Yuck. Chocolate never tasted this C.R.A.P-py

Yuck. Chocolate never tasted this C.R.A.P-py

Summary: Over the past few days, Verizon Wireless (VZW) has been turning some heads with the announcement of a new addition to its handset line-up -- this one. LG's super stylish Chocolate (pictured left).

SHARE:
TOPICS: Legal
119

lgchoco.JPGOver the past few days, Verizon Wireless (VZW) has been turning some heads with the announcement of a new addition to its handset line-up -- this one. LG's super stylish Chocolate (pictured left).  The device handset is one part EVDO phone (EVDO is the type of wireless broadband network run by VZW) and one part stereo MP3 player.  Using VZW's VCast service, customers of the cellco can purchase songs wirelessly and have them downloaded to the Chocolate or, through their PCs, they can access the VZW's online store and synch that music (as well as other music you've converted from CD to MP3) to the handset.  Most news stories regarding the handset's release speak of how Verizon Wireless has its sights set on Apple's iTunes Music Store (iTMS) and the corresponding iPods on which music purchased at the iTMS works.

The first question I always have when I see a new device that does music like this one is what CRAP does it work with.  CRAP is my personal acronym for the digital rights management (DRM) technology found in many of today's mutlimedia gadgets and software and it stands for Cancellation, Restriction, and Punishment (all of which DRM technologies enable).  Actually, it was the Free Software Foundation's Richard Stallman who proposed that definition after I originally started with "Content Restriction, Anullment, and Protection."  ZDNet readers like Stallman's expanded version of the acronym better than mine which is why I've gone with it.  For more about CRAP, check out my videos: CRAP, The Movie and CRAP, The Sequel.  Also, as a sidenote, Stallman and his compatriots at the Free Software Foundation are having a bear of a time managing the incompatibilities between the GNU General Public License and CRAP. Here's more on that if you're interested.

But, to better understand what is meant by cancellation, restriction, and punishment, one need look no further than VZW's license agreement which, in part, says the following (I've boldfaced some of the more interesting parts):

All music sales are final. All content offered through the Service (“Secure Content”) is protected by Windows Media® digital rights management technology (“WM-DRM”) so that the intellectual property rights, including copyright, of the content owners that have licensed Secure Content to the Service (“Secure Content Owners”) are not misappropriated. Your rights with respect to Secure Content are limited by copyright law and by the Usage Rules below. Your V CAST phone uses WM-DRM software to play Secure Content (“WM-DRM Software”). Use or distribution of WM-DRM Software outside of the Service is prohibited without a license from Microsoft or an authorized Microsoft subsidiary. If the security of the WM-DRM Software in your phone has been compromised, Secure Content Owners may request of Microsoft, and Microsoft may require of Verizon Wireless, to revoke the WM-DRM Software’s ability to acquire new licenses to copy, display and/or play Secure Content without notice. Revocation does not alter the WM-DRM Software’s ability to play unprotected content. A list of revoked WM-DRM Software is sent to your phone whenever you download a license for Secure Content. Microsoft may, in conjunction with such license, also download revocation lists onto your phone on behalf of Secure Content Owners.....You may: (i) play back Secure Content an unlimited number of times; (ii) burn Secure Content to compact disc (CD) five (5) times per song; and (iii) use a compatible USB cable to synchronize (“sync”) Secure Content stored on your PC to three (3) portable digital media players that support WM-DRM, including your V CAST phone (“Authorized Portable Device”). Secure Content that you have synced to an Authorized Portable Device cannot be further transferred to other devices for playback. Verizon Wireless may modify these Usage Rules without notice to you, and may enforce these rules (for itself and for Secure Content Owners) without notice to you.

Seems kind of lopsided, doesn't it? 

The basic message, if I read the complete notice correctly (here's the entire thing), is that the license agreement places all sorts of restrictions on the customer, but is pretty much non-binding (in terms of the customer's rights) to Verizon Wireless. VZW can change what rules it wants, when it wants and doesn't have to tell you and the net result could be the revocation of your content.

I'm trying to figure out where else in life we normally put up with such lopsidedness.  Maybe you know. 

Update: For another eye-opener on the sort of shenanigans that certain wireless carriers are engaging in -- particularly when it comes to disabling the cooler features in your phones, check out a Buyer Beware I just posted.

Topic: Legal

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

119 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • More info here

    Wired has a blog entry on the phone. Much like Verizon's decision to cripple bluetooth and charge you $15 a month to get photos off of your RAZR, they're making this phone less than usable as well:

    http://blog.wired.com/music/index.blog?entry_id=1530757
    tic swayback
  • So then be a big boy and decide to buy it or not.

