In another story that will go down in history as one of the more severe Digtal Rights Management trainwrecks (and a shining example of why DRM will ultimately do a brand more harm than good), Major League Baseball (MLB) now finds itself in a PR nightmare after a technology adjustment resulted in the deactivation of content that many MLB fans purchased under the assumption that the content would be available to them indefinitely.
There are conflicting reports on the Net regarding MLB's response to the snafu. Yesterday, the Download Squad's Grant Robertson wrote:
Major League Baseball has deactivated a DRM license server used to verify your worthiness to play back video of games you purchased online......Due to an earlier decision to switch DRM providers, MLB's new content and old content are managed by different license authentication servers. After making the switch, MLB has arbitrarily decided it has no intention of honoring its earlier commitments to fans who purchased downloaded games under the old system, thereby rendering many fans shut-out.
But according to paidContent.org's Staci Kramer (via the New York Times -- login may be required):
Turns out the new system worked only with videos from 2007 forward; fans who purchased games in 2006 and earlier quickly discovered their purchased downloads were invalid.....[the MLB says] fans who purchased games with the now-broken licenses will be able to get every game replaced free of charge by versions with the right license. (That doesn’t make up for the cost in time, and in some cases, materials like CDs. MLBAM might want to consider a credit towards one or more new downloads, too.)
MLB may find this form of remediation to be suitable to its needs , but ultimately, it is not because of how customers will finally, one day start to avoid protected content like the plague. Instead, it's a perfect example of what a rotten idea DRM is in the first place. For starters, there are no DRM standards which means the many thousands or millions of content licensors like the MLB are making proprietary DRM platform selections that, for whatever reasons, will eventually change to the point that the most significant cost and inconvenience of that change will be borne by the end-users. Think about it. The cost of the MLB's change in DRM servers pales in comparision to the collective cost that its customers must now absorb (if you tally the cost of end-users' time).
From the MLB's point of view, they may be doing right by their customers by making them whole under the new DRM system. But, over the next 5-10 years, how many other content providers will go through the same shift before customers start to throw their hands in the air because of how they're spending more time catching up to the DRM systems of their content providers than they are enjoying the content itself.
Here's where this is going to end. Sooner or later, some content provider is going to get slapped with a class action lawsuit for breach of contract. That content provider will argue that its end user license agreement clearly articulates the risks of acquiring the content and how the provider assumes no liability for the impact of technical issues or decisions on content licensees (the customers). But the case will be so egregious in nature, and have caused such widespread outrage (so far, this MLB episode is basically a minor flare up) that the judge will be sympathetic to the licensees instead of the licensors.
Then, maybe then, licensors will see DRM as being more risky to their well-being rather than a technology that can secure their well-being.
Related: Music DRM dead by next summer