With DRM (aka: C.R.A.P.), MTV's URGE aims to restrict playback

With DRM (aka: C.R.A.P.), MTV's URGE aims to restrict playback

Summary: In case you missed it, in my ongoing attempt to enlighten the world about the evils of digital rights management technology (aka: C.R.

TOPICS: Mobility

In case you missed it, in my ongoing attempt to enlighten the world about the evils of digital rights management technology (aka: C.R.A.P. -- also see CRAP, The Movie and CRAP, The Sequel), I noticed how fellow blogger Ed Bott discovered some onerous language (language that's empowered by DRM technology) in MTV's license agreement for its new URGE music service and then I piled on.  The bottom line is that by accepting the terms of MTV's license agreement, you're also explicitly handing the controls of some of your software over to MTV.  DRM is the means to this end. 

Now, thanks to a review by CNET blogger Jasmine France, we're beginning to find out more about MTV's intentions for DRM software.  In a blog entry that describes a process that music lovers can only pray they never have to go through (including Jasmine's ability to leverage her direct access to MTV as member of the press), Jasmine writes:

I started investigating the claim that MTV's Urge music service would never let you deauthorize a portable device. If true, it would mean that if one of your devices was lost, stolen, or broken, you wouldn't be able to replace it with another to use with your Urge subscription. In other words: a major bummer. A call to my contact at MTV confirmed that Urge does indeed allow for the deauthorization of players, with the standard restriction of replacing just one player per 30 days so that you're not constantly rotating in devices. The rep stated that they were currently working on building a Device Management page under the Account Summary section, but in the meantime, users could contact customer service in order to deauthorize devices. However, when I called customer service the next morning to try to deauthorize my iRiver Clix, I was told that I could not deauthorize my player...ever. Hmmmm.....Finally, I got one last call from MTV: deauthorization has not yet been built into the Urge service. It's something that MTV's engineers are working on while the service is in beta, but it will definitely be allowed.

So, what's wrong with this picture? Never mind the hoops Jasmine had to go through to figure out which way was up.  What's this deauthorization business about?  As it turns out, even if all of your devices use the same DRM technology (in this case it's Microsoft's) -- in other words, even if you planned ahead by purchasing all Microsoft DRM-compliant devices so that your content will work on all your devices -- MTV will apparently be limiting the number of your devices that can playback URGE content at any given point in time to two devices. 

So, let's say your iRiver H320 and your Oakley Thumprs (both Microsoft DRM-compliant) are your current authorized devices but you're taking a road trip in a car that has a Microsoft DRM-compliant in-dash playback device and you want to transfer the content for the trip. So, first you have to de-authorize one of the two authorized devices (make sure you call Jasmine so she can call MTV for you). Then, you authorize your car's playback device.  Then, you have to wait 30 days (well after your road trip is over) to move the content back into which ever of the other two devices you de-authorized?

Are these people nuts?  Why bother restricting the number of devices at all?  What's the point?  If the DRM works as it's supposed to, the only devices that will be able to playback the content are my devices.  So, why would any content provider not want me to be able to play their content back on as many devices as I can?

This is why I'm classifying this as another DRM trainwreck.  It is exactly this sort of SNAFU that most consumers don't realize awaits them as they head into this soon-to-be DRM-laden world with the blinders on.  To see a list of real-world DRM trainwrecks that helps to get this point across, go to the DRM trainwreck reading list on Del.icio.us.  And, if you discover another blog or other written record giving the details of a different trainwreck, join the anti-DRM cause by adding it to the DRM trainwreck reading list.  All you need is a Delicious account.  Then, bookmark the location of that trainwreck, and tag it with the tag "DRMtrainwreck".  See my post on why the abundance of DRM trainwrecks makes them worth tracking by all of us.

Topic: Mobility

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  • Inevitable

    While I completely agree with you in principle Mr. Berlind, I also recognize that DRM (CRAP) cannot be stopped.

    Most consumers have no clue. They won't ever understand until it's too late and they've already purchased the hardware and the content and then suddenly become aware of the limitations placed on them.

    They aren't likely to learn about DRM unless the story is aired on network or cablenews channels. Of course news organizations are by definition content companies who likely support DRM schemes. Retail outlets won't say a word about it because they want to sell hardware. Congress will not protect consumers because they are bought and paid for by the media lobby.

    It's inevitable. The only effective way to combat it is to stop buying any product which benefits and urge others to do the same.
    Tim Patterson
  • Pay more, do less

    This is why all of these services will fail so horribly. They expect the customer to pay the same amount (or often more) and get less. Who goes out and buys something new in hopes that it will do less than what is already owned?

