Hi-end audio pro weighs in on DRM conundrum

Hi-end audio pro weighs in on DRM conundrum

Summary: More and more great email is showing up in my inbox regarding my recent blog post on how my $20,000 worth of hi-end entertainment gear can't play my 99 cent songs (at least not the way it should be able to, there are workarounds).  Digital rights management technology is the culprit.

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TOPICS: Hardware
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More and more great email is showing up in my inbox regarding my recent blog post on how my $20,000 worth of hi-end entertainment gear can't play my 99 cent songs (at least not the way it should be able to, there are workarounds).  Digital rights management technology is the culprit.  The most recent of these e-mails came from Greg Havenga.  According to the e-mail, Havenga used to work for a subsidiary of Escient, the company whose MP3 server I'm now considering as a part of my whole home entertainment system.  He's currently the owner of Tekton Software Engineering Services.  Based on what he wrote, he clearly knows his stuff.  So, when an audio pro like this gets worked up over the DRM situation, it tells me that John Gilmore (who comes at this more from the digipolitical side of the issue than the audio side) is absolutely right when he predicts that the inconveniences introduced into our technology by DRM are going to get worse.  If the audio pros are worried about working with the technology, then you should be worried about buying it.  Havenga makes some solid recommendations that are consitent with Gilmore's at the end of this email:

I actually used to work for the ex-Escient subsidiary PowerFile. I did a lot of the firmware in its C200 200 disk DVD jukebox and it's successors. I also worked at Harman International where I did the serial interface in Citation 5.0 and Signature 2.5), so I've been interested in this [DRM] stuff for some time.   I also did work for another Harman outfit  -- AudioAccess -- and actually still have the engineering mule of the six zone audio distribution amp I worked on.
 
Since I did the firmware on that last project, I needed a test program to exercise it.  When I built my home theater system, I decided to put the amp in service to drive my kitchen, my deck, and a pair of studio monitors that I use when playing guitar.  I thought it would be neat to turn zones on and off remotely, and didn't like the idea of having to wire my whole house up with RS485, etc.  So I just put a web server (via the Indy components for Borland C++ Builder) in the test app, and now, from any node on my home network with a browser - including my PDA, I can turn zones on and off, and control volume, etc.
 
Then, I got the bright idea of embedding pages for playing MP3s, WAVs, and OGGs, (I used the bass.dll and basswma.dll from http://www.un4seen.com/) and "voila!," I had a do it yourself (DIY) whole home jukebox!
 
The only chores I have left are (1) writing the autoripper for the C200 (I have three of them, including my now-useless engineering mule).  So I can automatically re-rip my entire CD collection (200 discs at a time) at a decent bit rate (hard drives are much bigger and I retired my Rio 300 a long time ago), and (2) prettying up the interface to the zone control and jukebox pages on the web server.

Also, the same repository that serves my jukebox is also used to populate via WiFi my OmniFi DMP1 that's installed in my car (look into it - 20GB - or more if you do a DIY upgrade - permanently installed in your car - and they're being dumped for $100 to $150 everywhere.  The best thing about Omnifi is that it now runs open source firmware, so if you wanna hack it, go right head!  The stock firmware is terrible, but OpenFi rocks.
 
As far as DRM, quit buying new music from DRM sources.  Buy everything you can second hand, now's a good time to fill your back catalog from  used music stores. Be sure to fanatically support artists that release their own non-DRM music, and eventually the big guys will have to give in.  Of course, all our gullible teens will have to be educated on the value of making their own music and looking into old stuff.
 
Greg

Topic: Hardware

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23 comments
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  • I fail to see the point.

    Is it his point that you should make your own products and sell it the way you want? If so he correct.
    No_Ax_to_Grind
    • The real point is in the last paragraph

      Actually, there are two "points".

      All the stuff before the last paragraph was commiserating about having put together a neat system and then having DRM raise it's ugly head and threaten it's usefulness.

      The last paragraph simply describes buying habits that make DRM a non-issue. The only thing people who promote DRM understand is money. Making your own music, sticking to non-DRM sources, and rewarding those providers who do not subscribe to DRM practices with your POCKETBOOK is the only way to combat it.
      ghavenga
      • I agree completely.

        Vote with your wallet.
        No_Ax_to_Grind
        • You assume a Free Market

          Which isn't the case. The Music Labels have an oligoply hence they were able to price fix CDs, yes they were convicted of this. They will use this same power to force DRM.

