WMA and AAC do no inherently have any DRM in them. You can add DRM on top, but both formats are available for ripping without DRM. Media Player will rip to WMA without DRM, and iTunes will rip to AAC without DRM.
Do the formats need to be licensed? Yes. Device manufacturers need to license those codecs in order to support them, and software manufacturers have to license encoders. Believe it or not, MP3 legally requires a license for those same things. And in the case of WMA, the license is CHEAPER than MP3's.
As for quality:
Not to plug my own work, but it's relevant here - http://www.extremetech.com/article2/0,1558,1560783,00.asp
A couple years ago I did a feature where I make my own rips of various music styles and performed single-blind tests (it wasn't possible to do double-blind, but still, the people rating the quality didn't know what they were listening to). I compared MP3, WMA9, AAC, and Vorbis. In addition to blind listening tests by a bunch of self-proclaimed audiophiles around Ziff and their friends, I did spectrum analysis.
The article is over two years old, but honestly not much has changed in the audio codec format wars since then. AAC is still great for iPod users, WMA for people who have anything else. Both are vastly superior to MP3, even if you take 10 times as long to encode your MP3 with a really super awesome encoder like LAME.