    I mean how hard is that???
    No_Ax_to_Grind
    • I'm sure that's the point

      Hum... I don't think he's going to buy one. As a member of the press interested in DRM it's kind of normal to report on this. You don't reply aggressively to opinion pieces on politics by saying "Well then big boy don't vote for them. how hard is that ???"

      I for one would like to thank David for reporting on c.r.a.p :). It's nice to see someone who wasn't already fighting in the open source trenches reporting on this. It's about time a discussion is opened up on consumer rights and DRM. Many people are no aware of what they are buying into.
      Daniel Cremer
      • Thank you Daniel

        That was a little welcome light on the subject. You are right. Most people don't know what a EULA is. Much less C.R.A.P. IP in the US is a crying shame. Just think wanting to put DRM between a video card and a monitor. What's next putting it between a walkman and the earphones.
        OldMarine
    • The point is...

      these devices would be pretty handy, if it wasn't for the CRAP the wrings the life out of them. The CRAP really isn't necessary, and is so far slanted to the artist that it sucks the joy out of the owner's experience. Some people may buy this without knowledge of how restrictive it is. So why not do it right? Why saddle great technology with dumb ideas? It's frustrating for those that can see the potential of the device. That's the point.
      ejhonda
      • Slanted to the artist?

        Doubt it. Slanted to that grimy grey amorphous being, the "middle man"--the recording companies--appears to be more accurate.
        Henry Miller
      • Not slanted toward the artist

        So far, the artists are getting none of the money from RIAA lawsuits and according to Weird Al Yankovic's blog, they get a much smaller portion of royalties from DRM'ed downloads than they do from cd sales.
        tic swayback
    • Ok, let me put it another way to David.

      David, I understand that most are not going to like DRM in their "entertainment". However, it is obvious that a large percentage of consumers have abused the old model of distribution of non-DRM entertainment.

      For the last three years I spoke up LOUDLY that if the pirating wasn't controled everyone would pay for it. You on the other hand said little to nothing about this looming problem and like many assuned nothing could be done. Many of your articles went something like, Pirating is bad and shouldn't be done, wink, wink. However if your going to do it the best tools are blah, blah, blah...

      What's the old saying? All evil requires is for good men to do nothing. You have certainly proven that adage to be correct.

      What consumers are going to find is that in the very short future all forms of entertainment content will have DRM to curtail the piracy and each of us will have to decide who's DRM (looking like Apple and MS at the moment) they find most acceptable and live with it.

      In other words, look the device over and decide to buy it or not...
      No_Ax_to_Grind
      • Yes, people are accustomed...

        ... to invisible restrictions on their purchases. I'm still not consoled to the idea that I do not own a product I have bought, but obtain only some kind of contingent use. I still buy the products.

        I think the difficulty is that some people apply principles where they are not required to get through the day as well as possible. No problem with that.
        Then they wonder why other people do not act as they do. Deciding that the problem is lack of information (rather than lack of caring), they begin campaigns. No problem with that either, so long as the campaign is not obtrusive.

        The problem arises when people who know what's best for others attempt or (worse) even succeed in obtaining laws that restrict the behavior of people who do not want to act as their controllers believe necessary.

        So give Mr. Berlind credit; he's not asking for a law. And give most people crediot; they can decide what's worth their time and attention. And give the RIAA companies some credit, but only when they keep DRM invisible and are willing to make changes, even on previously purchased items, when the public does notice.

        So the future with DRM will not be as problematic as Mr. Berlind wishes or even as you predict.

        The far greater problem is RIAA resistence to internet distribution. That and not DRM will keep piracy thriving for a long time to come.
        Anton Philidor
        • I don't believe RIAA has issues with net distribution

          As long as they are paid for it.
          No_Ax_to_Grind
          • Long history of resistance.

            Remember the embarassingly poor sites the RIAA companies endorsed in order to show the Courts that they were making an effort to have legal downloads? Remember how long they delayed before permitting even those poor excuses?

            Remember the battle with Apple over a popular distribution mechanism? The RIAA companies wanted to increase the prices on some downloads by over 100%. Is this the way to increase the popularity of a volume business?
            The RIAA companies have determined not to yield any more control to Apple by involving the company in future projects, as Mr. Berlind noted in a prior article.

