No surprise: DRM nightmare rears ugly head. Again.

No surprise: DRM nightmare rears ugly head. Again.

Summary: If you've never heard of the Digital Living Network Alliance, now is a good time to get hip to it.  The DLNA is a multivendor alliance that's promoting the idea of standards-based wireless and wired interoperation of everything from computers to hifi gear to multimedia-enabled phones.

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TOPICS: Hardware
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If you've never heard of the Digital Living Network Alliance, now is a good time to get hip to it.  The DLNA is a multivendor alliance that's promoting the idea of standards-based wireless and wired interoperation of everything from computers to hifi gear to multimedia-enabled phones.  The alliance's backers -- including Intel, Sony, Kenwood, Pioneer, Panasonic and Microsoft -- reads like a who's who of the tech and consumer electronic industries.  To get the all the different computer and personal entertainment products that need to interoperate with each to actual working together (something most gear doesn't do very well today unless it comes from the same manufacturer), the DLNA has issued version 1.0 of its interoperability guidelines

One of the first problems with the guidelines is that you have to pay $500 for a copy or join the DLNA for $5,000.  This must be something that the consumer electronics industry insisted on since no one in their right mind in the computer industry would ever charge to download a technical specification that's for interoperation.  Imagine for example, if the W3C or OASIS charged money to see the specification for the HTTP protocol or the OpenDocument Format.  Can you say dead on arrival? I can't think of a more perfect way to lock out the real innovators working in their basements and garages.

But the second problem recently got some coverage over on CMP's Embedded.com.  According to the report, version 1.0 of the DLNA's interoperability guidelines left one small detail out: what to do about Digital Restrictions Management (DRM: some people like to call it Digital Rights Management.  But it's way more about restrictions than it is about rights).   Why is this a problem? Well, DLNA 1.0-certified products are just now beginning to surface on the market and there's one small hitch.  You may be able to connect them to each other.  But just try passing that DRMed song or video you recently bought at some online music store and, poof!; nothing works (by the way; some time, in the not too distant future, all CDs and DVDs will be DRMed as well).  The report quotes Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) television and video systems standards vice president Jim Williams being critical of the DLNA's failure to address DRM when he said that consumers:

should be able to put their devices together...Right now, if they did that, the only thing they would be able to pass across the interface would be their own personal content.

Sound familiar? Well, if you've been reading my series on why the world needs declare inDRMpendence by saying no to DRM -- at least until everyone is on board with a single open DRM standard -- then you'd know that I'm encountering exactly that problem right now because I can't play the 99 cent songs that I bought on iTunes on my whole home entertainment system.

Even worse, the DLNA has formed a sub-group to work on another layer of DRM called physical-link encryption.  Without looking, I'm guessing that the entertainment companies want this before they'll let home entertainment devices stream DRMed content across a network.  Without some other form of DRM like encryption, other devices could easily pick up the stream -- particularly if it's on a wireless connection -- and play the content (a right that the entertainment industry doesn't want us to have). Today, such streaming constitutes DRM circumvention which is officially against the law according to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  Just what we need: the addition of insult to injury.

Topic: Hardware

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25 comments
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  • As Dennis Miller likes to say...

    Screw it. Lets have Pie!

    If what the MPAA and RIAA wants is for me to just step back and out of any and all media purchases, then they have accomplished their goal.

    It's just too damned much of a mess right now.
    BitTwiddler
    • Another pirate...

      ... reducing sales because of all those free movies and songs you're downloading.

      A successful enough boycott can lead to DRM mandated by the US Congress.

      The loudest voice can shape the message.
      Anton Philidor
      • piratebay.org - allofmp3.com etc

        I love being a pirate so i can watch tv on my labtop while i travel. your comment is correct but you and your crowd answer why i call call ALL of this hollystupid...
        cyber-shoplifter
    • I will keep buying used cd's and dvd's and

      d/l as much content as I want. Wheen the part is over I will move on. Learn french, travel, play more golf...screw hollystupid and all the daft DRM ideas they have.
      cyber-shoplifter
  • The Key

    Go David!

    The Key to making the content Kings sit up and take notice of the problems with Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) is definitely to pull in the consumer electronics(CE people.

    Many are of the CE, of course, are not buying into any of the existing DRM models in a big way (possible exception; CD - but even this is far from universal). The simple problem, from their point of view, is that DRM adds cost in order to minimise functionality. Pretty much the way we consumers view DRM...

    What we need to consider next is; can we identify the link from consumer information utility to business information utility?
    Stephen Wheeler
  • Schitzo

    What does a company like Sony do about DRM? On one hand, they are members of the RIAA and MPAA. On the other hand, they make the devices that they want to interoperate with other vendors. Sony's DRM ATRAC failed miserably, so where do they go now?
    Roger Ramjet
    • It's all good

      You don't understand -- Sony is banking on new, incompatible, media driving purchases of new CE equipment to play it.
      Yagotta B. Kidding
      • optical next gen media is dead already

        we are a year away from 25-50 gig dvd's showing up who is really going to want them?
        cyber-shoplifter
    • Choices

      Not so much of a choice that it will send them schitzo. Don't forget that before iPod there was Walkman - built on the open standard cassette tape format.

