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So what's wrong with DRM in the platform anyway?

So what's wrong with DRM in the platform anyway?

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As I said yesterday, it's going to take a bit of time to get the next article in the "cdrom playback" series working, so I thought I'd turn the blog around and ask the people who read it a question.

I was reading Channel9 the other day, and someone turned a discussion of longhorn into a rant against the fact that Longhorn's going to be all about DRM (it's not, there will be DRM support in Longhorn, just like there has been DRM support in just about every version of Windows that's distributed windows media format).

But I was curious.  Why is it so evil that a platform contain DRM support?

My personal opinion is that DRM is a tool for content producers.  Content Producers are customers, just like everyone else that uses our product is a customer.  They want a platform that provides content protection.  You can debate whether or not that is a reasonable decision, but it's moot - the content producers today want it.

So Microsoft, as a platform vendor provides DRM for the content producers.  If we didn't, they wouldn't use our media formats, they'd find some other media format that DOES have DRM support for their content.

The decision to use (or not use) DRM is up to the content producer.  It's their content, they can decide how to distribute it.  You can author and distribute WMA/WMV files without content protection - all my ripped CDs are ripped without content protection (because I don't share them).  I have a bunch of WMV files shot on the camcorder that aren't DRM'ed - they're family photos, there's no point in using rights management.

There are professional content producers out there that aren't using DRM for their content (Thermal and a Quarter is a easy example I have on the tip of my tongue (as I write this, they've run out of bandwidth :( but...)).  And there are content producers that are using DRM.

But why is it evil to put the ability to use DRM into the product?

  • I'm pretty anti-DRM but a few years back i went to a DRM presentation (at work) and after asking some troll-ish type questions actually got a pretty clever answer.

    If Microsoft (or some technology company) doesn't provide a DRM platform, either the Media conglomerates will come up with one themselves (awful), or they'll get what they want via legislation (even worse).

    They're going to get their DRM either way. It might as well be MS that provides it instead of Sony or Warner Bros or $bought_and_paid_for_senator.

    At least there's a _chance_ we'll do something that isn't terrible.
  • I think the usual answer is that by providing a DRM platform, people belive that MS is encouraging content to be protected. People don't want that. They want to be able to play their music that they buy on CDs on their iPod. Especially with the whole trusted computing thing, MS seems to be aiding the content providers in locking people out of doing what they want to do with the media they buy.
  • My beef with DRM has more to do with its current limitations. I have somewhat limited experience with it since I try to avoid DRM'd content like the plague ;) So on to my beef, I do NOT like being told on what I can listen to/view my legally obtained content. Case in point, I have downloaded a number of songs off of MSN music onto my laptop. I went to transfer them to my MP3 player the other day, since I listen to them on the bus on the way to school. No go, they are DRM'd and thus I can't transfer them, they are forever stuck on my laptop, woo hoo because when I think of relaxing and listening to some music I like I sure do think of lugging my laptop all around with me, as opposed to ohh I don't know my mp3 player which is the size of a pack of gum. As far as my opinions on it being included in Windows? I don't really care, as long as it is an opt in type thing. Like you said you currently can choose to DRM things or not, as long as it doesn't turn into a situation where everything is DRM'd by default. I recognize there is always a trade off between security and usability, and a constant battle between content producers and consumers. I just want to make sure that both sides are being represented, and all decisions aren't being forced by unethical, corrupt organizations (cough cough RIAA/MPAA cough cough)
  • DRM is not evil a priori. It's evil in what content producers end up using it for. The fact that a digital album download costs as much (or more) as the physical CD, AND the restrictions placed on the digital download (limited number of computers, burns, etc.) are more restrictive than the physical equivalent is insane. Digital content should be about enablement, not restriction.

    So in that sense, putting DRM into the platform is like being a gun manufacturer: You can tout all the positive reasons for owning guns, but at the end of the day guns are used for a whole lot of bad reasons.

    What content providers fail to realize is that if they offered a DRM-free product at reasonable prices, it suddenly becomes a viable alternative to the content downloaded off one of the P2P solutions.