    Speaking of insanity, have you seen this one? The RIAA cuts off a pay music streaming service that was succeeding in selling lots of cd's--why? They decided that allowing users to search for songs by the artist was "too interactive":

    tic swayback
    • NOT the RIAA

      According to the story you quoted, it took place in Europe, and the RIAA doesn't have any standing outside of the US, or they shouldn't. They were shut down because of a dispute with the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI). From my understanding, a similar organization to the RIAA, but not connected to each other.
      • Do you really believe that?

        A rose, by any other name....

        The RIAA runs all these international subsidiaries, like the CRIA or the European one mentioned in the article. It's the same group of 5 companies worldwide, no matter which acronym they're acting under.
        tic swayback
  • DRM: Content Providers New Whip And Leash

    All the characters below have English accents:

    Little kid / the consumer: ?Sir, may I be permitted to play my content on this new shiny device I just bought??
    Big, overbearing fat cat / content provider: ?What! You will play your content when and where I say so!?

    Welcome to the world of DRM folks!
    P. Douglas
  • Devil's Advocate...

    Ok, so a few things that you don't discuss is why such a limitation would be made in the first place. It is one thing to condemn DRM completely, but to say there is no use for such a limitation isn't correct either.

    I can imagine that you would agree (or perhaps you wouldn't...heh) that if you pay your cable subscriber for HBO and Showtime, that sharing this cable connection with your 2-3 neighbors is something that at best is a bit shady, but would go against the 'DRM' rules of your cable provider even though you are paying for the content and it's "yours".

    Now, imagine you and 6 of your best friends decide to sign up for URGE and you each have an iriver player or Oakley shades, or whatever works and whenever anyone feels like it they come over and load up their device with whatever good stuff happened to come out that week. Would this also seem reasonable and fair, or would the 'man' be sticking it to you here too?

    As it is, most people don't have 3-4 things that all play subscription content, but there has to be a limit there someplace, and to be fair, even in your example, you would have had enough to do everything without a set back.

    Now, Jasmine probably has lots of devices so she is certainly a unique case, but as long as you can deactivate old devices when you get new ones, is this really so bad?
    • So, the assumption is that I'm dishonest?

      What you're saying is that I will arrange to have my friends come over and hook their devices up to my computer so that their devices are authorized to actually be mind. I guess I could understand it if it looked like I was authorizing 20 devices. But 2? C'mon. That's over the top (or under the top).

      • Wal-Mart only allows 3

        All of the MS DRM stores limit the number of devices it will play on.

        Wal-Mart is 3 and I think Neo-Napster is 3 also.
        Edward Meyers
    • Consumer's advocate

      The concerns of the rightsholders don't really matter to me. I don't break the law. I will only buy products that are attractive and allow me to do what I want to do with them. Anything else is not my problem.
      tic swayback
    • Not the same

      The number of devices which can play the content is built into all MS Plays For Sure devices and into MS's own brand of C.R.A.P. Even the Wal-Mart iTunes like store where you "buy" the tracks builds in that you can only [b]play[/b] what you bought on 3 devices. If I own twenty or thirty devices then I expect it to play on all of them. Two is a ridiculously small number BTW. Think about how many music players you may have right now;

      1. The home DVD Player is capable of playing music CDs.

      2. Your clock radio with built in Tape/CD/MP3 player. You may have several of these.

      3. Your home stereo. You may have multiple stereos (Not uncommon) especially if you have children.

      4. Your car. Many families own more than 1 BTW.

      5. Your portable Walkman/MP3 player.

      6. Your boombox that you take to the beach, block party, park, your deck, ect.

      7. Your computer. Some families have more than one of these also.

      Not to mention it is not against the law right now to take music that have on Tape/Record/CD and [b]play[/b] it at a friend or relatives house.

      This isn't about piracy. This is about controlling/ripping off the consumer.

      [i]Now, imagine you and 6 of your best friends decide to sign up for URGE and you each have an iriver player or Oakley shades, or whatever works and whenever anyone feels like it they come over and load up their device with whatever good stuff happened to come out that week. Would this also seem reasonable and fair, or would the 'man' be sticking it to you here too?[/i]

      You have hit on a huge issue with the current C.R.A.P. system. It is a major point also BTW. C.R.A.P. does not prevent copying. It prevents [b]playing[/b] copies that have already been made. Making copies is an exclusive right of the copyright holder. Controlling private performance, playing the song, is not a right of the copyright holder under current copyright law. They are letting you make the copies, which they should prevent BTW if the real goal was thwarting copyright infringement, and then not allowing them to play, not one of their rights, after the copies have been made. This is the true nature of C.R.A.P. and not preventing the actual copyright infringement "Piracy" of making or distributing the copies in the first place but rather controlling all existing copies and whether or not they will play.

