DRM (Digital Rights Management) thoughts?

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kawaiiguy

kawaiiguy

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With all the discussion of P2P , lawsuits, and downloading, I started thinking about the topic of DRM. I did some searching and didn't find any other threads on the subject, so hopefully this is the first!

If a company releases something digitally (a song, movie, audiobook, etc) to consumers, they may want limit who has access to that media. After all, they only want paying customers to access their resources. This is where DRM comes in. DRM helps by restricting access to content to those who are authorized to use it. It comes in many forms, from the basic cable TV and satellite decoders to more complex WMA and M4A music formats.

DRM does good things for commerce in that it helps facilitate transactions between customers and producers. It's also a stepping stone between having everyone purchase physical media (CDs, DVDs, print) and everyone downloading their content.

As with all systems, however, there are some "flaws." Many people report that DRM is too restrictive. People aren't able to do what they want with what they buy. In the old days, cassette tapes were analog. Copying one would automatically mean a degradation in quality. With digital media, making a copy means having a reproduction that is just as good as the original. DRM makes it harder for people to do this.

What are people's thoughts on this topic? Should DRM be more flexible for the end-user? Are people stuck in an older mindset where they could do practically anything without "repercussion"? Discuss!

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I like the point you made about digital and analogue media.

DRM is good and helps keep cost down in theory, but it is restrictuive by nature. Then there is the fact that there is always a way around DRM because there is a way to copy it if there is a way to play it. It is impossible to prefect DRM for this reason. An example of this would be software keys, there was a time when they didn't exist, then they were used for DRM but are easy to come by now. I'm willing to support most of what I have but being a power user I would never pay for anything that attempts to restrict what I do.

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  • Jul 09, 2005

kawaiiguy

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While I agree that there's always a way to copy something, I think that DRM's purpose is to stop the majority of piracy (or at least make it difficult to do so). It's always possible to record a digital audio file to an analog source and then redigitizing it, but that runs into the problem with loss in quality. It'd be really hard to find something that will both protect intellectual property and allow the user free reign of the media.

DRM is here to stay, but I expect it to evolve over the next few years as technology develops.

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misoup

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I think DRM is good for the recording business. They know people don't backup CD's for their own behalf (atleast not usually). People burn and share backups. So, if friends want a copy of the CD, the recorders make sure it is authentic and high-quality

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Using DRM for your products is fighting your customers, which is never a good thing IMO. I don't want some greedy company to dictate me how to use my legally purchased good.

kawaiiguy

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Quote by FabianUsing DRM for your products is fighting your customers, which is never
a good thing IMO. I don't want some greedy company to dictate me how to
use my legally purchased good.


Even if it involves you violating the lisence agreement?

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Those lisences are messed up to begin with. For example, if I go to a supermarket an buy some meat, the seller won't dictate what to cook with it. It should be similar with every good.

It should be up to the buyer what he wants to do with the good he purchased, even if it means being able to violate a lisence agreement. If he doesn't want to break the it, fine. If he wants to violate the agreement, it's fine too because it doesn't change the fact that he will still have to bear the consequences of his choice.

kawaiiguy

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I think supermarket meat is somewhat different... It's a consumable good and needs to be repurchased every time you want more. With media (digital or otherwise), once you buy it, you have it "forever." When you make the purchase, you agree not to violate the terms and conditions of the lisence.

The ToS is a contract. Once you break the seal, you have agreed to all terms written in the contract (whether or not you read it). Wouldn't it make sense for a company to put some sort of measure to "keep people in check," especially since they can't go door to door and ask? It would be great if everyone can be trusted, but as you've shown, not everyone can.

Just because someone doesn't get caught, does it makt it right?

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I didn't say it is right to break agreements, but I think it isn't right to force your customers to use a companies product exactly the way the company wants eigther. Customers are not a company's dolls.

If someone puts a lot of efford in breaking a lisence agreement then something like a copy protection won't stop him. Earlier or later there will always be a way to break about any DRM-method. So why should there be one to begin with? It's just a nuisance that annoys honest customers and cost lots of money to develop.

