Does a compelling product make you overlook the built-in DRM?

Does a compelling product make you overlook the built-in DRM?

Summary: Let's say there was a compelling product on sale that interested you. Maybe it's a games console, or maybe it's a player of some kind. Or it could even be a service such as iTunes or Audible. Let's say that you really wanted what this product or service had to offer but in your research you discover baked-in DRM of one kind or another. You want the product or service but you're aware that there's DRM involved that could be a problem in the future.


Let's say there was a compelling product on sale that interested you.  Maybe it's a games console, or maybe it's a player of some kind.  Or it could even be a service such as iTunes or Audible.  Let's say that you really wanted what this product or service had to offer but in your research you discover baked-in DRM of one kind or another.  You want the product or service but you're aware that there's DRM involved that could be a problem in the future. 

Does a compelling product make you overlook the built-in DRM?My question is this - Does a compelling product make you overlook the built-in DRM?

What actually got me thinking about this was a post made by Jeff Atwood on his blog relating to DRM and how ignorance of it can be expensive.  Jeff's just bought an Xbox 360 and have to re-buy the content that he'd bought on an Xbox 360 that he had at work:

I've purchased lots of downloadable content on the Xbox 360 at work, primarily new songs for Guitar Hero 2, Guitar Hero 3, and Rock Band. I foolishly assumed all along that it would be no big deal to transfer that purchased content if I ever purchased an Xbox 360 for my home.

Big mistake.


In the end, I broke down and re-purchased 11,240 MS Points worth of Guitar Hero 2, Guitar Hero 3, and Rock Band songs through my personal Xbox Live profile on my home Xbox 360. If you're keeping score at home that's $140.50 in real money. To buy the exact same content. Again.

[poll id=265] 

Now Jeff's a pretty smart guy and for him to fall into a trap that cost him nearly a hundred and fifty green ones shows just what a minefield DRM is. 

But then in the back and forth of the comments section of that post Jeff says something that's very interesting:

I think the iPhone and Xbox 360 are such compelling consumer products that it's actually a reasonable tradeoff to live with their DRM lock-in limitations.

As Frans [someone commenting on the blog] pointed out, I could boycott the Xbox 360 and go PS3, but that's trading one set of problems for another. I am *mightily* impressed that Sony allows you to copy downloaded content to five different PS3s, though.

Similarly, I could boycott the iPhone (or hack/unlock it, which I do not believe is a sustainible [sic] medium or long term solution)-- but honestly, no other smartphone comes close to the iPhone in terms of features and internet browsing experience.

I'm now back full circle to my initial question - Does a compelling product make you overlook the built-in DRM?  Well, does it?

Speaking personally, I'm no fan of DRM but I'm not allergic to the point of anaphylaxis either.  For example, I have a subscription to that gives me two DRM-loaded audio books a month.  I've bought content from iTunes (but only because I've been given gift cards and vouchers ... I've not personally paid for any content other than the iPod touch software update).  I have an extensive DVD collection.  I don't have any content on Blu-ray or HD-DVD, but that's not because of the DRM as much as I don't feel the need to go HD.  I have a Wii and a PS2.  I also have an extensive PC games library that requires a lot of jigging about if I want to play the games without juggling discs. 

Where do you draw the line between a cool product and the restrictions put in place by the baked-in DRM?  Do you buy into something irrespective of the DRM or does the presence of DRM prevent you from going through with purchases?


Topics: Security, Hardware, Microsoft, Mobility

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


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Never

    I have no problems with the device. I'd avoid buying content that is DRMed to a particular machine though. So take the I-Pod as an example. I'd buy one but I'd put my own music in a non DRM format. I'd buy non DRM music but would not ever buy DRM music.

    For the X-Box. I'd buy an it but I wouldn't buy the DRM crap that is locked to that particular X-Box. I'd buy game discs that I can re-sell or trade for others though.

