Larry Osterman's WebLog

Confessions of an Old Fogey
Blog - Title

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

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

Rate This
  • Comments 53

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?

  • Larry,

    Take a look at this. It's one of the best articles on DRM and guess what... it was given at Microsoft! :)

    http://www.craphound.com/msftdrm.txt

    David
  • The problem with DRM in general for myself is two-fold:

    1) - Fair use. (This is a very old argument) In the old days when I bought a CD I could go and make legal mp3's from them to play in my car. If, for example, the CD was content protected, this privilege would be taken away. I would in effect have to pay a second time, for the same content, but to allow me another use.

    2) - Platform dependancy. (This is a huge issue for me here in South Africa) Unfortunately not everyone has MS-based solutions. Some people use linux too. Some people use software that is neither MS nor linux, but goes with specific hardware, like my girlfriend's portable media player. These people can easily, for example, implement a reader for the WMA format (and this is the case for our player) but a DRM'ed file is inaccessible to me on that device. I "bought" or licensed the content legally, but access to it is denied for me, just because it is not a MS based solution with access to the decrypting facilities that MS developed for DRM. In a similar vein the whole MS "plays-for-sure" campaign (although it is a good consumer brand) is a hack to work around this issue that should never have been an issue in the first place.

    Regards,
    p!
  • Nothing wrong with it IN the platform, but obviously some people have issues with DRM itself rather than the fact that Microsoft have provided for it.

    And if it is <A href="http://news.com.com/Linux+founder+opens+door+to+DRM/2100-1016_3-998292.html">good enough for Linus</A> ...
  • "'How much does a WMA encoder cost me?'" Nothing."
    That's not quite true, is it? After all, "included in the cost of a copy of Windows" is not "nothing."

    "Was that listening test conducted with a single or double blind methodology?"
    Yes. In fact, you can still take the test yourself, if you care to check.

    [ExtremeTech tests]
    "They've got a somewhat different set of results than the listening test you quoted."
    I *may* know why that is. The stock Vorbis encoder had been stagnant for some time, unfortunately. The guy behind the listening test I quoted used the aoTuV encoder, which is now used in the Vorbis 1.1 encoder:
    http://www.geocities.jp/aoyoume/aotuv/
    I believe it was shown to have considerably better than Vorbis 1.0 while retaining full backwards compatibility. That's one of the great things about Free Software, other people can take over if the original authors get slack.
  • A little while ago I bought three tracks from the new Napster with DRM on. I could (and did) copy that file to my mp3 player and I was happy. Then a hard drive crash killed my PC and I had to reinstall windows, log on to napster and download the mp3 again. THEN I was forced to reinstall windows again (SP2 upgrade screwed up somehow) and I was informed that this was the last time I would be allowed to download the mp3. What?!?!? I've paid for that licence, but if I have to swap OS in the future then I'll have to buy the track again!
  • One additional wrinkle with DRM is that content can't currently be licensed to a unique person; the closest you can get is a unique person's particular piece of content-playing hardware, or a unique person's user account under Windows, or something like that. The technology just doesn't exist to do it the right way.

    By this, I mean that if Joe Hacker downloads something from WinMedia, it should be licensed to Joe Hacker, not Joe's WinContentPlayer, or Joe's "jhacker" user account. You want to guarantee that, no matter how the content is being played, Joe is the only one playing it. Unfortunately, you can't attach a license to Joe's biometric signature.
  • It isn't evil. It's only evil when you take away the ability to play normal audio. Of course this will never happen, but the tin-foil-hat-wearing crowd will continue to worry about it.

    I find it funny that when MS does DRM, it's evil. However, when Apple does DRM, it's all bunny rabbits and sunshine. I've worked as a programmer/engineer in the entertainment industry for all of my career (only 6 years, first at AMG and now Musicland), and during this time I've had to deal with several people in the Windows Media division at MS. All of them were great, helpful, and certainly not evil. One guy there who was fairly high up(Keith Toussaint, if I remember correctly) even answered questions I had about the various WM SDKs, and at the time I was but a lowly junior programmer, a freshman in college, green as can be. Apple, of course, was a different story.

    Now, what is evil is the process you have to go through to obtain the Windows Media Rights Manager 10 SDK. I'm still hurting from that pint of blood I had to send to MS.
  • Is it evil to build bombs if you don't personally drop them? OK, so maybe that is a little excessive as an analogy but what ticks most people off about DRM is that it hands the content providers a way to remove the fair use rights of the consumers. If you could find a way to guarantee fair use of DRM'd content then the world would be a different place.

    Andrew.
  • As I see it, most posters are against Microsoft implementing DRM because DRM is bad (well duh). But that assumes the choices are A) Microsoft DRM and B) no DRM. But that's not the case. The actual choice is more like A) Microsoft/Apple DRM vs. B) MPAA/RIAA/Congress DRM.

    No amount of rationalizing or whining is going to convince the major media companies that they won't lose their collective shirts if they release digital content without DRM.
  • Oh and I totally agree with the point about expiration. I am curious to know if Microsoft's or anyone else's DRM scheme includes an expiration date as part of the DRM meta-info.