          You also assume that the RIAA and MPAA haven't been piddling with congress nad buying laws. Copy Protection on Music Players http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap10.html#1002 for digital music and for Video ...

          "(A) Effective 18 months after the date of the enactment of this chapter, no person shall manufacture, import, offer to the public, provide or otherwise traffic in any -

          (i) VHS format analog video cassette recorder unless such recorder conforms to the automatic gain control copy control technology;

          (ii) 8mm format analog video cassette camcorder unless such camcorder conforms to the automatic gain control technology;

          (iii) Beta format analog video cassette recorder, unless such recorder conforms to the automatic gain control copy control technology, except that this requirement shall not apply until there are 1,000 Beta format analog video cassette recorders sold in the United States in any one calendar year after the date of the enactment of this chapter;

          (iv) 8mm format analog video cassette recorder that is not an analog video cassette camcorder, unless such recorder conforms to the automatic gain control copy control technology, except that this requirement shall not apply until there are 20,000 such recorders sold in the United States in any one calendar year after the date of the enactment of this chapter; or

          (v) analog video cassette recorder that records using an NTSC format video input and that is not otherwise covered under clauses (i) through (iv), unless such device conforms to the automatic gain control copy control technology.

          (B) Effective on the date of the enactment of this chapter, no person shall manufacture, import, offer to the public, provide or otherwise traffic in -

          (i) any VHS format analog video cassette recorder or any 8mm format analog video cassette recorder if the design of the model of such recorder has been modified after such date of enactment so that a model of recorder that previously conformed to the automatic gain control copy control technology no longer conforms to such technology; or

          (ii) any VHS format analog video cassette recorder, or any 8mm format analog video cassette recorder that is not an 8mm analog video cassette camcorder, if the design of the model of such recorder has been modified after such date of enactment so that a model of recorder that previously conformed to the four-line colorstripe copy control technology no longer conforms to such technology."

          Note there is no provisions for Digital Recorders. This is becuase when this was drafted it was assumed that there would never be any home digital video recorders.

          Okay so what's the Beef that these labels have. It is twofold;

          1. Bot the the AHRA and DMCA have provisions for home copying. The AHRA exemptions is section 1008 http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap10.html#1008 WHile the DMCA makes it ilegal to use certain types of copycontrol on;

          "(2) Certain encoding restrictions. - No person shall apply the automatic gain control copy control technology or colorstripe copy control technology to prevent or limit consumer copying except such copying -

          (A) of a single transmission, or specified group of transmissions, of live events or of audiovisual works for which a member of the public has exercised choice in selecting the transmissions, including the content of the transmissions or the time of receipt of such transmissions, or both, and as to which such member is charged a separate fee for each such transmission or specified group of transmissions;

          (B) from a copy of a transmission of a live event or an audiovisual work if such transmission is provided by a channel or service where payment is made by a member of the public for such channel or service in the form of a subscription fee that entitles the member of the public to receive all of the programming contained in such channel or service;

          (C) from a physical medium containing one or more prerecorded audiovisual works; or

          (D) from a copy of a transmission described in subparagraph (A) or from a copy made from a physical medium described in subparagraph (C)."

          and

          2. DRM is not being used for copy control. It is being used to prevent people from playing music, Playing Movies (To watch them), load/execute (Run) softwrae, and Open Texts (To read them) but most of all DRM is designed to not allow consumers to transfer their copies to other consumers. None of the above rights are given to copyright holders. In fact First Sale specific allows consumers to transfer their copies http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.html#109 and in the case of software CONTU http://digital-law-online.info/CONTU/contu1.html specifically had section 117 of the US Copyright Act rewritten so the consumer would always have the right to run their software.
          Ed_Meyers
          • So your point is, "Owners make the rules".

            So what?
            No_Ax_to_Grind
          • See Answer Bellow

            I answered both your posts... In one thread- Two for one.
            Ed_Meyers
  • $20,000 stereo vs $0.99 songs

    David, you are either whinning or boasting about your audio system, perhaps you are doing both?

    As you are obviously fond of boasting about how much money you have spent on your stereo stop being cheap, buy the CD's and then rip them yourself. That way the music industry get's their piece of the pie, which they *are* entitled to, you get your tunes in a format that works with your new toy.

    Gee, that was hard...
    balsover
    • DUH!

      "buy the CD's and then rip them yourself" is the problem. When DRM gets into full gear, CD will be rip proof.
      in-DUH-vidual
      • You got it!

        And the only way to make DRM impractical and make it go away is to quit buying anything that incorporates it.
        ghavenga
    • It's the quality....