    So no, a compelling product won't get me buying DRM. No matter how good the a music player is if it can't run DRM free music it's useless to me.
  • I don't mind it

    When it's stuff I can only play on one sort of apparatus, so for a game console, I don't care nor mind.

    When it's something I could use on more than one sort of device, I don't like it when it forces me to use it on only said device.
  • DRM has always been about

    getting you to pay more than once for the same content.
    • To be fair

      ... I think has usually been about stopping you paying LESS than once for content.
      • Sure, but...

        The problem is, those who ensure you pay at least once, don't mind if you have to pay more than once. They don't see *that* as an equally big problem! And that is the real problem with DRM. If they made it so that you paid exactly once, and were able to transfer your content without issues and the license didn't ever get corrupted or lost, etc., we wouldn't have the hue and outcry against it. Bottom line is, they haven't made sure it works well for *both* sides of that coin.
      • Not really

        If that were the case, they would have confiscated or DRM'd my cassett radio back in the '80s. I remember being surprised about the whole Napster thing five years after i had recorded hours of my favorite radio show in cassette tape. I know, silly back then, but the principal is the same.

        If DRM were about keeping us from getting and sharing free music, it would have started a long time ago. DRM is about making consumers pay more than once for the same content, since it is easier to download (a large market) and the profit margin is lower on physical media (CDs, DVDs, etc. - a larger market)
        • Actually, It DID start a long time ago.

          There was a surcharge built into the cost of blank audio tapes that went to the music companies to "repay them for the losses incurred by copying".

          It was mentioned here in another DRM argument.

          I believe that there is also a surcharge built into the cost of blank CD-r's for the same reason. It wouldn't surprise me if the same was true for DVD+-r's.

          So you see, the music industry HAS been profiting off of copying for a long time now. Heck, they've been wrongly profiting off of those using blank media for non copying purposes as well.

          Backing up My Docs to a CD-R? Ooops, well, the music industry just made another few cents off you.
  • There are no compelling products with DRM.

    The title is an oxymoron. By definition, DRM is C.R.A.P. and it doesn't matter how much perfume (otherwise great product buit on top) you put on a pile of the same, it is still C.R.A.P.

    • DRM is not CRAP

      free music streaming is no crap. only DRM make it possible ( at least if you want to do it with content owner approval )
      • Not sure what you mean?

        Why is free streaming music infected with DRM? Do you mean internet radio or a subscription music service? DRM makes nothing possible where it is not technically possible already. It may be a requirement of the provider, but DRM solves no technological barrier.

        • DRM offers new technical capabilities

          I personally do not want my medical records to be available to anyone, DRM insure that only authorized personal has access to it and cannot diseminate copies.

          I can give you plenty of industrial scenarii were restricting access and capability make plenty of sense.

          DRM in and of itself is neutral. What makes a difference is how it is used.

          I do not blame content owner if they do not want their content to be streaming without disabling saving it for later use. Because that means I will have access to streamed content whereas I otherwise wouldn't have.

          What must be checked though is that real unbiased competition exist between content providers so that no quasi monopoly get into place, and also that I am not denied right I already have. But that is not a problem of DRM, that is a problem of law enforcement and regulation.
          • DRM problems with content

            The problem with DRM for distributing content is you have to give the keys to the person accessing that content. Now this works great if the person who has the keys has a vested interest in not releasing that content. So for medical records it works great. The doctor has no reason to put your medical records a P2P file swapping service for example. Now a criminal who has every reason to put the content they have on to a service like this and they have the keys to do so. They maybe hidden and difficult to access but the keys are there none the less. This is why DRM fails for protecting music and movies. People share these things for what ever justification makes them feel they can commit a crime in doing so. So DRM is useless here and just means an additional cost passed on to the consumer who does commit copyright infringement.

