Medialoper reports in Zune’s Big Innovation: Viral DRM that if you use Zune's wireless music sharing feature, it will automatically wrap tunes with its DRM technology, even if the music was acquired with a Creative Commons license and was DRM-free to begin with.
Microsoft employee Cesar Menendez (and Zune team member) says that the information he originally gave that Medialoper reported on was incorrect, Zune doesn't add DRM to the music file, but it still only allows another Zune to play it 3 times in 3 days. Nice semantics. It's not file-based DRM, it's device-based DRM
I think I wasn't harsh enough in labelling Microsoft's DRM-team as intentional evil doers (see below). It's worse than that -- they're trying to sell something that is horribly consumer unfriendly, and maybe even breaks the law, as if it was a benefit. And the paeons they have doing the work don't seem to have a clue.
Here's a marketing strategy! Why not refuse to implement DRM under any conditions and make a big deal about it in a public statement and in marketing programs? Microsoft is big enough to challenge the music and movie industries, and if they made a principled stand by simply releasing Zune without DRM restrictions, they could actually have a disruptive innovator's chance of whipping Apple at their own game. Not only that, they'd push the industry into something that's good for them -- lower priced goods distributed 100% digitally.
It might take a while, but when the industry saw how popular the devices were with consumers, they'd get on board. Nature abhors a vacuum: we'll switch to a completely different business model for getting our music, bypassing the industry entirely, or suck up tons of bootlegged material since no one wants to sell it to us legally at a reasonable price.
History has shown over and over again that unencumbered, or with reasonable licensing, every technical advance original feared and fought by copyright holders has actually created greater opportunity for profit. There's no reason to think this is any different.
Other Related Zune Notes
Urlocker is skeptical that Zune has what it takes to "change the game". Correctly points out that unless Microsoft disrupts the market, it will not attract sufficient users to make it viable, let alone successful. Definitely no disruptive innovations here.
eHomeUpgrade say it can't believe that Microsoft is so arrogant to have designed Zune to be not PlaysForSure compatible, meaning that any old content wrapped using Windows Media technology and purchased through Microsoft partners such as Napster, Rhapsody or Movielink will not be playable. This definitively illustrates my point that DRM is a poisonous and evil technology that will eventually bite us all. It also proves beyond any doubt that any vendor that has that kind of control will eventually use it to harm their customers, regardless of what they say publicly.
On a more humorous note, thedigitalmusicweblog passes on that the meaning of Zune in Hebrew is a word not for delicate ears, and something akin to what its DRM technology is doing to customers. How appropriate is that?!