    Incidentally, I know a university teacher who needs to use excerpts from DVD filmsin his class. I recommended he buy a TBC (an expensive broadcast video device which happens to defeat Macrovision copy-prevention on analog video signals). He did, and it's the only way he could get decent quality excerpts from the films.
  • You know I thought of this post this weekend. Here is another problem with it.

    I subscribe to Netflix, which this will become a problem as well in the future I am guessing. This weekend I was in the kitchen preping a meal, with cutting everything up getting the marinades all ready and so forth including clean up this whole thing takes about about 2 hours.

    Well I have a under the counter computer with a nice LCD that I hooked all up with wireless internet and so on in my kitchen much like some would have a TV in the kitchen. I have always played DVDs on there before. Nice way to pass the time while prepping some good grub on the weekend. I pop in a new release movie into the dvd drive and windows media player 10 comes up and tells me Sorry this is a DRM protected dvd you must purchase a license to watch it. Well I rented the movie I didn't buy it. I shouldn't have to purchase a license to watch it. While I know it would play in my normal DVD player now I can not watch it on my computer that has a DVD player. Sollution install a DVD Viewer that has not implemented DRM. Now being able to see that this is something I do on a regular basis, watch movies in my kitchen, I changed my default media player to Nero. I guess I do not want to fight DRM. Like I say it still needs a lot of work.
  • I don't see really DRM as a problem. I would never dream of buying music with copying restrictions anyway. I am somewhat surprised to see how many people actually use ITunes,MSN Music et al.

    Of course, what we really want, is some provider/publisher/whatever that offer us a perpertual (ok, even lifetime is ok) licence to any piece of copyright material. Then we can store our personal media rights online, have access to it anywhere and play it on any device.

    Guess what would happen to sluggish music sales if they dared?
  • Rather than repeat all of the comments from people who think that DRM is evil, I'll try to directly address the question.
    <p>
    What is wrong with DRM in the platform? Four things:
    <br>
    1. Once it's in the platform, DRM tends to invade everything else in the platform.
    <br>
    2. Putting DRM into the platform tends to encourage inappropriate use of DRM.
    <br>
    3. With DRM in the platform, there will be irresistable pressure to prohibit more and more innocuous uses.
    <br>
    4. DRM in the platform causes Microsoft to resist new technologies.
    <br>
    5. In the war between the music industry and listeners, it's impossible for Microsoft to serve both sides simultaneously.
    <p>
    I elaborate below.
    <p>
    <p>
    1. Once it's in the platform, DRM tends to invade everything else in the platform.
    <p>
    With DRM in the platform, anything else in the platform that might touch DRM-protected content needs to start becoming DRM-aware.
    <p>
    For example, take the DRM in Outlook. You can't view a DRM-protected document if you've previously attached a debugger to the Outlook process. Once they discover the hole, they'll need to prohibit attaching a debugger to the Outlook process after it has previously viewed a DRM'd document. Then someone will come up with an Outlook plugin that defeats DRM. Microsoft will respond by requiring signatures derived from MS-issued certificates on any plugin that can run in Outlook. Congratulations, DRM has just invaded both the debugging interfaces and the plugin interfaces.
    <p>
    Next, MS will discover that you might view your DRM'd document over RDP (aka Terminal Server). To ensure that the RDP client isn't inappropriately capturing the data, you'll need the whole remote attestation story for the client, plus new DRM stuff in the RDP protocol, plus ensuring that the RDP client isn't being debugged. Congratulations, DRM has just invaded RDP. Goodbye, RDP clients on Macintosh and PocketPC.
    <p>
    Similarly, over time DRM will invade the video paths in the kernel, the audio paths in the kernel, backup / restore, roving profiles, and so on. If we want to do a good job, it will even need to invade the Virtual PC environment. (What if Outlook isn't being debugged, but it's running on a VPC and the emulator is being debugged?)
    <p>
    <p>
    2. Putting DRM into the platform tends to encourage inappropriate use of DRM.
    <p>
    There really is an ethos of "if I wasn't supposed to use it, they wouldn't have put it into the platform." Think about all of the DRM-protected mail messages you've received. How many of them really needed DRM protection? How many of them used the minimum protection required? (Every DRM message I've received restricted all rights -- can't forward, can't print, can't copy, can't save.) And how many of them couldn't be trivially reproduced by typing their content into another window?
    <p>
    Another example of inappropriate use is government agencies issuing documents in PDF format that have the flag set to prohibit editting the content. And eBook vendors publishing public-domain content with restrictions against copying, printing, etc.
    <p>
    <p>
    3. With DRM in the platform, there will be irresistable pressure to prohibit more and more innocuous uses.
    <p>
    Once DRM is in the platform, there are two new kinds of bugs that get filed against Microsoft. A "type 1" bug is a situation that allows protected content to escape DRM. A "type 2" bug is a bug where the DRM prohibits innocuous use of some content. DRM has no value unless the number of type 1 bugs is very close to zero. Frequently, the only way to fix a type 1 bug is by introducing some type 2 bugs. The constituency for fixing type 1 bugs is concentrated, powerful, and good at lobbying. The constituency for fixing type 2 bugs is diffuse and relatively powerless. (Besides, we all have other things to do with our lives.) The net result is that more and more type 2 bugs will be introduced in order to fix type 1 bugs.
    <p>
    As an example of this phenomenon, I have a bought-and-paid-for copy of HyperBowl that I can't use because when a disk was dying, I used a volume-image program to copy the system do a different disk. (The change in disk serial number apparantly triggers the DRM stuff.) I'm sure that the DRM vendor in this case decided that it was worth it to introduce a type 2 error (don't run after image copy on the same system) in order to plug a type 1 error (can run after image copy to a different system).
    <p>
    As another example, I have some home video that cannot be copied because glitches in some scene transitions erroneously stimulate the MacroVision stuff. (Weakening the Macrovision test of gunk in the retrace interval to allow these scene transitions to pass would probably allow some DRM content somewhere to pass, too.)
    <p>
    <p>
    4. DRM in the platform causes the platform vendor to resist new technologies.
    <p>
    This is essentially the mirror image of point 1. Once we're selling DRM, we can't do anything that would tend to break it. For example, DRM on music will tend to prevent us from shipping a Tivo-like recorder of every sound that emanates from the PC's speakers.
    <p>
    For every new technology, we need to ask what the impact on DRM is, then figure out how to mitigate that impact. When the cost of mitigation exceeds the perceived value of the new technology, either we'll ignore the new technology, or worse we'll build stuff that makes it hard / impossible for third parties to use the new technology with our system.
    <p>
    Our competitors won't be similarly constrained.
    <p>
    <p>
    5. In the war between the music industry and listeners, it's impossible for Microsoft to serve both sides simultaneously.
    <p>
    Make no mistake, there is a war on. But it's not the war that everyone talks about -- preventing illegal copying. The music industry has already irretrievably lost that war; it only takes one person anywhere in the world to break the DRM and upload a copy to the Internet, and the cat's out of the bag.
    <p>
    No, the real war is that the music industry wants to preserve the need for you to purchase your entire library over again every time formats change. For example, I bought "Dark Side of the Moon" on LP (yeah, I'm that old). I bought it again on cassette, and again on CD. Absent DRM, I'll never buy it again. The real purpose of DRM is to ensure that I'll need to buy a new copy every few years.
    <p>
    This struggle isn't about compensating artists -- it's a zero sum game between the music publishers and listeners. Every dollar that one gains is a dollar that the other loses. In this kind of situation, it's impossible to remain neutral. Anything that increases the music industry's satisfaction with our products decreases listeners' satisfaction, and vice versa.
    <p>
    So it all comes down to which set of customers we should value more. If you compare Microsoft's profits from the music industry with our profits from music listeners, the choice ought to be obvious.
  • Wow, Jim put it more succinctly than I ever could.