    DRM is one of those things we will look at 20 years from now and remember as a artificial construct built to temporarily maintain economic scenarios that were no longer viable.

    Just my 0.000001$US.
  • I asked the same thing. People told me two things:

    1. There is no DRM standard, so there is lock in ( We know how much we _hate_ locking ;))
    2. People still seem to think that we are convicted monopolists or something and don't feel easy with use pushing the DRM solutions.

    Anyhoo.
    It will all just be fine.
  • The biggest problems I have with DRM are that I can't use it the way I want to, and it is totally dependent on the company that provides it.

    Firstly, I can take a song I have personally ripped into an mp3, load it on all the computers in my house, all the mp3 players I have, and burn it to as many cds I want for my own use. All perfectly legal and good. I can even go so far as stream it to my work computer and listen to it there. Even further, I recently realized the last batch of CD-R's I purchased had a bunch of lemons, so I had to reburn a bunch of cds. With DRM I don't have those freedoms. I might be able to keep it on my computer and burn it to a cd (singular) or even a couple of cds, but I am still limited to the number of times I can do that. If I get a crappy cd that skips all over the place, I wasted one of my precious burns, and have to use another.

    For the second point, what happens if Napster goes bankrupt (again)? All the songs I "purchased" still work on my current music player, but what if future ones don't support it? If I have an mp3 or an unDRM'ed (is that a word?) version of a song, I can convert it to a newer, more popular format, but I can't do that with a DRM'ed song without breaking the law (DMCA).

    Aside from all that, I am really really really anal about my music files, and having 1 or 2 wma files in a folder full of mp3's sticks out like a sore thumb to me :).
  • Microsoft provided a DRM platform with a lot of flexibility. Tracks and be played {W} many times or until {X} date. They can be copied to {Y} devices and burnt to CD {Z} many times etc.

    The content publishers then set up their own stored base on that platform and all of them seemed to choose to use the Maximum restrictions. So we got sold files that could only be played on one computer, for a week without relicensing, could not be copied to devices or burnt to a CD at all.

    It was only after the iTunes store was set up with far more leniant restrictions that the other providers started to loosen up a bit. This situation created the impression that Microsofts DRM was far more "evil" than the competition.

    Perhaps there should have been more guidence regarding what were reasonable restrictions to impose on consumers, rather than letting them lock everything down so tight.

    I really think there should be just one DRM standard though. I have tracks that only play on iTunes and iPods, tracks that only play with WMP10. I have a WMA capable device, but that can't play Janus etc. It just gets annoying that these artificial restrictions have been created.
  • There is the whole issue about the Secure Audio Path, and not giving third parties access to the APIs unless they used WMA rights management.

    Basically using your monopoly on the desktop PC, and your ability to specify the driver model and signing procedure, to ensure that only Microsoft type DRM had access to that high level of protection on Windows.

    Though I don't think the SAP has ever been used much, since most people are still running unsigned audio drivers.
  • I don't think everyone has such a problem with putting DRM in the platform, its more because it's Microsoft doing it.

    It gives Microsoft a great deal of power to gain control as the main DRM provider. I'm not trying to MS bash here like so many others have already done about DRM, I'm just trying to be honest. A lot of people fear being forced to use MS products becuase it is the only method to get at their DRM products. Add to the fear the thought MS might either charge end-users for validation services (not very likely at all) or charge vendors to host validation services for them (more likely) and having the costs passed onto the consumer... it's not something I'm looking forward to.

    It's hard to fault MS though, it's a great business idea, and a great way to make money and make the content producers happy.

    Unfortunately, it brings the nightmare of license management to home users. Do I have 1 or 2 licenses for this CD? Do I have enough licenses for this movie to let the kids watch it on their TV upstairs? Where'd my proof of license go for this 5 year old CD go? Do I have to buy it again? I'm going to visit my friends and they want me to bring a movie, which movies in my collection do I have the 'play at a friends house' license for?

    It's hard enough for IT departments to manage and track all the licenses they have, forcing this on home users is a recipe for disaster.

