DRM technology has its first two major trainwrecks

DRM technology has its first two major trainwrecks

Summary: Sooner or later, it was bound to happen -- a Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) management technology that, by design, often keeps you from consuming that content on devices that use other DRM technologies actually ends up keeping you from consuming content that's protected by it as well.  Talk about a trainwreck.


Sooner or later, it was bound to happen -- a Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) management technology that, by design, often keeps you from consuming that content on devices that use other DRM technologies actually ends up keeping you from consuming content that's protected by it as well.  Talk about a trainwreck. Actually, in this case, we have two trainwrecks in one -- trainwrecks that perfectly demonstrate how proprietary DRM technologies are going to turn the frictionless utopia we should be after into a friction-laden migraine headache.

If you've been following my series on DRM and why we must stop being sheeple and delcare our inDRMpendence before it's too late (it is for some of us already), then you'd also know by now that we're in the midst of a content dumping crisis where some of the digital content we're downloading for free or buying today will only be viewable or playable on certain products tomorrow, while other digital content that we're acquiring will only be viewable/playable on other products.  Imagine for example how upset you'd be if that CD you just purchased worked in your boombox, but not in your car. On its current course, that's where the world today's DRM technologies are leading us right now.  It's a repeat of the VHS vs. Betamax war only far worse because of the way multiple proprietary/incompatible technologies have been successful at simultaneously penetrating the market. 

But going back to the VHS vs. Betamax war, imagine if you had a VHS machine and a bunch of VHS tapes and everything was working and then suddenly, after upgrading your VHS machine at the manufacturer's suggestion, your VHS tapes stopped working.  Much the same way VHS tapes only work in VHS machines (and not Betamax machines), content wrapped in Microsoft's DRM technology only works in devices that are compliant with that technology.  For example music purchased from Yahoo!'s Music Store (which recently doubled its prices) only works where Microsoft's playback and DRM technologies live together (ie: Windows Media Player or a PlaysforSure-compliant device).  But DRM is software (complex software at that) and like all software, it is affected by upgrades.  And when complex software is affected by upgrades, sometimes, things that once worked, stop working.

Judging by Microsoft's MSDN Web site, this is apparently happening to some users of Microsoft's Media Center solutions.  According to a blog entry by Aaron Stebner:

I have heard of several folks running into issues playing protected content (such as purchased songs/movies, or HBO television shows) after installing Update Rollup 2 for Media Center 2005.  As I described here, Update Rollup 2 installs an updated Digital Rights Management (DRM) redistributable package.  We are still investigating reports of content protection problems in order to identify root causes and provide fixes.  In the meantime, I wanted to offer some suggestions.

Remediation involves resetting the DRM system and points to an entry in the Microsoft Knowledge Base that lists the necessary steps entitled The Windows Media Digital Rights Management system may not work if your computer hardware changes.  Check it out.  Can you imagine Grandma doing this?  Perhaps it should be called "If anything can go wrong with DRM technology, it will".  So, trainwreck #1 is where, in addition to making sure your content doesn't work on incompatible devices, now the DRM technology keeps the content from working on compatible ones.  This was bound to happen and it will happen again.  After all, with DRM-breaking technlogies like those of the Hymn Project and United Virtualities on the loose, DRM technologies will have to be like anti-virus technologies -- staying one step ahead of the hackers and forcing people to upgrade their gear in the process.

Trainwreck #2 is where, in Stebner's blog, it says that before you reset your DRM, you'll need to backup your content licenses through a feature called "Manage Licenses." Manage licenses?  You've got to be kidding.  So, not only will DRM technology restrict where and when I can enjoy my content, I may have to manage my licenses to that content as well?  But wait, it gets better.  Stebner goes onto say

Some license issuers will not allow you to store backups of their license files....However, if you use these steps to reset the DRM system and do not have backup copies of your licenses, you will lose the ability to play any previously acquired protected content.  If you have content that you do not want to lose, I would encourage you to wait until we can identify and post a fix.  

Wait? In other words, forget my content until there's a real fix?

This is no joke folks.  I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.  Stop the insanity.  Declare inDRMpendence.

Topic: CXO

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  • DRM Free For Life

    I won't buy, steal, or download content that is wrapped in ANY for of DRM restriction. After reading some of the horror stories, and realizing its going to get a lot worse, what motivation is there for me to go out and spend thousands of dollars on hardware, software and media if, at a whim, Big Business can suddenly render my whole collection of media useless with a stroke of a pen, or more realisically, a poorly written software fix.

    That goes for ITunes, Media Player, Longhorn, HDTV, HDMI, Blue-Ray, HD-DVD, Crippled CD's, Trusted Hardware, etc.

