DRMed for Life

Published: Thursday, May 3rd 2007

In the news recently has been the whole thing about not only the copy protection on HD-DVD and Blu-Ray disks being cracked but people posting digg links with decryption keys in them. I can understand Digg's position in removing said posts until the community kicked off and they then decided they'll go down with the ship if they got prosecuted. Hurrah for someone over there seeing sense.

One part of my brain always goes "Hooray for the hackers" whenever we hear stories about DRM being hacked in whatever guise it has been created. Another part of my brain, probably the more rational side I guess, does kick in afterwards and say that putting these things out in the wild will enable more software / media piracy and will incur costs for the companies that produce it which will make them either raise costs or step up counter-piracy methods. I never get to the "woe is me" stage like most media company execs do as they are truly multi-billion dollar organisations so it's hardly going to come out of the mail boy's pay cheque and they are unlikely to go bust.

What I do question properly though is the rationale that got us here in the first place. Since the 60s with tape-to-tape reels starting to replace vinyl records, music, film and software piracy has got bigger and bigger. What has happened though is nothing short of an arms race. Consistent through this entire arms race have been three key points:

  1. That me, or anyone else, once they have bought a product has the right to play or use it for their own personal enjoyment whenever they see fit. This is the argument that most consumers will play - I might by a CD album but I want to play it on my MP3 player. I might buy a DVD but I want to play it on my Linux laptop as well as on my TV.

  2. Companies that produce consumable media assume that anyone that wants to copy a product is inherently up to no good and they are now labelled as pirates and are probably taking the music / film / software and selling it in backstreet market stalls.

  3. The profligacy of piracy is directly related to the first two points and how policed piracy is within the community.

One can directly see that paid for knock off copies of movies and music is completely against the law as you are selling someone's work and is tantamount to counterfeiting. However the framework for dealing with these people exists within the law and we are starting to see this go down.

The media companies will tell you that it's because of their anti-copy protection, however in reality it is because of better policing and it being viewed as being a black market operation and it having been historically a move away from "hard crimes" that has occured over the last 20 years.

This argument doesn't wash at all with consumers. Once I purchase a peice of media it is mine to use how I want on whatever device I want.

The barriers that are being put up by the media companies in their zero tolerance to consumers is assuring their position as the "big bad ogre" in all of this. Were they to engage with the consumers who are most likely to want to move content from one form to another they would probably be able to reach a solution.

Indeed were they to strip all DRM from their content altogether and then spend the money on producing better content or else supporting better policing they would probably turn a larger profit.

In the words of Nixon, "I am not a crook" - but I do want to watch Spiderman 3 when it comes out possibly on my TV from my XBOX, on my Linux Laptop, Windows Media centre and my PDA. At the moment I'll be lucky if one of those four work so I probably won't buy it at all.

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"DRMed for Life"
Published on
Thursday, May 3rd 2007
DRM media movies piracy rant
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