Gates rails against Blu-ray DRM (but Microsoft's is OK?)

Gates rails against Blu-ray DRM (but Microsoft's is OK?)

Summary: According to an interview of Microsoft chairman Bill Gates by the Daily Princetonian, Gates thinks that the Blu-ray DVD format (recently backed by Warner Bros.)  is "anti-consumer.

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TOPICS: Microsoft
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According to an interview of Microsoft chairman Bill Gates by the Daily Princetonian, Gates thinks that the Blu-ray DVD format (recently backed by Warner Bros.)  is "anti-consumer."  Microsoft, Intel, and other companies are backing an alternative to Blu-ray known as HD DVD.  Said Gates in the interview:

...the key issue here is that the protection scheme under Blu-ray is very anti-consumer and there's not much visibility of that. The inconvenience is that the [movie] studios got too much protection at the expense consumers and it won't work well on PCs. You won't be able to play movies and do software in a flexible way.... It's not the physical format that we have the issue with, it's that the protection scheme on Blu is very anti-consumer. If [the Blu-ray group] would fix that one thing, you know, that'd be fine.

So, let me get this right.  Bill Gates is complaining about someone else's Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) technology because it won't work well on PCs.  Meanwhile, as I have written many times already in my series of say no to DRM blog entries, Microsoft has its own DRM technology that doesn't work well on ordinary hi-fi gear. Microsoft calls this "PlaysForSure."  But, as long as PlaysForSure-packaged content doesn't play for sure on every device that can play digital content, it should probably be called "PlaysForSuren't."   Anyway, is this a case of the pot calling the kettle black, or what?

[Update: Just as reminder, my belief is that everyone should stop using or deploying DRM technologies and take a deep breath to rethink the damage being done by the current, heavily bifurcated approach being taken across various entertainment and content sectors.  Already a certain amount of irreversible damage has been done. For example, if you're buying songs from Apples iTunes Music Store or a Microsoft PlaysForSure-compliant music store, there's a strong probability that the music you're buying won't work on your next cell phone (or maybe you're current one: see Orange takes on the iPod again).  Many of tomorrow's cell phones (and some of today's) will be able to play digital music. At the very least, both the computer and entertainment industries should settle on a set of open DRM standards that are freely and easily deployable by any equipment manufacturer.]

Topic: Microsoft

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23 comments
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  • copy protectiuon is illegal and immoral

    Any kind of copy protection as no reason of existing, simply because in the US you are presumed innocent until prevent guilty. By applying copy protection (witch have been proven since the beginning to be 100% useless in preventing copy) the criminal organization like MPAA/RIAA are assuming that every single consumer who buy they protect are criminals. So by they very nature copy protection have to be abolish now and criminal organization responsible for them (MPAA/RIAA and especially Macrovision (the most notorious scumbag of the bunch) must be also shut down and sue for every single penny and possession they have. It?s time the USA stop been ruled by contents providers.

    In a traditional marker when a product doesn?t sell well, you LOWER THE PRICE (are you listening MPAA/RIAA), you do not illegally sue your own consumer. Also may I remind you that movie and music enjoys the most anti-consumer of all the illegal laws that protect them, YOU CANNOT RETURN a MOVIE/MUSIC THAT YOU DON?T LIKE, as opposed to all most all other products.
    Mectron
    • Yeah, locks on your door are illegal and immoral.

      After all, I am innocent until proven I am a house thief... Pffftttt...
      No_Ax_to_Grind
  • What's really funny

    is that the DRM on HD-DVD is essentially identical to that on Blu-Ray.

    I suspect that Bill's objection is more along the lines of "Microsoft is invested in HD-DVD and we're not agile enough to support Blu-Ray on our present release schedule, so we won't have Blu-Ray support. Of course, if we don't support it then consumers won't be able to access it, so it's anti-consumer."
    anonymous
    • The difference

      The diff is that in this case M$ doesn't stand to gain by licensing...so there's no counterbalance to the consumer complaint cost. They're willing to put up with that for PlaysForSuren't because of the licensing revenue.
      Techboy_z
  • MS vs the World

    Is usually how it plays out.. Whether it's for MS or against MS..

