Yet another attempt at DRM

That’s the title of my weekly Slaw post today.

It says:

There have been a few articles recently talking about a new proposed method of digital rights management called Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem. The idea is to control what we do with video purchased online, and allow us to use it on multiple devices. See this LATimes article, and this TechCrunch article.

One problem with DRM is that it never really works. Someone always finds a way around it, so it does nothing to stop pirating on a commercial scale. And it usually causes problems for the average consumer, and puts undue limitations on what we can do with it. So the entertainment industry then tries to get laws passed to make it illegal to circumvent digital locks. (That’s one of the objections to bill C-61 – but I digress.)

This new system is being touted to overcome the problem where people buy, for example, a song to play on their MP3 player, but DRM prevents them from playing it on their computer or in their car.

Apparently the proposed system would allowed one to play it on any device you have that you register with “them”. This raises huge privacy flags for me. It would require us to register with “them” and list every device we want to play this content on. Perhaps the privacy issues could be addressed – but regardless of the privacy promises we receive – how many consumers would want to give this kind of information to an industry that has a tendency to sue its customers? 

QTrax raises privacy issues

There has been a huge controversy over the last day or so regarding the QTrax announcement that it has deals with major labels to allow free music downloads. The catch was that those deals areapparently not in place yet. There is also (in my mind at least) a looming privacy issue.

In return for the free downloads the user must watch advertising while it downloads. The labels are to get a share of the advertising revenue.

The privacy issue is that the revenue is apparently calculated on actual use, ie how often the songs are listened to, in addition to how often they are downloaded. That means there is a DRM mechanism that reports back how often you listened.

The Qtrax web site says there is no spyware, but I couldn’t find any details about the reporting issue, nor a privacy policy. Lets hope it does not report back any personal info, and that they explain how it works so consumers can make an educated decision about using the service.

Read a Times Online article

Read a GigaOM post

Digital security business threatens to sue Apple, Microsoft, etc.

I’ve said before that only the music industry would sue its customers to force them to buy their products. In another spin on that, CNet reports that “A California company that makes technology designed to prevent ripping of digital audio streams has accused Apple, Microsoft, RealNetworks and Adobe Systems of violating federal copyright law by “actively avoiding” use of its products”

The gist is that the US DMCA makes it illegal to circumvent technological protection measures that control access to copyrighted works. This company makes technology designed to prevent anauthorized copying. So their logic is that if a business that supplies/enables digital media does not buy their product, it must be violating the DMCA.

Read the CNet article

Copyright continues to confound

Digitization and the Internet continue to challenge business models, and as often happens with disruptive technology, it takes a long time for people to come to grips with all its ramifications.

Just over the past few days:

A Brussels Court ruled Google violated copyright laws by publishing links to Belgian newspapers without permission and ordered the company to remove them. Frankly, I don’t understand why a newspaper would not want a search engine to link to them. Don’t they want to be found?

Read more in the LawDay newsletter

Canadian Heritage (ie the Canadian government) released a report on the future of the Canadian music industry. It takes a candid tour of the history of music technology, and where it might be headed, and what models might work. DRM is not an option it supports.

Read Michael Geist’s summary and take a look at the report

Microsoft announced a new DRM for mobile devices called “PlayReady”

Read a TechTree article about PlayReady

The Canadian Private Copying Collective, which administers the private copying levy, has asked the Copyright Board to increase the levy on blank CDs and add levies to memory cards and digital audio players. If the proposal was adopted, it would add a substantial cost to MP3 palyers lke the iPod, and to the storage cards we buy for cameras and other devices.

Read part 1 of Michael Geist’s thoughts on this

Read part 2 of Michael Geist’s thoughts on this

DRM – Apple – Steve Jobs pronouncement gets huge reaction

Steve Job’s anti-drm essay has received a lot of attention over the last few days. Is this the beginning of the end for DRM? Lets hope the Canadian legislators are paying attention to this in connection with the copyright reform bill thats in the works.

For those who have not seen it – he published an essay concluding that Apple would prefer to be able to sell music withut DRM.

Essentially he said the reason Apple had to put DRM on its iTunes songs to limit consumer use was that the record companies demanded it. Without it, they would not provide iTunes with the songs.