            Even Judges in Court decisions favorable to the RIAA have pointed out how absurdly extreme the resistance has been. If there's one given in this whole situation, it's the reluctance of the RIAA companies to permit use of the internet as a distribution channel.
            Anton Philidor
          • Fear of losing control

            The RIAA is not an oranization for artist but for Major Recording Lables. The big 5 used to enjoy a cartel where they could fix prices, something they've been convicted of several times. Thing is they were the gateway to any musician making it big. Very few do well with out them, they make sure of that.

            Now times have changed. Mucians can build thier own professional home recording studios for about $30,000. $30,000 is a small sum for running your own business. So no need to pay over inflated prices and sign away your rights with a Recording Lable to get recordings. Next thier is promotion. Sharing music is HUGE promotion. This is evident with tape trading in the late 80s and early 90s where the whole Grunge movement came from that dominated the music scene in the 90s. It occured again with Hip Hop in the late 90s with CD swapping after the CD burn got popular. The RIAA saw this threat to thier members.

            Just think of it like this. If college of tapes and CDs trading can make grunge bands popular and Hip Hop groups go more popular than ever then what will internet sharing do? What happens when musicians on a whole can access not just a few colleges but the entire world. This gives them power to negotiate with recording label. They could even say no and start thier own recording label with a few bands and friends. NickleBack ring a bell? That's what they did.

            With tons of minor recording labels out there with access to promotion via I-tunes like services and even illegal P2P services they are now a competive threat to the big 5 cartel.

            So that's why they resisted. They tried to fight it and get laws to even outlaw the net for music distribution. They have a lot lose. The artists have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
            voska
          • No need to fear

            Promoting a performer requires expending $10's of millions. That's not the same as being well-known on MySpace.

            Though a few may do better, most performers do not consider being dropped by a major label the steppingstone to ever-increasing success.

            And music made in the basement can be fine for certain purposes. But fitting a symphony orchestra in there, for instance, can take time and the full cooperation of all involved.

            Sometimes money is required to make money.

            The record labels are still required.

            They resist the internet because they like having the artists, retailers, and public do as required.

            And with a cooperative Congress, why bother changing the business model just to make additional $ billions?

            What's the public going to do, start selling the stuff to each other?

            Well, yes, that's what the public did.

            Now the conglomerate's executives have noticed that the content company executives were not willing to bestir themselves. The content company executives have been told off, and they are very angry. At the public. Expect a lot of suffering before the content company executives permit profits to increase.
            Anton Philidor
          • RIAA companies no longer needed

            Can't say I agree Anton. Record companies are a bad deal for artists and they don't serve much of a useful purpose anymore. The only thing they're good for right now is having the large horde of cash needed for payola to get you on MTV or the radio. However, as terrestrial radio is dying off, this may no longer be an issue.

            ---Promoting a performer requires expending $10's of millions. That's not the same as being well-known on MySpace.---

            Give it time. MySpace has just recently come into the public eye. So far, there have been some remarkable success stories (Clap Your Hands Say Yeah for one example). Give it 5 or 10 years and I guarantee you, it will expand and improve (or be replaced by something bigger and better).

            ---Though a few may do better, most performers do not consider being dropped by a major label the steppingstone to ever-increasing success.---

            Guess it depends on how you define success. I agree that you probably won't be the next Britney Spears by taking the indie route. That's okay, you can still make a nice living, do what you want to do for a living, afford a nice home, etc. I think the days of musicians living like kings are over. Instead they'll be more like book authors--well off but not extraordinarily rich.

            And many performers have found great success after being dumped by a major label (or denied in some way). It gives them a great deal of freedom, the power to control their own fate, which they didn't previously have. Wilco is the posterboy.

            ---And music made in the basement can be fine for certain purposes. But fitting a symphony orchestra in there, for instance, can take time and the full cooperation of all involved.---

            Okay, here's the thing. Recording costs overall have dropped, which is good. Now, no matter if you're with a label, or you're on your own, the same person is going to pay for recording costs--the artist. Doesn't matter if you're a garage band trio or a symphony. Artist still pays. The difference being that an independent artist can finance recording through a variety of means, a loan, savings, etc., while a signed artist gets only one choice--signing away all future earnings from the recording, along with losing copyright usually, and then still having to pay back the loan in full. Not a good deal at all.
            tic swayback
          • Better, artists no longer needed...

            ... judging by the success of charismatic - perhaps - but not not especially talented performers.


            I am sometimes concerned that my favorite performances are often of works by deceased composers played by demised soloists with musical accompaniment from groups which have subsequently changed members.

            That at least shows the value of the back catalogue, which cannot be taken from its current owners.


            On your comments:

            - Money is useful for more than payola.
            Consider building up a performer as an expense like building up a politician. Except that the position being sought by the artist pays better.
            Both, by the way, are equally confident of their views on public policy issues.