      The issue at hand is there is no way to download a CD quality recording to his audiophile grade system.

      Everyone knows the buy / burn / rip cycle - but you go from compressed to uncompressed to compressed again, which yields a recording of crappy quality.

      What stinks is that EVERYONE is penalized for those people who choose to steal music.

      The issue is not paying for music, it's being able to buy music conveniently and be able to _USE_ it in a way someone with a high-end system sees fit.
      ghavenga
      • Use EAC to rip...

        ... and rip non-lossy for saving offline.
        Gives control of what goes on a given self-made CD.

        Most pc's are not that accurate, so I keep 224 mp3's ripped with CDex on the hard drive.

        You wrote:
        Everyone knows the buy / burn / rip cycle - but you go from compressed to uncompressed to compressed again, which yields a recording of crappy quality.

        (Unless you meant buy a song online, which is useless, I think.)


        As far as the boycott DRM recommendation goes, that's a non-starter.

        The RIAA companies would use reduced sales - if the effort succeeds at all - to complain more loudly to the US Congress about piracy, and we'd see more hard-wired DRM in electronics.
        And maybe also powers of investigation and penalty given to the RIAA that I'd prefer not to think about.
        Anton Philidor
  • A note about www.un4seen.com...

    ... mentioned in a quote in the article.

    On that site you can get the free XMPlay, which to me has the best sound of any player.

    Not the easiest to use; the accompanying text guide is necessarily lengthy. (There's also a very good support site.) It also doesn't play video.

    Worth trying, anyway.
    Anton Philidor
  • The Real Issue here

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/09/23/mac_linux_users_told_to_buy_cd_players/

    "Now, we need to understand that listening to music on your computer is an extra privilege. Normally people listen to music on their car or through their home stereos... If you are a Linux or Mac user, you should consider purchasing a regular CD player."

    This is a very slippery slope here. After Mac and Linux computers, what will you do when they don't allow you to play CDs without DRM- You will have to buy a new CD Player.

    Also it should be noted there is an oligopoly with music labels. The labels are begining to not sell music without DRM.

    To make matters worse they are also pushing laws to "Regulate" broadband content ,through FCC, like Radio and TV Content. Those who offer btoadband content will soon need to take out an expensive FCC license- thus squashing artist publishing their own stuff sans DRM. This will also prevent consumers from not buying DRM music- at least if you want new music.
    Ed_Meyers
    • What is your point?

      Is it your point that the OWNERS/SELLERS set the price and terms of sale?
      No_Ax_to_Grind
      • See Bellow

        I answered both of your what is the point posts.

        Another point here is that under copyright the producer does not have total control. Sections 107-122, section 1008, and section 1202 all restrict the authors rights. In some countries their laws go even further and specifically give consumers rights versus just restricting the owners rights.

        You seem to be confusing IP with real property. In addition not all terms are enforceble in a contract. Especially if the two parties do not have equal power... there are so many cases of this that you should know this and you have actually made me chuckle.
        Ed_Meyers
  • No The Point Is

    Under copyright law the owner of the copy (The Consumer) has rights as the author has been restricted from enforcing certain rights.

    Under DRM the owner of the copy has no rights what so ever- not even the right to play, read, or run the copy they legitamtly own. DRM conflicts with copright law becuase it allows the author total control.

    Before the DMCA was enacted digital music already had to have copy control. The DMCA itself was designed so that consumers could still tape TV and Record from the radio, as copyright owners are not allowed to encrypt broadcasts unless they are PPV or Subscruption. However due to the way the DMCA has been interperted they no longer may have that right.

    Also you can't just vote with your wallet becuase the RIAA and MPAA are both Oligopolies. They control the market, sometimes ilegally.

    Not to mention right now the RIAA and MPAA are petitioning congress to force you to get a FCC license , and pay substansial fees, if you offer content over the internet. If this passes you will not be able to purchase music directly from most artist as they will not have the funds to purchase the FCC license. Again you will be forced to purchase DRMed media.

    THIS IS NOT ABOUT A FEW KIDS SWAPPING THE LATEST [INSERT JUNK BOY-BAND'S NAME] SONGS THROUGH P2P. In fact the greatest losses are due to comercial pirates who are out on the street corner's and flea markets of most countries hawking pirated $1.00-$5.00 CD's and DVDs. DRM is not goinf to stop these guys as all DRM technologies have been shown they can be broken. The losers are the artist and the law-abiding consumers.
    Ed_Meyers
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