There has been much speculation as to why Apple is now saying this. One motivator will be the decision in Norway saying that Apple’s DRM is illegal as it prevents interoperability. This is Apple’s way of saying to Norway that its not Apple’s fault – they are the victim. Other suggested motivators are a negotiating tactic with the labels for a new deal for iPhone downloads, and a ploy for publicity.

Whatever the motivators, its another example of Steve Job’s ability to get publicity and position Apple as a friend of the consumer – sometimes referred to as his “reality distortion field”. He has sensed that the planets are aligning on this issue – ranging from the Norway decision, the growing awareness of drm in the public, the growing anti-drm movement, and a growing number of smaller labels offering music without drm.

And there is evidence that the approach may be working – or at least has been timed to appear it is working (which from a publicity perspective is just as good for Apple). Michael Geist points out this morning that several news sources are reporting that EMI, one of the 4 major labels, is considering allowing the sale of drm free mp3′s.

And the RIAA’s response was amusing (talk about a reality distortion field). The essay discussed and rejected the possibility of Apple licensing its Fairplay drm software. The RIAA responded by saying that Apple’s offer to license Fairplay was a welcome breakthough.

Read Steve Job’s essay

Read an article in the Register about the Norway issue

Read Michael’s post about EMI

Read an engadget post about the RIAA response

Vista DRM hacked already!!

One of Vista’s “features” is that it can downgrade high definition content if it decides proper licensing or authorization is not in place. That ties in with the restrictions designed into HD-DVD and Blu-Ray.

It seems that this DRM has already been cracked. So the new HD disk formats and Vista are barely here, and the DRM can be defeated on all of them.

Boing Boing has a good piece on the Vista hack and the Montreal man that created it. One interesting angle is that he is afraid to release too much for fear of violating US law, even though he is in Canada, and it may not violate Canadian law.

Read the Boing Boing article

Read a Toronto Star article by Michael Geist that talks about Vista fine print and the DRM issue

HD-DVD DRM cracked

ArsTechnica has an article that says the first pirated HD DVD movie is available through BitTorrent. That’s more evidence to suggest that the time and effort that the entertainment industry puts into DRM efforts is wasted.

I don’t think there is any DRM method that has been tried over the years that has not been defeated. It thus does not offer the industry any real protection – while at the same time causes all sorts of problems for consumers.

That’s why the industry wants legal protection to make it illegal to defeat DRM. The problem is that the combination of DRM and legal protection makes it illegal for consumers to do things that copyright law otherwise allows us to do.

Read the ArsTechica article

Gates on DRM

In an interview, Bill Gates comments that DRM causes huge problems and “too much pain for legitmate buyers.”

Couple that with a Techdirt article about eMusic being very successful selling music without DRM.

So forget DRM – or at least find a way to make it work in a way that does not cause the pain.

Read a Boing Boing comment on Bill Gates’ comment

Read the Techdirt post

Privacy Commissioner fact sheet on DRM / TPM

Michael Geist comments on the recently issued fact sheet of the Canadian Privacy Commissioner of DRM / TPM. And yes, there is a difference between DRM (digital rights management), and TPM (technological protection measures), but the high level philosophy is the same for both.

The fact sheet does a good job of summarizing the privacy concerns about DRM/TPM, and refers to the Sony rootkit as an example.

Read Michael’s comment

Look at the fact sheet

Youtube, DRM, ratings, and sales

A couple of articles I saw this morning together emphasize that the efforts to stop every technical copyright violation of ones content, promote DRM, and protect it with DMCA type legislation (unfortunately probably coming to Canada soon) do not in the long run protect copyright holder interests.

Techmeme points to an article that says that CBS TV ratings have increased for shows that CBS posted clips of on Youtube.

Michael Geist points to a Newsweek article that talks about how people are getting fed up with competing and incompatible rights management schemes for music players and download sites.

I think the discussions about the things that should be exempt from legislation preventing DRM hacks is misplaced – simply don’t pass DRM protecting legislation in the first place.

I do have sympathy for creators of products not getting compensated for that due to unpaid copying (bootleg copying or counterfeiting is certainly not a good thing). Most of the efforts at DRM and trying to stop individual copying or posting on sites like YouTube does not seem in the long run to have any positive effect.

Seems that ticking off the very customers you want to reach, and stopping free advertising, outweighs any protection that is gained.

Read the techmeme post

Read Michael Geist’s post