Since this seems to be DRM Day at Between the Lines, allow me to present a short, personal story that highlights, at least for me, the evils of DRM and the DCMA. Last week, I prepared a story for this blog illustrating how to put shows from a TiVo onto one of the new video iPods. It's relatively easy and getting easier. After I wrote the story, David Berlind wrote to tell me that I was perhaps advocating that people break the law--the anti-circumvention clause (1201) of the DCMA, to be exact. For all practical purposes, the clause makes it a crime to circumvent DRM regardless of your intentions. I pulled the story to be safe.
To explain more, TiVo puts a DRM wrapper on the MPEG-2 video they store, What is being protected by the DCMA in this case? TiVo's business model.so once you download it, you can only view it if (a) you have a media access key (comes with the TiVo) and (b) their software on your PC to control the viewing experience. If you remove the DRM wrapper, then you've circumvented the TiVo DRM.
The iPod, of course, doesn't understand the TiVo DRM, which is based on a Microsoft DRM technology. There's no way to view TiVo video on your iPod without removing the wrapper. There's the rub. As a consequence of the DCMA, if you download a show from your TiVo and remove the TiVo DRM to put it on your iPod, you've broken the law. Keep in mind that we're not talking about putting the show on the Internet, giving it to your friends, or anything else. Just moving it from one device you own to another device you own to watch then throw away.
DCMA supporters would jump in here to state that the DCMA is protecting the rights of people who distribute the shows. After all, perhaps NBC doesn't want me to watch "The Apprentice" on my iPod. Ironically, however, it's not NBC's rights that are being protected since NBC has no say in the matter. They may, in fact, like the fact that I'm going to watch their show and the advertisements which are built into it in large part. One more viewer!
So what is being protected by the DCMA in this case? TiVo's business model. I have to buy TiVo boxes or use their program to watch shows recorded with a TiVo. This has nothing to do with protecting the intellectual property of NBC and everything to do with protecting the interests of TiVo. TiVo is using the DCMA to lock in customers. It's as if Congress made moving your stock data from MyYahoo! to Motley Fool a crime so that Yahoo! could retain its customers.
Consequently, I can't watch TiVo recorded programs on my iPod without breaking the law and neither can you. What can you do? Switch to MythTV, I guess. At least until Congress forces the video card manufacturers to support broadcast flags. You can also, as David suggests, make public comment on the exemptions to the anti-circumvention clause before December 1, 2005.