    Most of this applies to ANY DRM, not just the DRM MS is proposing in Longhorn. MS just happens to be a bigger target ;)

    They scenario that scares me most is if I buy a new music CD and the content is protected WMA files only. I can't transfer them to my iPod. If I don't have the right CD player in my car/stereo/kitchen cdplayer, I might not be able to listen to the cd at all locations easily. And you can definately throw out my Linux box in the basement from ever working with a DRM'd CD, at least legally.

    It is frustrating to users to have DRM on anything and to have more restrictions on what used to have no restrictions. Putting DRM in the platform almost guarntees more things will be protected in the future, increasing the frustration.

    I know DRM is coming, no matter what now. I think the ideal DRM solution would be an open spec, (like HTTP TCP) that anyone is free to implement. Any entity would be able to provide their own authentication and verification systems. In a scenario like that, I'm much less likely to encounter a CD that will only play on Windows machines or in select brand CD players for my car/home/etc. And for those content producers unable or unwillling to provide their own authentication, they can farm out the management of licenses to a third party.

    Of course, given the chance, I'll always buy the un-DRMed version of a product, just because I won't have to deal with the hassles of DRM. DRM is a hard thing to balance right, you want to protect your IP, but at the same time, you don't want to frustrate your end-user to the point they won't buy your product, or worse, they try to circumvent the DRM.

    Sorry, went a little overboard. It boils down to: end-users don't want DRM and they see MS as the person putting the DRM in there and not connecting the dots back to the content producer.
  • "end-users don't want DRM"

    That remains to be seen, after all, iTMS has been pretty successful. Microsoft is only in the position of supplying demand. If customers actually stopped buying content with DRM, then the content producers would not demand such technologies be incorporated.
  • >But why is it evil to put the ability to use DRM into the product?

    That's not the issue, from what I've seen. Some people think DRM, *any* DRM, is evil, no matter who writes it or where it's located in the system.
    Matt makes a good point that the alternative is scary: lawmakers (many of whom are old men with no clue about computers) trying to make laws going only on the input of music industry lobbyists. *shiver*
  • Have to agree with the earlier comments - DRM is a band-aid to patch up a broken business model. Until the content providers learn that hurting their customers is entirely counterproductive then DRM will be an issue. MS will (quite properly) have an interest in providing DRM technology until the content providers desire for DRM abates.

    Something else that I've not noticed much comment about in the DRM debates is that copyrights *expire*. Far too much content gets locked up forever, extending control over content that exceeds copyright limitations (and exercise of fair use rights).

    And that's before you even get started on the anti-trust implications...
  • "iTMS has been pretty successful"

    I'd say its because people are so in love with their iPods and are more willing to drink the Apple Kool-aid. I'd also venture to say because the iTunes DRM is fairly lax and you don't notice it in general use. Most people don't care if when they burn the m4p file to CD and rerip to mp3 it is technically degraded in quality, they can't hear it.

    Oh, and all those easy to find utilities to remove the iTMS DRM probably doesn't hurt, either.
  • One of the main problems with DRM is that it doesn't work (hackers can bypass it), and it frustrates legitimate users. Not to mention the fact that by-passing DRM is a criminal offense (even if you just want a backup). Think about it. Violating the TOS of some company can get you arrested.

    Also, what happens if the licensing agent goes out of business? Your legitimate purchase is now junk on your hard drive.

    I urge anyone who thinks that both DRM works, and that it is a good thing, to read Cory Doctorow's speech on DRM given to MSR: http://craphound.com/msftdrm.txt
  • I bought my first CD ten years ago, perhaps longer. Several years later I ripped it into MP3 format and could stick it in a playlist with other songs I liked. A few years after that I re-ripped it into Ogg Vorbis format, because there's nothing out there that can soundly beat it without having other restrictions.

    Tell me, if I bought a song from a Windows Media store today, could I play it on the equipment I'll be buying ten years from now? If not, can I be sure I'll be able to convert it to a format my new-fangled portable can play without being chucked in jail for longer than somebody who committed ABH?

    What about when the copyright on a work runs out and it's now public domain? Will I be able to break the DRM then? No? Hmm...
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