    Nothing you can do, but grab a bag of popcorn and watch the show.
    ju1ce
    • MS vs. the world?

      Actually, it's not. It's actually a bunch of companies with an axe to grind against a different bunch of companies. Microsoft is just a sideshow to the whole thing. But then, you'd have to have some objectivity to know that.
      Cerowyn
  • Using DRM Protected Files Is Not Seamless

    Mr. Berlind,

    As much as I appreciate MS? effort to make DRM work well, I do believe there is still a lot of work to do on the company?s part, as its DRM solution is not that consumer friendly either. I certainly like the concept of DRM, but I personally avoid using it myself. It is very annoying when it doesn?t work, and I stay away from DRM protected files because of a few bad experiences I?ve had with them.

    There is one major problem with DRM: people should be able to seamlessly move around and use (this includes playing, converting, and editing) their content on any device they tag as their own. I believe to aid in this effort, DRM protected files should be container files (similar to zip files) that each contains actual content data, as well as metadata files. This would allow the goal I outlined above, to be accommodated. (Also, please read [url=http://www.zdnet.com/5208-10532-0.html?forumID=1&threadID=14171&messageID=284635&start=-24]here[/url].)
    P. Douglas
    • What you're really buying

      It is easy to talk about what one should (or would like) to do with music one has purchased.
      We are accustomed to the copywrite rules which have been historically applied to copywrited materials. However, when you purchase a cd or dvd which contains artwork which has been encoded under a DRM scheme, you are not buying a cd, or a dvd. You are buying a License to use the content according to the rules established by the digital Restrictions Management software. The cd/dvd is simply a medium for enabling you to run the software contained on the dvd/cd. The seller has every right to define that license in any way he pleases. The Customer has only one choice: Buy it or move on.
      This is not unfair, and it is not illegal.

      You may complain the the seller, you may paper zdnn talkbacks with your rants, you may even
      choose to violate the license. But none of it will change the rules. Two actions may be effective:
      1. The Market Place. Read the License (if there is one) and pass on every object, if you can't live with the restrictions.
      2. Everyone who is reading this discussion should make a resolution to spend 10% of the time you spend here, writing your congress person.
      jimbo_z
      • I'm All for Equity

        As far as I?m concerned, the law should stipulate (if it does not already do so) that the consumer has the right to [b]privately use any[/b] DRM protected file on any device he owns, in any way he pleases. No content provider should be able to abridge this basic right. However beyond this, content providers should be able to dictate how their contents are used. This means e.g. if someone wants to edit several of his videos and put together a DVD he privately uses, he should be able to do so. If the consumer on the other hand wants to make several copies of the DVD that contain content that restricts this from happening, then DRM should be able to accommodate this scenario for the content provider.
        P. Douglas
        • The problem with your architecture..

          is that it reintroduces friction into the system where there should be none. I understand that you may feel it is better than nothing. But let's say I don't own a computer. Or, let's say I'm on a ski slope and I hear a cool song on the radio by the food stand and think, man that would be cool to snowboard to and I try to download it to my phone so I can play while heading down the slope. So many people tell me .. hey man, just use JHYMN or whatever. Imagine if you had to walk down to your router and had to do something to it for every packet that came through. The beauty of bits is that they're supposed to be frictionless (in all environments, not just the ones someone else decides for us).

          db
          dberlind
          • Seamless DRM is Very Important

            What I suggested is not incompatible with the free distribution (within reasonable limits) of digital content that you like. Market forces could allow eventually 2, 3, or more DRM standards to emerge that are interoperable. This means that after a while, someone could be able to download a song on his iTunes phone, and then be able to easily copy it to all the digital devices he owns ? even without a computer.