      [i]I can imagine that you would agree (or perhaps you wouldn't...heh) that if you pay your cable subscriber for HBO and Showtime, that sharing this cable connection with your 2-3 neighbors is something that at best is a bit shady, but would go against the 'DRM' rules of your cable provider even though you are paying for the content and it's "yours".[/i]

      sharing a cable connections is already against the law, and has been for over a decade. It isn't a little bit shady but is rather a criminal offense with jail time associated with it. There is no C.R.A.P. involved there either. The cable company comes out and looks at the box and sees illegal connections (Wires) to their box. This is not D.R.M. and is a stupid argument.

      A better argument would be that I subscribe to HBO and tape an HBO show when I was not home then take that tape and watch it on a friends VCR together. Should that be against the law.

      Now to understand what they have done with that same analogy; I tape a show off the TV on HBO, when I am at work, and take that tape into a spare bedroom and it will not play on the second or third TV. The content is tied to the device. That is what they have done.
      Edward Meyers
      • Fair Use is not Piracy

        Spot on Edward.

        The digital copyright act screwed us of some important rights; and the DRM that is evolving is a result of that screwing.

        Fair use used to be buying a copyrighted media, and using it as you saw fit, [i]for non-commercial purposes[/i].

        If I made a "Playlist" onto a cassette tape for use in my car, this duplication was not pursued by RIAA for the dozens of years that it was popular. It could be strongly argued under the Fair Use doctrine at the time that it was legal because there was no commercial purpose for it and it fit under the VCR ruling description of Fair-Use (moving it from one media to another).

        Now it is so frightfully easy to become a music and video publisher that ANYONE can do it. The recording industry worked for years to reverse the VHS ruling and succeeded. The Digital copyright law screwed us out of being in control of our ability to fairly move content from one device to another for our own purposes.

        My son had a project for science class involving newtonian physics and the possibility or impossibility of fight scenes in the movies. They chose a scene were Neo and Agent Smith were fighting on the subway platform in "The Matrix". I had a VCR, DVR, DVD-R, and DVD player. I had to make a DVD that showed the fight in real-time, slow-motion, and then again in real-time. Doing so is covered under the fair use doctrine.

        Connecting the DVD player to the DVR, I could record the scenes in sequence on the HDD, but not burn a DVD. Couldn't burn to the external DVD-r either. Had to copy to the VCR, then burn from the VCR to the DVD-r. It took hours to do this simple task.

        So, I've decided just to say no. If it comes with DRM, I don't buy it. And I write and tell them that I was going to buy it but didn't because they violate my right to fair use.

        If its not an MP3 (and I buy MP3 files) I don't buy it. End of story.
    • DRM - doomed ramshackle malware

      The notion of digital rights management for musicis never going to work IMO, because it can never be foolproof. (....fools are SO ingenious :-p )
      Ultimately, you HAVE to convert to audio - the human brain doesn't accept direct digital input. *smile* ....... Yet ... *eek*

      People happily accept the inevitable slight decrease in quality caused by the conversion to the extremely compact mp3 format.

      Play your music and re-record the audio output to convert back to digital in a file form that is free of any restraints.
      With a Pro sound-card (high-quality converters) the consequent quality loss of the double-conversion is very small indeed.
      ....and you can do WTF you like with it, copy it to play on "anything." *top*

      ....so we are faced with a choice .....
      Buy their DRM product at an extortionate price and suffer all the restrictions and problems of future obsolescence of format/player/License
      - OR -
      Rip-and-Burn via audio.
      AFAIK, this loophole is unpluggable.
      I was in the studio business while the industry was (wasting huge amounts of money and everybody's time) trying to create an "audio-based DRM type protection"
      This was the era of panic caused by the invention of audio cassettes and - much later, the first CD's
      The results of the various audio-based protection attempts were judged utterly atrocious by the Association Of Professional Sound Engineers* for the dire audio consequences clearly audible at the official demonstration of the proposed system.
      Strangely, ( *razz* ) the unanimous horror of the audiophiles wasn't shared by any of the assembled record-company people, who continued to talk up their proposals even as the audio experts almost vomited in the aisles.
      Indeed, very few accountants - oops....record execs .... saw/heard anything wrong with the protection at all and but for the the wholesale rejection by anyone with functional hearing - including the very artistes whose music this was going to "protect" - we WOULD have been had this atrocity inflicted upon us!!

      So now they are wasting money (YOURS! *mad* ) on developing a system which has an inherent work-around - quite apart from what any hackers/crackers may achieve in the future.

      The truth is - the days of the big record companies are over. For ever.