      Sony are probably in the best place (as CE firms go) to see what has to come next...

      - We can't own the standard (ATRAC); and
      - We can't afford the other, closed, standards (e.g. Apple); so
      - Why not try a consortium, and an open standard?

      The tough part is not the technology, nor the commercial aspects of interoperability, it's not even the costs of a new format. The problem is content 'ownership'.

      So long as we continue to think in rigid terms of outrageous ownership rights, as per the DMCA, the farther we are from that consortium - and an open platform for digital art distribution.
      Stephen Wheeler
      • Sony has had hits as well as misses ...

        1) They have made the Memory Stick a viable format, even more so with the introduction of the incredibly successful PSP.

        2) The jury's still out on UMD movies, but if the price were equivalent to DVDs, I could see it taking marketshare, especially for kid flix.

        3) Sony lost on Betamax for consumers, but kept making money on Beta in the industrial space. One of my favorite pro formats was Betacam SP.
        terry flores
        • iPod was incredibly successful Not PSP

          last big hit for Sony was walkman, ps2 other than that they will lose with ps3 and psp is a dog. Samsung rules not disfunctional sony
          cyber-shoplifter
    • They will die...

      crap products & crap content.
      cyber-shoplifter
  • Speaking of more DRM nightmares...

    ...here's a roundup of the DRM issues with the new video iPod, rendering it a much less useful product than it could have been:

    http://www.boingboing.net/2005/10/12/apples_new_thing_vid.html

    Note that there is a link to an excellent tutorial on how to rip a DVD to a format you can use on your new iPod:

    http://diveintomark.org/howto/ipod-dvd-ripping-guide/
    tic swayback
    • can i put my vid files on ipod??

      divx etc. can i convert to put on ipod?
      cyber-shoplifter
  • You, sir, are a banana

    "by the way; some time, in the not too distant future, all CDs and DVDs will be DRMed as well"

    all *new* CDs/DVDs, you mean?

    Unless they gain the power to send frickin' laser beams into my house and convert my stash of DVDRs to a DRM format. Then, my good man, we have a problem.
    voice_of_all_reason
    • You're right..

      all new CDs and DVDs.

      --The banana.
      dberlind
    • I am with you

      music, movies, tv shows will always be out in cyberspace for us to grab they just like to pretend that consumers are morons in hollystupid. With millions upon millions d/l the next gen of drm crapafied products will do about as well as divx dvd players (remember) SACD and DVDaudio did.
      cyber-shoplifter
  • Single DRM standard

    Be careful what you ask for.

    Since the only players who get a vote are on the "over my dead body will they do that" side of things, any DRM standard would automatically prevent copy owners from doing anything that anyone anywhere anywhen objected to.

    Time-shifting? No way.
    Recoding? Not a chance.
    Space-shifting? You've got to be kidding.
    Transfer? Please, you're killing me.

    Et cetera. At least with the present chaos, you can sometimes find something that accidentally lets you do useful things.
    Yagotta B. Kidding
    • There alreadis a single DRM standard.

      But don't tell Apple. The content companies want it to be a surprise.
      Anton Philidor
  • Important Design Issues with DRM

    I think DRM schemes should allow people to tag devices as belonging to them, using some sort of digital ID. When content is purchased, it should be able to be associated with a person?s digital ID, so that the content can be played seamlessly on every device the user tags as his own. This arrangement allows for a lot of flexibility. A person could e.g. back up his files on disk, and even send a copy of the files via disk or electronically, and DRM could regulate how the distributed content is played. Content providers could optionally allow content to play for a limited time on devices that don?t have the corresponding digital ID associated with the content. Content providers could alternately not allow the content to play on these ?foreign? devices, or allow the content to play freely on all ?foreign? devices.

    One other thing: OSs certified to handle DRM files should directly read and write to DRM files, and associated license files should be done away with. This would simplify for users, how DRM protected files are managed. E.g. if a content provider specified that a promotional DRM protected video file should be allowed to played by a consumer for only 30 days, the consumer?s computer certified OS should associate the file downloaded from the Internet, with the user?s digital ID, and should note the date of the download in the content file. Every time the file is played, the consumer?s computer could check to see if the limited time specified for use of the file by the content provider has elapsed. When the trial time for the file has elapsed, the consumer?s computer should mark the file as expired, and no longer play the file.

    The above arrangement provides for a lot of flexibility. It allows the user to copy the file to other devices that he owns and play them freely. However, since every device contains a certified DRM OS, all the devices ensure that the content is not allowed to be played longer than the time specified by the content provider.

    The above arrangement should make DRM more palatable for both consumers and content providers.
    P. Douglas