DRM: A personal story

DRM: A personal story

Summary: 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.


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.   

Topic: Apple

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  • Stop passing magazines around...

    If they would have made a law to not allow someone else to read my magazine and educated consumers to the evil of it all then we would not have troublemakers like you writing articles about how to circumvent DMCA...U R A bad boy!!
    • Don't give DRM addicts ideas!

      This might be next on "Give the public the shaft TV".

      Sony is already on my put out of business list. It's the Enron of the entertainment business!
  • s/DCMA/DMCA/g

    HTH. HAND.
    Yagotta B. Kidding
  • DRM will hurt the companies that support it

    There will be a backlash against those companies that force DRM onto us.
    There will always be hacks and work arounds that make DRM useless.
    People will switch to DRM-free alternatives.
    • Unfortunatly they won't

      The average user doesn't understand the consequences of DRM, and the DMCA. If they did ipods, and tivos would have died out long ago, but the fact is that the masses see cool toys and don't understand the underlying technology. Whats worse is that even a large number of the ones that do understand, whats going on don't care because they don't see the need to fight it. Thankfully I am DRM free and plan to stay that way.
      • The DMCA was broken to start

        The problem isn't really the invention of iPods, the problem is the DMCA, which for some reason that even LEGISLATORS can't understand (Barbara Mikulski!) makes it illegal to remove DRM in order to restore your right to use something on the device of your choice.
        This is ridiculous and it has to stop. Some legislators are finally realizing that the DMCA is broken, and are trying to pass a law called the DMCRA in order to restore the consumer's right to remove DRM if it interferes with his right to use a product on the device of his choice.
        Support the people who are doing this, vote for them and call their opponents and rake them over the coals for opposing this common-sense bill.
        As I have recently realized, DRM does NOTHING to combat piracy, the criminals will just find a way around the DRM and make their illegal copies anyway.
  • A legal solution

    There are a couple of video editing programs that include the ability to remove the DRM protection, edit then save your TIVO video files in mpg format. Roxio Easy Media Creator 8 is one of them according to their ads.

    Since I doubt Roxio would risk serious legal trouble by doing this without TIVO's permission (and probably with the payment of a license fee) I suspect that this is a legal way to get at your TIVO files.

    Yes this is not a truly free solution, but you probably will want a video editor anyway, so why not chose on that can read the TIVO files?