            - If Sirius radio is an indication, terrestrial radio will be able to continue for some time.
            And any form of radio will need an income flow, if only to assure the continuing presence of Howard Stern. So expect advertising to continue. The alternative is fund drives.

            - MySpace will probably be replaced by an equivalent as soon as parents have educated themselves on the rules and campaigned to improve them. Soon.
            But the next big thing will be an alternative big thing, and performers will probably have to start their campaigns all over again.
            A better alternative is a site devoted to a particular type of music, with recognized, trusted experts. Not soon.

            - If musicians wanted a comfortable middle class lifestyle, they'd become accountants first and then musicians, rather than going from musician to accountant.
            It's being the Next Britney Spears that keeps musicians up at night.
            Anton Philidor
          • I know of an artist that does exactly that

            I can say I only wish I made what they make in year.

            Seriously, if you're pulling some $800,000 a year with out record contract then you're doing something right. This person doesn't even do main stream music, but does folk music. $800,000 a year, that's like 16 times my wage. Imagine what someone who does popular music can do.

            This was person just at a festival last weekend, can't remember the name but the bio on the radio they did sure highlighted how successful, in the interview she said she made less but had freedom compared to mainstream artists. Take that for what it is but I have my theories on what she meant.
            voska
          • Anton--

            ---That at least shows the value of the back catalogue, which cannot be taken from its current owners---

            Well, once the revolution starts, the first thing that happens is the public domain gets expanded. Or you could just wait 150 years or so (assuming no more extensions to copyright are added).

            ---Consider building up a performer as an expense like building up a politician.---

            A good comparison. The thing is, no politician signs away all their rights and future earnings in order to be built up. They hire pubicists and advertising firms. And that's what I see the record companies morphing into, PR firms. They're very good at hype. But they'll have to settle for 10-20% of earnings, rather than 99.9%.

            ---If Sirius radio is an indication, terrestrial radio will be able to continue for some time---

            I wasn't thinking so much of Sirius. Just looking at the numbers of rock music stations that disappear every single week. Most are replaced by all-talk or all Spanish language/music stations. The rock station is quickly becoming a thing of the past.

            ---MySpace will probably be replaced by an equivalent as soon as parents have educated themselves on the rules and campaigned to improve them---

            Actually, MySpace will be replaced soon as it's becoming so mainstream. One thing kids can't stand is to be doing the same thing as their parents.

            ---If musicians wanted a comfortable middle class lifestyle, they'd become accountants first and then musicians, rather than going from musician to accountant.---

            I don't really agree. Well, to an extent. Yes, there are the famewhores out there who just want to be rich and famous. But the vast majority of working musicians do so because they love music. And the idea of getting to do what you love for a living is highly attractive. There was a great article a few years back about They Might Be Giants. How no, they're not disgustingly rich, but through their music they each own nice apartments and can put their kids through college and live a fun life. That's where I see things going. You don't see book authors throwing lavish parties with midgets and unicorns, or throwing televisions out hotel room windows. Musicians are going to become more and more like book authors, a career where you can make a nice living doing what you love.
            tic swayback
          • Accountants

            That made me laugh. You're good at music, you enjoy music and you can make money doing that. Now you hate numbers, you hate sitting at desk all day, you hate working 9-5, and you make the same money doing that. Which would you choose? People like doing what they are interested in and what they are good at not what they hate. If you don't have to do what you hate why would choose to do what you hate. That doesn't make sense.
            voska
          • Yes, but the problem is why they resist.

            Could it have anything to do with the fact piracy is rampant on the net? Yeah, I would say it does.

            An analogy (horrible like all analogies) might be, why doesn't WalMart place their goods on the sidewalk up and down the street for several block to "make it weasy on customers"? Answer, becasue they know the goods would be stolen.

            In truth, the reason we don't have the level of access desired is because there was no way to secure it and the providers (read that as investors) simply couldn't take the risk without a workable DRM of some kind.
            No_Ax_to_Grind
          • What does legal internet distribution have to do with this?

            ---Could it have anything to do with the fact piracy is rampant on the net?---

            How does legal internet distribution contribute to piracy? Why does resisting having legal ways for people to get music online stop piracy, in your mind?

            ---In truth, the reason we don't have the level of access desired is because there was no way to secure it and the providers (read that as investors) simply couldn't take the risk without a workable DRM of some kind.---

            Not a valid argument. If this were true, record companies would stop selling CDs. That's where all the pirated songs are coming from, not from iTunes and the like.
            tic swayback