Virgin unplugs its subscribers

Here’s an interesting insight into Digital Restrictions Management, aka DRM.

Virgin has closed Virgin Digital, its Windows Media-based alternative to Apple’s iTunes. It stopped selling one-off downloads on Friday, though subscribers will still have access to their collections until their next monthly payment is due.

After that, their songs will no longer be playable, thanks to the limitations placed on playback by the DRM technology built into each track.

Virgin announced the move this weekend in an email sent out to all its customers, all of whom have presumably been busy backing up their tracks or – in the case of subscribers – burning them to CD so they can be re-imported as MP3s.

The service will formally close on Friday, 28 September – coincidentally the day Apple’s new iPod Touch is due to arrive in the UK – and finally shut down on Friday, 19 October.

Translate that into non-digital terms. You buy an album from a record store, and play it happily on your CD player. And then, one day, it won’t play any more. Why? Because the store from which you bought it has — for some reason decided upon by the store’s owners — closed.