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

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

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.

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