    If the major software makers decide to wrap evergthing in DRM, I'll get my software from Norway and learn to read Norweigan (sp?). If US media companies buy themselves a Congressional requirement for hardware DRM, I'll have my motherboards imported from Taiwan, S.Korea or Tibet. Basically, if anyone does anything that makes it impossible for me to do MY thing, then screw em', they get nothing from me.
    • You are already buying DRM enabled products ...

      ... and don't even know it.
      • And this is a good thing?

        What ever happened to the concept of an informed consumer?
        What about our rights NOT to purchase product based on our
        prefferences? After all we as consumer should know everything
        about our purchase and that should include DRM.

        Pagan jim
    • You are already buying DRM enabled products ...

      ... and don't even know it.
      • I know it and I know how to bypass it

        I bypass quite regualarly. I make uses of the product legally but I do copy my CD to my PC and in many case. I do tape DVD to VHS. I do ripp DVDs to my PC and cut out clips and sounds to make my own custom desktops.
  • Why are you still buying "content?"

    Author, meet internet.

    Internet, meet author.

    The web doesn't lie. Data is free now
    • And YOU brought this on David.

      Read my post below.
    • You're the kind...

      You're just the type that makes content owners think DRM is needed. If you'd pay for your music (do you?) you'd not have crippled CDs or downloads. We still buy content so that those who are good at producing quality can make a living at it and keep doing it.
      • Circular reasoning...

        Piracy is needed to thwart DRM!
        DRM is needed because of pirates!

        Before napster (etc), the music conglomerates engaged in price-fixing and other naughty stuff. There's no reason to think they'd suddenly turn the other cheek were piracy to end.
  • No need to imagine how mad I'd be

    "Imagine for example how upset you'd be if that CD you just purchased worked in your boombox, but not in your car."

    I know how mad it makes you. I bought a Metallica CD called ST. ANGER. That CD was DRMed to the max it would only play in my Wifes car. It wouldn't play in my theatre system, on computer or in my car. I tried returning it with no success. So now my wife no longer has the car that plays that CD and it's useless now for nothing more than a coaster.

    That's DRM for you.
    • Hmmm, I wonder...

      If the dufus that's continually suing over the pledge of allegance would actually do something usefull and sue the record company for violation of their own EULA (End User License Agreement) which grants you access to the music on the CD.
    • Is there a warning label for DRM CDs?

      That is a terrible situation. Do they at least label CDs with DRM so I can avoid purchasing something I can't use?
    • Sue in small claims court

      If the store won't take back defective media for a refund, sue them in small claims court. If everyone did this, DRM would be finished.
  • Brought it upon yourself David.

    It occures to me that as a member of the press you had MULTIPLE opportunities to speak out STRONGLY about so called "sharing" of copyrighted material. In fact EVERY writer at ZDNet has at one time or another written a story concerning this issue and not one of you have taken a strong stance against it. Instead the best we could expect from you is a "don't do that, it's illegal", wink, wink...

    So what happened? Well the OWNERS got sick of it and started locking down the doors and Windows and yes, made it harder for the consumer. But that is no different than how your treated at say BestBuy where security goes through everything on the way out the door.

    You see the real problem is the attitude of "there is nothing the RIAA or MPAA can do about pirating". This obviously proves that statement wrong. In fact it proves that sometines, people get exactly what they should...
    • I call BS

      It's never been about pirating. It's about control .

      If they were so worried about piracy they'd make a product worth buying for a reasonable price. Example no DRM downloads for less than the cost of a CD. No restriction on what hardware you played it on. That's the smart thing to do. Make it easier, safer, and more covient to download from legit services. But no they make it the product harder to user, no safer as with DRM as shown by this article, and certainly less convient. This just shows that DRM isn't there for Piracy. It's for control and the content owner have been duped by the snake oil salemen as the control is being passed to the likes of the DRM makers.
      • Call all you want, DRM is a direct reactiuon to pirating.

        And if you don't understand that then you are clueless.
        • I disagree

          DRM is a means to unballance copyright. The main thing it restricts is First Sale rights. The music industry has been trying to shutdown second hand Music stores for years.

          Just ask Zamos how Microsoft deals with consumers who try to exercise their legal first sale rights on EBay (Hint they try to sue them for 2000% the value of the software).

          SHortly after iTunes opened up someone purchased a song and tested if they could sell it second hand. They opened up an eBay auction- Guess what... It was pulled 24 hours latter. With iTunes you have no First Sale rights.

          DRM is also about control. The Music and Movie industries want us to move into a subscription only model. They want to make ownwership of any copy of any work a thing of the past. The ultimate goal is a pay per play model- where the consumer pays a micropayment each time they listen to a song or watch a movie.

