EFF on Zune: Risk of DRM/DMCA checkmate no longer a risk. It's reality

EFF on Zune: Risk of DRM/DMCA checkmate no longer a risk. It's reality

Summary: By way of Cory Doctorow, comes a pointer to the Electronic Frontier Foundation's take on Microsoft's new Zune: a brand that has broken ranks with the Redmond-based company's previous digital rights management (DRM) strategy that attempted to establish an ecosystem of compatibility (under the name "PlaysForSure") between content merchants (ie: AOL, Yahoo, Amazon, etc.), the copy protection on the content they sold, and the software and devices that could play that content.

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TOPICS: Piracy
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By way of Cory Doctorow, comes a pointer to the Electronic Frontier Foundation's take on Microsoft's new Zune: a brand that has broken ranks with the Redmond-based company's previous digital rights management (DRM) strategy that attempted to establish an ecosystem of compatibility (under the name "PlaysForSure") between content merchants (ie: AOL, Yahoo, Amazon, etc.), the copy protection on the content they sold, and the software and devices that could play that content. 

Critics of DRM (including me) have long warned of the risks of strategy, policy, and technology shifts amongst the various DRM stakeholders (technology companies, entertainment companies, copyright holders, etc.): namely that consumers could wake up one morning to learn that the rules regarding legal playback of their content investments (audio, video, images, etc.) may have changed to the point that they'll probably have to, at some point,M re-buy their favorite music and video all over again. In the US, the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) has, with few exceptions (none of which apply here), outlawed circumvention of content copy protection. So, with Microsoft's Zune, now comes proof that these were not Chicken Little warnings.  Wrote the EFF's Derek Slater:

Microsoft's Zune will not play protected Windows Media Audio and Video purchased or "rented" from Napster 2.0, Rhapsody, Yahoo! Unlimited, Movielink, Cinemanow, or any other online media service. That's right -- the media that Microsoft promised would Play For Sure doesn't even play on Microsoft's own device. Buried in footnote 4 of its press release, Microsoft clearly states that "Zune software can import audio files in unprotected WMA, MP3, AAC; photos in JPEG; and videos in WMV, MPEG-4, H.264" -- protected WMA and WMV (not to mention iTunes DRMed AAC) are conspicuously absent.......

.....This is a stark example of DRM under the DMCA giving customers a raw deal. Buying DRMed media means you're locked into the limited array of devices that vendors say you can use. You have to rebuy your preexisting DRMed media collection if you want to use it on the Zune. And you'll have to do that over and over again whenever a new, incompatible device with innovative features blows existing players out of the water....

....The real culprit here is the DMCA -- but for that bad law, customers could legally convert DRMed files into whatever format they want, and tech creators would be free to reverse engineer the DRM to create compatible devices. Even though those acts have traditionally been and still are non-infringing, the DMCA makes them illegal and stifles fair use, innovation, and competition.

....May this be a lesson to those who mistakenly laud certain DRM as "open" and offering customers "freedom of choice" simply because it is more widely-licensed than other formats. With DRM under the DMCA, nothing truly plays for sure, regardless of whether you're purchasing from Apple, Microsoft, or anyone else....

Doctorow drove straight to the irony of the situation when he wrote "Microsoft's iPod-killing Zune player won't play music that's locked up with Microsoft's own anti-copying software."

Don't say you weren't warned. 

Topic: Piracy

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35 comments
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  • I suggest everyone learn to deal with it

    Everyone stood around with their thumbs up their backside while pirates had a hey day. Well, now it's time to pay the piper...
    No_Ax_to_Grind
    • Off the mark

      You make this statement sound like there is a cause/effect between pirates and the draconian DMCA. It's not as if the pirates are crying over these techniques. All of these restrictions are beatable--it's only the law biding folks who play be the rules.

      For the most part, I've stopped buying media. I don't steal it, though. I just watch or listen to what's free or make do with what I happen to own now. I don't enjoy funding my enemies or future enemies.

