayable, raising big questions about the commercial viability of DRM in the long term with the inconvenience such changes cause. It should be noted however, where individuals paid to download individual tracks or albums, they will be unaffected.

Imagine if CDs self-destructed when a band went their separate ways? Why should downloads be different? Many users are likely to switch to downloading via illegal peer-to-peer (p2p) services rather than risk getting stung again by other companies.

Perhaps it is time for an independent third party to be formed to maintain digital rights licenses so that if companies cease trading, customers can continue to play music they have downloaded. This way, those who have previously paid a monthly license fee could be offered the opportunity to pay a one-off fee to obtain continued access to their music, or transfer their on-going license agreement to another company with easy. Could there be scope to re-jig the TV license to bring this into its remit as an additional option on top of the license fee?


Posted by keith_thfc over 9 years ago
After hearing about a similar issue with Google Videos (now closed) it makes you realise how high-risk buying anything with DRM is.

Must be alarming for artists to see that the only safe option for customers wanting to download material is quite clearly via p2p/torrents.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
quote"It appears that once the service is closed there will be no mechanism for renewal of the digital rights on the monthly subscriptions so material will become unplayable" DRM from music is easily removed and literally takes just seconds, however its probably illegal to do, but then again if you have paid for something and its no longer going to be given it could be argued they have commited theft, so in this case two fingered salute to the law is my opinion and folks should just strip the DRM...Ive always argued DRM is pointless,this is another example why its not a good idea.
Posted by rayhalligan over 9 years ago
I've bought around 20 downloads from Virgin (and many more from others). I always burn them to a CD and then rip them back in mp3 format so that, if something like this happens, I can operate independently of the supplier. Things like this will only serve to encourage illegal p2p use.
Posted by jrawle over 9 years ago
This does indeed show why DRM is a very bad thing. Hopefully, once the average customer finally realises this and stops buying DRM'd tracks, publishers will have to make their content available in the way consumers have historically enjoyed it, without arbitrary restrictions.

I don't see any link with the TV licence. Some people don't own a TV, you know. Why should this stop them from downloading music?
Posted by jrawle over 9 years ago
@CARPETBURN: customers (foolishly) bought licences to listen to music on a monthly basis. Virgin haven't committed theft.

Stripping DRM for personal use isn't a criminal offence in the UK, although if you break the terms of the licence you open yourself up to civil action. People will need to do the stripping before the key server goes offline for good.
Posted by bosie over 9 years ago
Considering EMI are reporting increased sales since removing DRM from iTunes, i wonder for how much longer it will viable for Labels to claim that DRM protects the interests of artists? I suspect the same would be true of film if Studios took their heads out of the sand.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
@jrawle I didnt say they have commited theft, i said it could be argued and without seeing the small print for the 9.99 deal they had its hard to say.To strip DRM you dont need to have online access, as long as somewhere on the PC you have the DRM key that matches the original tracks key you can still strip the DRM out now.It doesnt even matter if the license has lapsed it can still be stripped..As for the civil action id like to see them try, if the service is dead the licence agreement must be dead also, you either paid for the music or paid for the license.
Posted by radar over 9 years ago
Use this to strip the drm from your paid for music :-
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
yep radar thats one of the apps that will do it, although i didnt think links like that which sail close to illegal were allowed. Theres also another app which works alongside that which can also convert the content from wma or similar straight to mp3 or wav. Both literally take just seconds per track.
Posted by radar over 9 years ago
I don't see it as illegal, If I buy music on a CD I can play it on any CD player. If I buy music from the internet as an MP3 then usually it has DRM which stops me playing it on any player apart from WM player on the PC I downloaded it to. I see this as being ILLEGAL, after all I have paid for it.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
Thats the point though as jrawle pointed out you are not buying the music you are buying a license to play the music on your PC. You dont own the music so technically you cant do what you want with it... or in other words you have no right to play it on other equipment.
Posted by radar over 9 years ago
The point is though that most of these sites do not make it obvious that you are buying a license to play it on your PC. Surely that is an infingement of trading standards.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
Nope its not an infingement as long as its mentioned somewhere which i imagine it was in tiny tiny print. You could argue they have commited theft as i mentioned previously though if you paid your 10 quid for the month but suddenly because licenses are not being renewed you cant play the content. You have paid for the license and if its not being provided then thats a bit naughty. Other than that you basically have no rights what you can do with the music you downloaded.
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