            Another thing that ticks me off about DRM for copyright works is that copyright is limited in time. So there does come a time when copyrights expire. In the US that's such a huge time period that it's likely not to matter for some time. But in countries where the copyright law are reasonable many works you can buy today are expiring in copyright in a few years. That's music and movies from 1957 or earlier where I live. The problem is say I bought a movie done in 1958 which today is under protection of copyright today but by the end of this year will not be any longer still has the DRM protection preventing me from using that as public domain work as is legal to do in the country I live in. This actually is a problem for me.

            Now I noticed Disney pulled some interesting tricks to get around this. Take the movie Snow White which is from the 1938 if I remember correct. It was done in the late 30s for sure as it states that in the movie with an interview on the DVD. So this movie is now public domain and should DRM free. To get around this Disney puts a music video done when this movie was released to DVD some years back that is copyright protected and they apply DRM on the entire disc to cover that one small part that is copyright protected even though the feature film is public domain. Sneaky if you ask me and not right as well.
          • DRM are not just about music and movies

            Controlling? permission according to user credentials is DRM. Its use in the entertainment content distribution is just a subpart of it. The same techniqcs are used, the same features are necessary.

            Just see SUN open source initiative about DRM:

            For your information, you have DRM in acrobat, for documetnation, in CAD CAM modeling for model distribution to subcantractors, in medicals... etc
          • Sure DRM has uses

            It's just useless for content delivery.
          • Oops mistake here, answer was meant for TripleII

            I agree that DRM for content delivery is no way to block content dissemination, at least not when distributing to the mass market.

            It is meant to keep disseminated material use at the margin, so that it becomes economically acceptable
          • You are confusing security with DRM.

            There is no distribution of your medical records. What is needed (and in place) is security of your medical records. Obviously security for Medical records, Credit Card companies, Banks, etc is beyond critical, but should not be confused with DRM.

            [B]Digital rights management (DRM) is an umbrella term that refers to access control technologies used by publishers and copyright holders to limit usage of digital media or devices.[/B]

            The key above is "publishers and copyright holders". Taken at the fringes, all security is DRM and all DRM is simply security, but the mainstream accepted definition of DRM is the control of distributed content by publishers and copyright holders.

            If your medical records are being published and distributed by publishers and copyright holders you are probably quite famous. :D

          • wrong assumption

            You may not realize this, but DRM can be broken. You going to put your faith in DRM to protect your medical records?

            Informed people feel otherwise.

          • You need a technichological edumacashun

            DRM is not encryption. You want your health
            records encrypted, not DRM'd. DRM
            is "Digital Rights Management" (supposedly).
            It removes your rights to access, it does
            not render your records unreadable to
            anyone. Do you want to be denied access to
            your own files, or any other files after you
            have paid for them, for that matter.

            The "law" doesn't know any more about it
            than you do, if as much. And you want to
            depend on THEM to enforce and regulate YOUR
            digital rights?

            No wonder we have so much technological
            digital confusion!
            Ole Man
          • as already said

            go see specification of sun proposed DReaM open source project.

            I want that only person authorized by my physician to be able to access only data he was granted rights over to do only things compatibile with the rights he was granted. I want the nurse to be only able to see the rpescription... etc

            movie copyright holder want that someone who only purchased the right to see a movie for the 48 hours can only do that, and nothing else, just like the nurse won't have the possibility to access and print the imagery section of the file.

            That is not enccryption that I want, Encryption is part of the equation. and I think you noticed that there is encryption in what you call DRM.
          • What I object to is...

            Not being able to use the stuff I bought and paid for.

            Anyone else buy anything from Urge (the Microsoft/MTV owned service that got pushed out with Windows Media Player 11)? Anyone able to still play music they purchased from Urge? When they got sold to Rhapsody guess what? Rhapsody uses a different DRM scheme of some sort and my system now thinks that all the music I bought from URGE is unauthorized and will no longer play, burn, or transfer to my MP3 player. Rhapsody was nice about it and when I complained, issued me credits with their service that I then used to buy the albums again - but what a pain.

            I do believe that the artists do deserve to get paid for their work. But they need to find a way to do it that is not so punishing/difficult for their paying customers.