            I just like you, find DRM now annoying. However it really is necessary, and it will enable astonishing things to happen as books, music, video, and other IP become digitized. The computer industry could see another information revolution with the broad digitization of IP ? on a scale that many people have never dreamed of. However, it is really incumbent for us to get DRM seamless and right in order to make this happen.
            P. Douglas
        • Which calls for a DMCA exception

          ---If the consumer on the other hand wants to make several
          copies of the DVD that contain content that restricts this from
          happening, then DRM should be able to accommodate this scenario
          for the content provider.---

          Right now, the content purchaser would be guilty of violating the
          DMCA for circumventing the copy protection, even though making
          the compilation was entirely within his rights. Which once again
          shows how poorly written a law the DMCA is.
          tic swayback
          • I Agree

            Note: What I meant to say was:

            [i]This means e.g. if someone wants to edit several of his videos and put together a DVD he privately uses, he should be able to do so. If the consumer on the other hand wants to make several copies of the DVD [b][for broad distribution instead of for personal use, and the DVD contains][/b] content that restricts this from happening, then DRM should be able to accommodate this scenario for the content provider.[/i]

            Under my suggestion [url= http://www.zdnet.com/5208-10532-0.html?forumID=1&threadID=14171&messageID=284635&start=-24]here[/url] and [url= http://www.zdnet.com/5208-10532-0.html?forumID=1&threadID=14423&messageID=289623&start=-35]here[/url], DRM could prevent this from happening, by disallowing the playing for the digital content on devices not tagged as belonging to the licensee of the digital content.

            [i]Right now, the content purchaser would be guilty of violating the
            DMCA for circumventing the copy protection, even though making
            the compilation was entirely within his rights. Which once again
            shows how poorly written a law the DMCA is.[/i]

            I do believe as a rule of thumb, technology restriction issues should be addressed by technology - not legislation.
            P. Douglas
          • One sided

            ---I do believe as a rule of thumb, technology restriction issues
            should be addressed by technology - not legislation.---

            The problem with that approach is it's too one-sided. That means
            that those who make the technology would essentially control the
            rights of the purchasers, even to the point of trampling our
            codified rights. We do need some legislation to keep the playing
            field level.
            tic swayback
          • There also needs to be legal limits on contract law.

            Tic--

            There also needs to be limits on contract law that ensure that the customer retains those statutory rights that are supposed to keep the playing field level. The big problem with customer protection is that the various political groups (like EFF, etc.) fight with tooth and nail to get what little they can from a rather bribed Congress. But what wins they get can be taken away by a simple clause in the EULA.

            We need to make sure that our rights to use copyrighted material that we legally purchased remains as sacred as our right to own our own bodies-- that is, we should not be legally able to "contract away" certain rights as much as we are not allowed to contract ourselves to slavery. And if you asked me, those rights include (1) the right to purchase (not license/rent) intellectual property [i.e. you cannot waive the Doctrine of First Sale], (2) the right to "use" the work in its normal manner but for any purpose (this dispels all of those 'you need a separate right to use what you bought' arguments), (3) the right to reverse engineer intellectual property for scholarly and auditing purposes, (4) the right to Fair Use, and (4) the right to enjoy and reproduce the work for private purposes.

            I am generally a supporter of the freedom to contract. But EULAs and adhesion contracts are not contracts negotiated in good faith. Take-it-or-leave-it may be a negotiation (since you get to choose to spend money or not), but it there is no good faith, no mutual agreement, no fair dealing. And ultimately, it isn't in society's best interest to allow one side to dictate the terms of the agreement. The government has recognized the danger of one-sided contracts in many cases-- in any contract for things like a rental home, a rental car, insurance, a hotel stay, or a loan, there are laws that limit what the seller can ask for and what the buyer can waive. These laws protect the customer from legal abuse. But for copyright, Congress has not come around to protecting customers yet.

            By restricting your own right to contract on certain (abusive) terms, then you will actually get to keep more of your freedom in the end.

