If you cruise on over to the Zune website you will see some slick marketing. It's not Apple marketing, but it is marketing.
Mama always said to share. Now you have an opportunity to do it with music and photos. With wireless Zune to Zune sharing you can send your favorite tracks and photos to friends.
Picture this: You're walking down the street. Or you're in a room with a bunch of friends. Or at a concert. Or at the airport. Or on the bus (you get the picture) and then you whip out your Zune and see all these other Zune devices around that you can choose from. Zap! You're connected to your best friend and send the new song your band recorded in the garage last weekend. Another friend gets the hilarious podcast your kid brother made at school, plus that song you just downloaded from the Zune Marketplace and can't get out of your head. And hey, lookee here, your friend wants to send you something that you might like and buy, too.
Best of all, the song you sent isn't just a 30-second preview - it's the whole song! Your friend can sample the song up to three times in three days, flag it on their device and then, if they like it, they can buy it later from Zune Marketplace. It's all connected.
Connect with friends and share your favorite songs and pictures.You can send pictures, too. Loved the photo your girlfriend took at the park, and used as a background on her Zune? Just have her send it to you and set it as your background. Any pictures that are sent to you are yours to keep.
You can also fly under the radar when you want to as well. All you need to do is turn wireless on and off, or adjust the privacy settings to control whether people can see if you are online or to show your friends what you're listening to. And if you want to keep your Zune private while studying in the library or reading the newspaper at the coffee shop, you can also block Zune devices, in wireless range, from sending you a song. But don't worry, you can always allow them back.
The party is just getting started.
 The Zune to Zune sharing feature may not be available for all audio files on your device, and works only between Zune devices within wireless range of each other. This feature allows recipients to play full-length sample tracks up to 3 times in 3 days. Recipients cannot re-send music that they have received via the sharing feature.
If you look a little deeper you will find the FAQ section, specifically the section that deals with "Sample Songs."
Songs that you receive from another Zune are called sample songs or sample tracks. Sample songs are full-length tracks that you can play on your Zune device three times in three days.
They also say that some songs do not have send rights and these songs can not be shared from Zune to Zune.
Another important point is that the Zune knows what songs you have received as samples and once the three day/three play window closes you can never receive that song as a sample again.
They go on to say that once you sync your Zune with your computer information on how to obtain the song will appear in your Zune inbox. This information will tell you how to get the song via the Zune store or the web.
We still have one little problem... DRM.
Because the Zune has no way to determine if a song is legal to share, they wrap every shared song in this 3/3 DRM. Now, this is strange because earlier they said they have a way to mark songs to not have share rights. If they can mark a song "do not share" can't they also mark a song "do not DRM"?
Imagine if you can the following scenario:
One of your friends is playing a local gig at a coffee shop or dinner cafe. They have a local band and they are trying to make a name for themselves.
On their flyers they advertise that you can get some free mp3 songs of their material just by going to the show. That sounds great!
All you have to do is show up with a Zune and you will be able to enjoy the shared music from the band.
Now comes the clincher...
The band wants to give away their music because they do not want to get involved in any sort of on-line business selling music. With the Zune they can only give their fans a 3/3 DRM encoded sample of their songs and, if you've been to their show before, you can't get the songs again!
I find this very strange as one of the chief marketing words MicroSoft is using with the Zune is "social." The Zune *is* social in that you can share music, but it's social in a very strange way.
When I think of "social" sharing I don't see people sharing things that break after being used a few times. I don't expect MicroSoft to support piracy or illegal file sharing but when their chief marketing buzz is geared towards the ability to "share" your music and pictures it just seems strange that the sharing has so many strings attached to it.
If Microsoft were to add some sort of free service for people who make their own audio files to tag them "do not DRM/unlimited share" then the Zune could very well kill the iPod.
The other problem has to do with copyrights and the Creative Commons movement.
If I, as a content creator, specifically license my materials in a "never DRM this file" format what happens when a Zune user tries to share that file? Under the current system it becomes wrapped in DRM, which breaks my license!
There is an interesting comment on copyright on the Zune website:
Please respect the rights of artists and creators. Content such as music and pictures may be protected by copyright. People appearing in content may have a right to control use of their image. You may not share other people's content unless you own the rights or have permission from the owner.
It is very interesting because the Zune does not respect the copyright of people who say no to DRM.
Even more glaring is that the band, in my example above, owns the copyright to their music yet the Zune provides them no way to enforce their copyright and allow unlimited sharing of their music!
Copyright != DRM. Copyright is about giving the owner of the material the full rights to do with it as they please. The Zune clearly does not respect copyright and until Microsoft fixes this flagrant copyright problem the Zune will not make it in the marketplace.
DRM is quickly becoming the straw that broke the camel's back. Sites such as defective by design are quickly gaining steam on the Internet.
One thing that I find very ironic, on MicroSoft's part, is that in the past they have often refered to the GPL as "viral" in nature. They tell people how the GPL will "infect" everything it touches. Those who know anything about the GPL know that it can not "infect" anything, it takes a conscious effort to incorporate GPL code into your project.
In the Zune's case, it's 3/3 DRM is clearly "viral" in nature in that you have no choice when sharing music Zune to Zune (a feature the Zune is designed and marketed to do) but to "infect" your files with the 3/3 DRM!
It makes one wonder. If you were to put a GPLed file on a Zune and share it (thereby infecting it with the 3/3 DRM) would that same DRM also be "infected" with the GPL? That's a legal question I'm not qualified to answer but i can still ask it!
Let me also add that I currently own a video iPod and I do not use the iTunes music store to buy music. I have purchased a few TV shows to try out the video side of the iPod but I do not buy music.
I do not buy music for three reasons:
1) I have a huge catalog of CDs at home from bands I like.
2) Most "new" music on the market simply does not appeal to me and I have no intention of buying it. When the occasional album is released that I want, I buy the CD.
3) If I lose my "purchased" music I'm screwed. CDs give me a very reliable back-up medium. A medium that is pressed and not burned.
I have had a large number of problems with my iPod in regards to podcast files. If you look around here on my blog you can read about them!
I am one of those people who is dissatisfied with the iPod and I wanted the Zune to be a good replacement for it. If they can kill, or provide an over-ride for the DRM I may just buy one.
Now, if some clever soul was to hack the Zune and put Linux on it... If they were also clever enough to get the wi-fi sharing aspect to work in a Linux environment... Well, in that case the Zune will crush the iPod!
A portable MP3 player that allows you to share music without DRMing it first? That *is* an iPod killer!