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Sony Connect, ATRAC Exit the Stage

It's official: Sony's pulling the plug on its Connect music service.

Back in June, I'd posted an item here about reports of Connect's demise, reports that Sony denied at the time. Its confirmation arrived early this morning, in the 17th paragraph of a press release announcing a new lineup of Walkman digital-music players.

Instead of supporting Connect downloads, this new hardware will work with stores using Microsoft's Windows Media Audio format. They will also play MP3 and AAC files--but not Sony's proprietary ATRAC format.

Essentially, Sony just hit the Eject button on its entire digital-music strategy to date.

Customers who had bought into ATRAC and Connect can't be too happy about these developments. A Q&A on Sony's site breaks the bad news to Connect customers: They need to burn their downloads to audio CDs if they want to keep listening to them--after the copy-control machinery governing Connect purchases shuts down, starting in March of 2008, they won't be able to transfer purchases to new computers.

The demise of Connect and the closure of Google's video-download store will both wind up depriving customers of things they thought they'd purchased for good. (At least Google now says it will refund its customers' money.) Those episodes--along with last weekend's crash of Microsoft's Windows Genuine Advantage copy-control system--amount to the plainest exhibit possible of the risks of remote-controlled "digital rights management" systems.

It's like what my old acquaintance Jack Valenti used to say: "If you cannot protect what you own, you don't own anything!"

By Rob Pegoraro  |  August 30, 2007; 10:24 AM ET
Categories:  Music  
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"Customers who had bought into ATRAC and Connect can't be too happy about these developments."

Fortunately it shouldn't be too difficult to track both of them down and help them transition.

Posted by: kevin | August 30, 2007 11:38 AM | Report abuse

Most of the ATRAC users will be in Japan, with Mini-Disc hardware.

Sony also needs to pull the plug on its SonicStage software. Then wrap it all up, jump on it, burn it, jump on the ashes, and then never allow it be mentioned again.

Posted by: Mike | August 30, 2007 1:46 PM | Report abuse

It makes one wonder... the DMCA prohibits circumventing copy protection yet Sony is giving instructions on exactly how to do that and is "inducing" consumers to do so.

I hope common sense and the real-world examples of Google and Sony help strengthen the case that the DMCA needs to be reworked.

Posted by: Dave | August 30, 2007 6:11 PM | Report abuse

Another classic from the makers of Betamax. Another testament to executive arrogance.

Posted by: Phil | August 30, 2007 6:34 PM | Report abuse

Maybe now they will abandon all Sony branded proprietary formatting.

Oh, wait... they can afford to take a hit on ATRAC, Blue-Ray success will take the sting right out of that!

No lesson learned.

The Sony format is dead! Long live the Sony format!

Posted by: Formats | August 30, 2007 6:42 PM | Report abuse

It's ironic that you quote Jack Valenti, since the MPAA was the major driving force behind the DMCA, and Jack Valenti was their biggest, best-connected arm twister.

The entertainment industry cried "Wolf!" about every new consumer-usable recording format since the introduction of home 'Compact Cassette' recorders, saying they would go out of business within (name your time frame) because they will only sell one copy of (name your media), and that one person will then make copies for the rest of the world. The RIAA started this song with cassette recorders, and the MPAA joined in (and filed suit) when home video recorders became available. They were stymied for a while by the "Fair Use Doctrine," declared by a Federal judge who had enough common sense to not be fooled by their BS.

But by the late '90s, after the Republicans took control of Congress, they were able to buy enough votes to ram through the DMCA, and unleash it on a (mostly) unsuspecting public. After 2000, when the Republicans were able to steal control of the Executive Branch as well, they really got going, implementing the most Draconian interpretations (and penalties) of the Act, declaring by fiat that we no longer owned the music and movies we had paid for, but were merely being allowed to use them, by their leave.

And that's where we'll stay, until either

a) the entertainment companies tire of constantly trying to devise new content protection schemes, only to find them cracked by the time they are implemented, or soon thereafter.


b) we recover from the Republican "Fire Sale" of the U.S. Government ("you can do anything, if you give us enough money"), and saner heads amend or, preferably repeal, the DMCA.

Posted by: Bill in Atlanta | August 31, 2007 7:08 AM | Report abuse

The DMCA was passed unanimously by Congress, and Clinton offered no objections when signing it.

Blaming it on Republicans seems a little bit of a stretch.

Posted by: kevin | August 31, 2007 11:31 AM | Report abuse

FYI: Looking through The Post's archives, I see that we didn't exactly break our backs covering the DMCA's progress through Congress. It seems that the only stories in the Post to cover this bill prior to its passage in 1998 were a handful of columns, editorials and op-eds--all of which accurately predicted how the DMCA would threaten fair use.

- RP

Posted by: Rob Pegoraro | August 31, 2007 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Being one of the two people who bought into ATRAC I sure hope I'll be able to transfer files with Media Player. SonicStage makes Connect look like pure gold.

Posted by: Kyle | August 31, 2007 2:04 PM | Report abuse

If Sony wanted to move to a more 'open' policy why didn't it just release the ATRAC format into the public domain? Anyway their players already cope with MP3 and WMF files.

If ATRAC is so superior in sound quality (and it is!) it would have found a place on everyone's PC.

I think Sony also need to release a converter to change existing ATRAC libraries to WMF or MP3.

Anyway let's hope Apple move in the same direction and abandon proprietary formats too!

Posted by: Andy McMullon | September 1, 2007 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Well, Guess I can donate my Tascam MiniDisk rack mount to the local marina as a boat anchor along with my MZ-M100 player. What a shame the format is dead, it was an excellent one.
I can use the CD player in the Tascam for playing mp3's. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.

Posted by: Victimized | September 1, 2007 8:35 PM | Report abuse

Why is it only when we loose something that we realize its value? I love ATRAC and have no special beef against Sonicstage, other than it could make use of plugins (for flac ,ogg etc...).

Really Sony should
1. keep supporting ATRAC in their future players
2. make ATRAC an open system

Sony has great engineers and lousy suits: first they imposed their heavy handed DRMs to their user base, and now they abandon the whole lot.

Posted by: jetmiles | October 13, 2007 4:36 PM | Report abuse

Hey, I'm the other sucker who bought into ATRAC. Clearly I don't know much about the ins and outs of the technology so can someone advise me: do I really have to burn copies of all 150 albums I have in Sonic Stage? What happens if I do nothing? It seems like a right mess. Can't Sony be held to some kind of account here?

Posted by: Patrick Rawle | December 15, 2007 1:03 AM | Report abuse

...Another 'idiot' who decided they liked the quality and flex of atrac, and even found that SonicStage v4.3 pretty much did everything I wnated it to (and is quite fast and robust)...

So where from here? Converters are available for atrac to mp3 (and luckily I don't have a problem with DRM downloads, and I juditiously kept safety copies of podcast rips and the like in uncompressed format), but the information about 80Gb of songs needs to live in a fairly well defined database with customised genres to suit, and there isn't anything out there that I have seen that is anywhere close to SonicStage for managing this size of library. I am certainly not holding my breath for M/soft to produce anything usable or customisable...

Anyone got any bright ideas???

Posted by: Hugh Roberts | January 16, 2008 11:34 AM | Report abuse

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