            Cheers!
            Root User
    • :)

      Well how about DRM files as container for the protected content and the metadata. This way we could use metadata externally since it wasn?t protected and still providing content security.

      my opinion...
      dotmindlabs
  • The Wall Street Journal Chimes In

    The WSJ has run an editorial on the subject, and they seem to be pretty much in agreement with you (although they come down a little too much in favor of the concept of DRM for my liking):

    http://ptech.wsj.com/archive/ptech-20051020.html
    Media Companies Go Too Far in Curbing Consumers' Activities

    By WALTER S. MOSSBERG

    In some quarters of the Internet, the three most hated letters of
    the alphabet are DRM. They stand for Digital Rights
    Management, a set of technologies for limiting how people can
    use the music and video files they've purchased from legal
    downloading services. DRM is even being used to limit what you
    can do with the music you buy on physical CDs, or the TV shows
    you record with a TiVo or other digital video recorder.

    Once mainly known inside the media industries and among
    activists who follow copyright issues, DRM is gradually becoming
    familiar to average consumers, who are increasingly bumping up
    against its limitations.

    [snip]

    Even if you think the record labels and movie studios are stupid
    and greedy, as many do, that doesn't entitle you to steal their
    products. If your local supermarket were run by people you
    didn't like, and charged more than you thought was fair, you
    wouldn't be entitled to shoplift Cheerios from its shelves.

    On the other hand, I believe that consumers should have broad
    leeway to use legally purchased music and video for personal,
    noncommercial purposes in any way they want -- as long as
    they don't engage in mass distribution. They should be able to
    copy it to as many personal digital devices as they own, convert
    it to any format those devices require, and play it in whatever
    locations, at whatever times, they choose.

    The beauty of digital media is the flexibility, and that flexibility
    shouldn't be destroyed for honest consumers just because the
    companies that sell them have a theft problem caused by a
    minority of people.

    Instead of using DRM to stop some individual from copying a
    song to give to her brother, the industry should be focusing on
    ways to use DRM to stop the serious pirates -- people who
    upload massive quantities of music and videos to so-called file-
    sharing sites, or factories in China that churn out millions of
    pirate CDs and DVDs.

    I believe Congress should rewrite the copyright laws to carve out
    a broad exemption for personal, noncommercial use by
    consumers, including sharing small numbers of copies among
    families.

    Until then, I suggest that consumers avoid stealing music and
    videos, but also boycott products like copy-protected CDs that
    overly limit usage and treat everyone like a criminal. That would
    send the industry a message to use DRM more judiciously.

    [Edited by: Stephen Howard-Sarin on Oct 21, 2005 12:47 PM]
    tic swayback
  • Gates is such a weasel....

    Blue-ray isn't anymore anti-consumer than Microsoft itself. The problem is that they are BOTH anti-consumer, both wanting to control everything you do with your own equipment and/or software.

    The real problem for Gates is that Microsoft may not stand to profit as much from Blue-Ray. That's it - the real bottom line for Billy.
    shawkins
  • Follow the money...

    According to Business Week, the key problem is that Microsoft's IHD system was rejected by the Blu-Ray Disc Assoc, in favor of a similar system promoted by HP and Sun. THAT'S why Microsoft is complaining about Blu-Ray.

    The URL for the Business Week article is http://yahoo.businessweek.com/technology/content/oct2005/tc20051020_154892.htm
    tonymus
    • Yes, MS reasons to reject Blu-ray...

      FAQ: HD DVD vs Blu-ray
      http://news.com.com/FAQ+HD+DVD+vs.+Blu-ray/2100-1041_3-5886956.html

      What are the differences between Blu-ray and HD DVD?
      ... Blu-ray uses Sun Microsystems' Java software for built-in interactive features, whereas HD DVD uses a technology called [b]iHD that Microsoft and Toshiba have worked on[/b]. (HD DVD uses MS technology, Blu-ray uses Java... enough said :-))

      and/or

      anonymous reader (Slashdot/Oct 7/05):
      "The private feud just became public. Apparently, Gates yelled at Sony's CEO because the new copy protection Blu-ray has adopted would prevent players from streaming content to the Xbox 360. Since the PS3 will have Blu-ray support but the Xbox 360 only has a plain DVD drive, this means PS3 will be the only console that can play HD movies. Also, Paramount just announced support for Blu-ray and Warner Brothers may also jump ship (just did recently?). Will VHS vs. Betamax turn out differently this time?"
      MacCanuck