      In the past, an artiste had to create and demo their work and persuade a record-company to invest a large sum of money to finance the cost of professional recording, promoting and plugging.
      These days musicians are a lot more tech-savvy with regard to recording and the capabilities of quite cheap, easy to use software can rival the product of a pro-studio.
      .... if everyone in your band has cloth-ears then you'll need a Producer to keep you on track and give the product "audio gloss" but there are plenty of those guys around these days.

      As for promotion/sales/distribution .... Gnarles Barkly and now Ms Horne have shown that the internet can already be all you need.
      ...Oh..... you'll need some talent too, of course *lol* (...probably *wink* )

      How the artiste themselves protect their undeniable right to payment for their efforts is another closely related question of course, but whichever and however the long established role of the record companies is inevitably over.
      DRM for music is their desperate attempt to hang on to their income and industry control, but their day is over.
      They're obsolete in their present form, because their niche has been filled in and bypassed.

      Meanwhile, we're prolly looking at another decade of DRM attempts with all its frustrations, inconvenience (to us) and costs (to us). *mad*

      DRM ...... Desperate Record Moguls
  • Remove DRM completly

    There is a select group of tools that allow you to turn your MP3 players into a flash drive that plays whats on it. basically drag and drop your music to your device as you would a flash drive and play it, move it, copy it, whatever... Even the IPods can be use in this way with the right software.

    Now DRM is not a factor for me. I have been burned one to many times with such services invalidating my downloaded music that I purchased. I finally went out and got MP3s from P2P to replace every single DRM wma I had. and now I have zero problem when I want to make fair use of my music. If you get a ITunes CD download just make the cdrom asap, and rip the music back off into MP3 format with a free service like audiograbber. Then delete all your DRM garbage. Just about every Media player out there has a patch that makes them act like a standard flash drive or USB HD SOMEWHERE. Make use of them before someone gets a bug up their butt to remove this Fair Use ability.
  • I'm anti-drm...

    For example... I am a legitimate owner of a LARGE collection of DVD's and Music CD's, but I have only bought one CD with DRM installed (which nhappened to be a mistake).

    I never share my music with my friends (most don't have the same taste as me), and well... Burning DVD's. I've done it once or twice.. (Which is still legal here in Canada).

    Personally, the more the DRM goes in, the more they give me the shaft.. The less I buy, and the more I'll pirate. I'll be the first to admit, that the more they push me into piracy (from a legitimate owner) the less I feel guilty of ripping. I remember a time when I used to only do originals.. My friends always tried to convince me to rip, burn whatever..

    Now, i've gotten used to it. With prices soaring, DRM becoming the norm.. I don't feel the price matches what I would otherwise be receiving.. I've went 7-8 years buying DVD's without any restrictions to subscribe or whatever.. The day I have to subscribe is the day they've lost me as a customer.

    I'll say it now.. I see an album I want at a giood price, and no DRM.. I'll buy it.. I see one at an unreasonable price (if I want it). I go and rip it or download it. Quite simply they are making me pirate. Some will agree with this, other's won't but it's too bad. The ones who don't agree are usually the ones who haven't spent the same type of money like myself on DVD's and Music.

    Too bad suckers are born every minute and the RIAA and MPAA will go on and live in greed and gluttony.
  • Why Restrict?

    " Why bother restricting the number of devices at all? What's the point?"
    The point is just that. To make you pay again, and again, and again. To make your license to store/play and listen to the media completly ephemeral. Just another step towards the industries holy grail; Pay-Per-Play. Remember, when you buy a download on-line you're just buying a license. You have no rights in the downloaded media itself..... Hence, the Restriction. Annulment parts of David's C.R.A.P acronym...
  • pirate hackers from hell

    People authorizing their music to more than one device rather than buying a copy for everywhere they want to hear the content are the reason Birttany Spears is starving and destitute.

    Please support your local RIAA colluder, it's the decent thing to do.
  • Old technology

    It's time to pull my cassette deck out of storage! It's getting to the point where I don't bother buying music anymore. I listen to the radio or rent movies. It's just not worth the agrivation that the new devices cause. Of course, the RIAA will attribute the drop in sales to piracy and not themselves (the real cause).
  • Would a SIM card system work?

    If media players accepted a standard SIM Card-like identity key, then you'd have a physical way of authenticating. If you had two keys, then you could have songs loaded up on an unlimited number of devices, but only be able to play two at a time.
    • Biometrics

      How about a biometric ID system on every device. It could ID you as an authorized user of this song when you press your thumb on the "play" button. Then they could have the system shock you if you aren't an authorized user. Just make sure that nobody fiddles with your car stereo digital music car stereo :).

      Oh, and I'm sure that wouldn't add too much to the price.
      • Plus...

        ...plus it could be used to track your listening habits, not to mention your location. Everybody wins!
        tic swayback