Windows Media Player DRM: frequently asked questions


Here are answers to some common questions about digital rights management (DRM), media usage rights, and protected Windows Media files.

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What is DRM?

DRM stands for digital rights management. DRM is a technology used by content providers, such as online stores, to control how the digital music and video files you obtain from them are used and distributed. Some online stores sell and rent songs and movies that have DRM applied to them. A file that has DRM applied to it is known as a protected file.

Windows Media Player, as well as some online stores and devices, support or use a type of DRM known as Windows Media Digital Rights Management.

What are media usage rights?

Media usage rights are permissions to use a protected file in a particular way. Content providers, such as online stores, can specify how you can use the protected files that you obtain from them. For example, a content provider can grant you the permission to play the file on your computer (a play right), to burn the file to an audio CD (a burn right), or to sync the file to a portable device (a sync right).

Each right can have certain qualities. For example, the content provider might grant you the following usage rights:

  • The right to play a particular song on your computer an unlimited number of times

  • The right to sync that song to two portable devices five times per month

  • The right to burn the song to an audio CD twice

Media usage rights are sometimes called licenses.

How does the Player use media usage rights?

When you try to use a protected file in the Player, the Player checks to see if you have valid media usage rights installed on your computer. If the media usage rights permit you to perform the action that you've requested (for example, syncing the file to a device), the Player performs that action for you.

If the Player doesn't find valid media usage rights on your computer, or if the rights don't permit you to perform the action that you've requested, the Player doesn't perform the action. Typically, the Player will either display an error message that indicates why it couldn't perform the action or it will display an Error button Picture of the Error button or an Information button Picture of the Information button next to the protected file that you can click or point to for more information.

How do I download media usage rights?

In most cases, you don't need to worry about downloading media usage rights. The Player usually downloads them automatically, when necessary.

However, there might be times when the Player can't download media usage rights for you. In these cases, the Player typically displays a message that lists your options. Just follow the instructions.

If the Player directs you to an online store, you might be required to enter your account name and password to proceed. The online store might require you to update your billing information or pay a fee to download additional usage rights, such as the right to burn a song to an audio CD.

The Player can't download media usage rights automatically if the Download usage rights automatically when I play or sync a file check box isn't selected (by default, it's selected). To verify that you can download usage rights automatically, do the following:

  1. Click the Start button Picture of the Start button, click All Programs, and then click Windows Media Player.
    If the Player is currently open and you’re in Now Playing mode, click the Switch to Library button Picture of the Switch to Library button in the upper-right corner of the Player.
  2. In the Player Library, click Organize, click Options, and then click the Privacy tab.

  3. Verify that the Download usage rights automatically when I play or sync a file check box is selected.

In addition, if you subscribe to a music or video subscription service through an online store, make sure that the Automatically check if protected files need to be refreshed check box is selected. When it is, the Player will periodically scan your library for purchased files and for subscription service files that are missing media usage rights, files that have expired rights, or files that have rights that are about to expire. The Player will then try to download the rights from the Internet. This helps improve the playback, burn, and sync experiences with purchased and subscription files.

For more information about the Player Library, see Change how you display items in the Windows Media Player Library. For more information about the Player Library, see Getting started with Windows Media Player.

How do I restore my media usage rights?

If you see an error message that indicates you're missing play, burn, or sync rights for a file, and you had these rights previously, you might be able to resolve the problem by restoring your media usage rights. You have several options to do so:

  • If you obtained the file from an online store, the store might offer media usage rights (license) restoration. (Some stores refer to this procedure as computer activation, computer authorization, library restoration, or license synchronization.)

    The procedure for restoring your rights varies from store to store. For some stores, you might need to click Browse all Online Stores in the lower-left corner of the Player, click the store in the list, install the store software, and then click a customer service or account management link on that store's page.

    The store might limit the number of times that you can restore your rights or limit the number of computers on which you can use the songs or videos that you obtain from them. Some stores don't permit you to restore media usage rights at all. For details about the store's policies, see the store's customer support or Help information.

    For more information about accessing online stores, see Shop online in Windows Media Player.

  • If the file is a song you ripped from a CD with the Copy protect music option turned on, you might be able to restore your usage rights by playing the file. You will be prompted to connect to a Microsoft webpage that explains how to restore your rights a limited number of times.

    For more information about the Copy protect music option, see Rip music: frequently asked questions.

Article ID: MSW700056