      This is also why I avoid buying things made in China and why I bought a hybrid car. MUST we trade future security for creature comforts? Do you think that in 1983, for instance, you EVER would have found us setting up factories and buying goods from the USSR?
      bmgoodman
    • Re: I suggest everyone learn to deal with it

      [i]Everyone stood around with their thumbs up their backside while pirates had a hey day.[/i]

      Nice to know someone still believes DRM is about combatting piracy. I won't rehash the argument here because I doubt it will help you.

      Wake up and smell the coffee, bitty.


      :)
      none none
    • Are you insane?

      What does locking you into one particular device from one particular manufacturer have to do with piracy? Couldn't DRM allow you to actually keep the product you've allegedly "purchased" instead of making you re-buy it again and again? How does that prevent piracy?

      ---Everyone stood around with their thumbs up their backside while pirates had a hey day---

      Funny, I seem to remember lots of laws being passed, like the DMCA, like the NET laws. I seem to recall hordes of lawsuits, I seem to recall p2p companies and networks being brought down in courts of law. That seems like a hell of a lot more than "standing around with our thumbs up our backsides". What, pray tell, should we have been doing instead? Forming lynch mobs? Informing on our neighbors for harboring filesharers hidden in their attics?
      tic swayback
    • DRM has nothing to do with piracy

      DRM doesn't prevent piracy. It doesn't even do much to help litigation against pirates. DRM isn't about piracy, it's about control of the law-abiding customers. It's about having to buy the White Album again, and again, and again... just as you thought you'd got off that treadmill.

      DRM is about keeping you from backing up your music, from burning another mix when you scratch your CD, it's about making sure that the music you buy has a limited lifetime like it used to. It's not about piracy... all it takes is one guy using whatever technology he can come up with to make a single good digital copy of a work and upload it, and any protection DRM ever gave is in that instant lost forever.
      Resuna
    • Only If Fools Like You Buy A Zune

      Then you'll pay the piper. Intelligent people like us IPod and Creative Zen owners will continue to play music to our heart's content.

      Have fun being shafted by Microsoft yet AGAIN.

      ;)
      itanalyst
    • No need to deal with it all

      I'm not buying a Zune player. Simple as that don't ya think. And while I'm not buying the pirates keep going on business as usual. Smart move dumbasses. You lost my business and you still have the pirates to deal with.
      voska
  • How did the world survive without Piracy?

    Ferchrissake you'd think the sky was falling because Pirates are being shut down. How did people exist without being able to steal music? Why shouldn't people be able to steal anything they desire? It makes as much sense as stealing music...

    For those that can't buy a clue, no one is ENTITLED to anything they don't pay for. So my suggestion would be to decide what you want in life, work to earn the money to pay for it, and then buy it. Don't expect society to sit by and allow you to steal whatever you want just because you (falsely) believe you are ENTITLED.

    Get a job, get a life and get OVER IT. The world is not here to serve your dead ass. And for those in denial DRM and copyright laws are just gonna get stronger. Denial is not an effective court trial defense and the EFF doesn't represent society, they represent special interest.
    BeGoneFool
    • No pirates are being shut down.

      The only people getting shut down are those that have paid for music wrapped up in DRM. MS's player won't play protected music that has already been purchased. Unprotected music will play just fine.

      DRM and copyright laws can get infinitely restrictive. The laws will simply be ignored by the masses. Don't believe me? Research a little thing called Prohibition here in the US for an example.
      Letophoro
      • That's exactly it...

        The only people it's restricting are the legitimate users. Pirates are always one step ahead of the protection mechanisms.
        ju1ce
      • Re: No pirates are being shut down.

        [i]DRM and copyright laws can get infinitely restrictive. The laws
        will simply be ignored by the masses. Don't believe me? Research
        a little thing called Prohibition here in the US for an example.[/i]

        We have prohibition in the US right now, only they're calling it
        "the War on Drugs" as if it were something that could be won, as
        if it could be finished. The DMCA looks as if it will be similarly
        ineffective, if not as draconian as the current drug prohibition
        regime.
        godhner
    • Re: How did the world survive without Piracy?