          They also want to do in all the indie bands, bands selling and promoting their own works, and small independant content producers but DRM, in of itself, is not directly tied to this. TPM is. When DRM and TPM whitelists are implemented bands could not say allow tapers to record the music and fileshare- snowcap already has a product which prevents this. Right now many of the artist set up areas for fan taping and as copyright excludes the labels from controling all live tapings by counting each one as an unique work and not allowing prohibitions on allowing multiple recordings at different times, it is legal for a band to allow fans to tape and share. This is a database of bands that do allow this http://www.archive.org/audio/etree-band-showall.php

          They further want to extended copyright forever. DRM allows this as the DRM never expires even though the copyright does.
          • I Agree

            An ArsTechnica.com article:

            US Copyright Office wants to hear from you about the DMCA
            10/28/2005 10:59:34 AM, by Eric Bangeman

            Tells of the 'open to the public' comment period since 3 years of DMCA implementation.It tells though that what the 'open comment' wishes to listen to is that of 'exemptions'in given circumstance would be ,or might be given ,or should be given for DMCAs protection mechanism.

            'perpetrated as one of the greatest frauds ever perpetrated on US consumers.

            (Hi Dave)...Annway,I used to have some 100 or so digital bought music downloads.When you buy them,there is a limit of wich a date of responsibility from the proprietor will expire. Guess what,you will find like warranties,when you haven't got them on CD,somehow just like clockwork something goes wrong.

            DRM doesn't display any characteristics of what a person should expect towards the behavior of the digital file.When something does go awry,the difference between a propriety and the relationship of the operating system propriety show astute indifference in the same instance.

            It is only 'after something happens unexpectedly that the person effected must 'go-fish. Being blindly unaware of what might be the cause.

            As dave has told here his lean is toward two different wayward proprietors being a culprit wich should have somehow get blame layed onto them.

            Thing is there is not a 'blame-game way out of this.There is only a fact that nomatter the ambition of the copyrighted digital files owner- DRM still maintains nothing in detail of what its relationship means to anyone.

            For example you can change a nic card,and things in DRM copacity will everyone go broke.This is as a totality for a personal computer.The different proprieties will each have,or claim to have no reference to the DRM mechanism wich made such a feature of a copyrights security mechanism to 'prevent its lawful person of purchase' from using it. Another example is to change the processor on a personal computer. And another is the relationship to singular non-copied DRM files 'moved'between different ,or the same machines.Or on Dual-operating system machines in wich the digital files are again- singular,non-copied,and simply accessed,or utilize the ability to 'move'.DRM waits no ambition to let the person using its mechanism to a copyright to anticipate the responding mechanism.

            You may have 'liscence,or 'liscence rights listed as a front page to a proprieties website from wich you purchase a work. Yet this is not the mechanism of wich DRM has attributes to.DRM is not mentioned within its traits of the corresponding persons use of the copyrighted work in collaboration to the DRM for the 'liscence.The item wich you have paid for.

            Not only this.But DRM allows 'monitor,in your use of your purchased items.When it is that you have your 'liscenced items reinstated',it is found that every item ever purchased is listed is brazen detail,as a record from a propriety.

            So the chronology,the parties themselves,the hardware mechansims relationship to the monitor of the DRM in all the softwares,are not known from any reference.The proprieties each are individual,and are usually the first to let the buyer of digital items aware of this via loss of funds via disapearance of items sold,patronized by them.

            Again,it isn't a blame between proprieties.The 'liscencing'ideas will be the first to eleviate curcumstance of 'person' within an agreement,via alienating it via personafying 'user'.While if we dont look out,the 'use of 'user' in agreements will devour us all.

            There are various legal ways to look at this.Since everything from commerce to taxes comes to some frequent with copyright.Way I see it,is fact I dont see it- what to expect from your DRM in copyrighted works.The indifference,and generally large amount of effort the person has to employ and keep pace of in order to keep the gain the digital file provides as a digital copyrighted work.
        • It's gone way beyond pirating.

          Tell that to people who got their show deleted after it came out on DVD after they recorded it on their DVR. I forget which show & which DVR, but it shows that it allows control that extends above & beyond copyright law.

          For example, DVDs have this problem of going beyond copyright. AFAIK, there's nowhere in our laws that says you can't bring a movie from another country to the USA. Doesn't matter, the creators of DVDs, games, and other media decided that doing so is a big no-no and decided to create their own laws and create artificial borders that consumers are formbidden to break.

          And that's really the big problem with DRM - now, companies can create and enforce arbitrary rules that extend beyond the laws & rules of any countries. They are already doing so, and I predict it's only going to get worse.
        • Speaking of clueless

          ---Call all you want, DRM is a direct reactiuon to pirating.---

          If you think DRM is about piracy at all, you are the epitome of
          clueless. No one with a clue thinks DRM will stop piracy. What it
          will do is radically shift the business model in favor of the
          industries involved and away from the customer.

          I'm sure you'll happily buy in, as you continue to graze.....
          tic swayback