    Looking at the slide from WinHEC
    http://download.microsoft.com/download/9/8/f/98f3fe47-dfc3-4e74-92a3-088782200fe7/TWEN05006_WinHEC05.ppt

    it looks like the DRM built into Windows is becoming ever more complex, requiring multiple levels of encryption and signing intefaces in both user and kernel mode.

    Don't you think this is just a bit over the top? This level of complexity introduced in the system at the insistence of some media cartels who are not your core customers?
    The slides position it as the only way Windows would be able to play "Premium" content.
    But who has more power in the marketplace?

    Surely if MS refused to implement all these controls the content creators would still want to be able to sell their media somewhere.

    I doubt many people would want to buy HD-DVDs if the only way to play them was on dedicated and heavily locked down CE devices.

    Look at the Sony PSP, it is rapidly assuming the position that the portable media centers sought to fill. Multiple third parties are creating translation tools to allow peoples own DVDs to be copied to MemorySticks to be played on it. Its not, as Steve Jobs claimed, that no one wants portable video, its that people don't want to be constrained.

    Sony wants people to rebuy all their movies on UMD disks, but the user community has already spoken, and Sony will still reap the rewards on sales the hardware and high capacity memory sticks. PSPs must have outsold PMCs by at least 100 to 1.

    How are people supposed to get video to put on their PMCs? They need a MCE which will lock down recorded content based on the broadcast flag, or a subscription to some DRMed content provided through WMP. Is Microsoft's concern primarily focused on selling PMC OS units, or is it about pleasing the "content creators".

    At some point you have to decide to stick up for your customers instead.
  • There are few reasons why DRM _usage_ (not the format itself) is evil:

    1. Consumer can't easily determine which rights he actually posess over the content he paid for

    2. You need internet connection for license acquiring so you cannot play say DRM WMA in your car or portable mp3 player.

    3. You cannot play DRM protected content on "non-trusted" player and platform regardless of having license or not. Anti-trust anyone?

    4. DRM components in player and OS are being changed/updated without your consent.
Page 3 of 4 (53 items) 1234