      [i]For those that can't buy a clue, no one is ENTITLED to anything they don't pay for. So my suggestion would be to decide what you want in life, work to earn the money to pay for it, and then buy it. Don't expect society to sit by and allow you to steal whatever you want just because you (falsely) believe you are ENTITLED.
      [/i]

      Just wait until DRM is in all our devices. Those dead asses who think they are ENTITLED to have a functional Fast Forward button on their TV remote will be in for a shock when they have to get a job and pay extra for it.

      Some of them probably will hack their remotes so they can fast forward through DRM'd media WITHOUT PAYING THE THE PRIVILEGE!

      There oughta be a law. Oh yeah, there already is. THANK GAWD!


      :)
      none none
    • Turn your CLUE around

      ---For those that can't buy a clue, no one is ENTITLED to anything they don't pay for. So my suggestion would be to decide what you want in life, work to earn the money to pay for it, and then buy it.---

      Are you really entitled to what you DO pay for? This article seems to show that even if you pay for something, you may get it taken away from you at any minute. Doesn't sound fair to me.
      tic swayback
    • Just when I thought true morons were unable to type...

      What's impressive it that, in one message, you misunderstood the issue with the Zune, the nature of the prior posting and also made a bad call re. DRM in general.

      DRM may not get stronger, at least not in the world in general. In fact, there is some evidence that there is a major backlash in the making. Oh, incidentally, even making illegal copies of music isn't stealing, it's copyright violation. I hate to be pedantic, but as you are so mush-minded I figure even a minimal clarification is in order.
      grouchyDude
  • Dumb enough to buy it

    If you're dumb enough to "buy" something you can never own, and can only use according to the terms and discretion of the "seller," you deserve what's coming to you.

    Would you buy a dinner plate that you could only legally serve "Kraft" food products on? Or a car you could only legally drive if you were using Mobil gasoline?

    This whole music DRM push is the same thing. Caveat emptor. We already know the gummit isn't going to do anything to "protect" the consumer from an unfair EULA or contract provision, so JUST DON'T BUY THE STUFF.
    blunderdog
  • They must be crazy

    In the beginning I was mildly excited about the possibilities of the ZUNE (with or without some small alterations).

    But know every message that is put foreward diminishes it's excitement factor.

    I won't be able to share podcasts etc. If i would do so, i would be violating most CC licenses.

    I won't be able to share any of my own made music without adding DRM to it (which i have no use for)

    All based upon http://www.medialoper.com/hot-topics/music/zunes-big-innovation-viral-drm/

    It seems that it can't play any old DRM'ed ms stuff....

    There's no free upgrade for your itunes music... (A feature which could have a large potential for swingers, and it put's into you're mind "hey i bought this music, why can't i request other DRM on it???)

    I guess we'll just have to wait for the project that puts linux on it.... Then we've got most possibilities without a lotof restrictions....
    tombalablomba
  • That would be a legitimate use of Fairplay4WM

    "You have to rebuy your preexisting DRMed media collection if you want to use it on the Zune"

    Fairplay4WM would strip that and this is an example of fair use.
    georgeou
    • Re: That would be a legitimate use of Fairplay4WM

      [i]Fairplay4WM would strip that and this is an example of fair use.[/i]

      This is an example of fair use. It's also a crime.


      :)
      none none
    • Fair use yes, legal, no

      It may indeed be fair use, but it is illegal under the DMCA.
      tic swayback
    • Except

      The DMCA doesn't allow Fairplay4WM to be distributed. They have already received their DMCA take-down notice from Microsoft BTW.

      http://www.engadget.com/2006/09/16/microsoft-nastygrams-site-for-hosting-fairuse4wm/

      Good job George, you just showed us how the DMCA takes away what most people consider a fair use, being able to play your legally acquired content on the player of your choice.

      BTW the courts haven't been agreeing with you on that one. DeCSS was created to play DVDs on Linux and BnetD existed so you could play Blizzard's games through servers not belonging to Blizzard. Both of which the courts ruled were illegal.
      Edward Meyers