I'm using my PC to play my music-CDs and I've been annoyed more than once because some copy-protection prevented my computer from playing a CD I bought just a few hours before. (I didn't have any trouble playing DRM-free CDs.) As the seal was broken i wasn't even able to give the CDs back. That was just great.

I have to add that the OS of my PC is Linux, maybe those CDs won't cause trouble with Windows. Then again i don't think it's up to some music-company to decide about the OS i will or will not use on my computer and I won't use Windows just because the music industry says so.

The meat was just an example, you could easily replace it with something that lasts for a long time like a car or a lamp. It wouldn't make much of a difference, the sellers still won't force you to do what they want you to do with the good they sold you.

kawaiiguy

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I think some sort of distinction needs to be made. DRMs were orignally made to protect the intellectual property rights of the companies that made them. When referring to most material goods (like cars, meat, or lamps), a DRM-like restriction wouldn't be needed because those are not inherantly copyable/redistributable goods. You can't pop a household appliance into a machine and make a perfect duplicate and give it to a friend. That'd be cool, but technology hasn't advanced that far yet.

Digital media, on the other hand, is copyable (even with DRM in place). I think DRMs are in place to stop the average Joe from buying a CD and making 3000 copies for his friends and relatives. Like with all locks, if someone really wants to break it, it'll be broken. A lock on a bank safe may have several layers of protection, but if someone really wants to get into one, they will find a way around all the security measures.

Copy protection schemes and DRMs still have a long way to go. Most types still aren't cross platform yet (M4A works on Windows and osx), but I'm sure it's getting there. Standardization would be nice, sine I can't play WMAs on my iPod. Remember, the vast majority of the world uses Windows (sad as that is). It's all about economics.

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Archer79

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I think copyright law needs revision. ...Things are protected for 70 years!!! A patent at most is good for 20years, and needs to be renewed twice to get there. ...The media likes to inject music, etc into the community. ...I think that once it is injected into the community, the community should be able to exchange it and share it so long as noone is making money. ...But the law would need to be changed to allow it. ...imho copyright should only prohibit for-profit distribution (i.e. CD hardcopies), concerts, and successive works...

A 20 year-old song should become free to the public. ...Just as 20-year old cutting-edge technology is...

  • Jul 10, 2005

jhujhiti

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DRM is like telling your customer, "I don't trust you, so I'll do it for you." It's going to annihilate computer sales once the general public finds out what's going on. The value of a non-DRM CPU is going to climb very quickly =)

  • Jul 10, 2005

kawaiiguy

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Quote by Archer79I think copyright law needs revision. ...Things are protected for 70
years!!! A patent at most is good for 20years, and needs to be renewed
twice to get there.


Patents are slightly different from copyrights. Patents protect ideas for products. They exist so that one person can claim ownership to an idea (and sell it, if so chosen). Copyrights allow a person or company to claim ownership of a particular piece of non-physical entity. To put it simply, technologies and concepts are patented; creative works are copyrighted.

Quote by Archer79
...imho copyright should only prohibit for-profit distribution (i.e. CD hardcopies), concerts, and successive works...


So what you're saying is this: every time a new CD comes out, one person in the world should buy it and make enough copies for everyone else in the world. This can be done as long as the person doesn't make any money. Unless CDs are exorbitantly expensive, this model just doesn't look like it can work...

Quote by jhujhitiDRM is like telling your customer, "I don't trust you, so I'll do it for you." It's going to annihilate computer sales once the general public finds out what's going on. The value of a non-DRM CPU is going to climb very quickly =)


Wow... I forgot about DRMs in the upcoming CPUs. I think eventually they'll become adopted into the mainstream. Why? Because the majority of the people don't know enough to care ;)

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Archer79

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Quote by kawaiiguy

Quote by Archer79I think copyright law needs revision. ...Things are protected for 70
years!!! A patent at most is good for 20years, and needs to be renewed
twice to get there.


Patents are slightly different from copyrights. Patents protect ideas for products. They exist so that one person can claim ownership to an idea (and sell it, if so chosen). Copyrights allow a person or company to claim ownership of a particular piece of non-physical entity. To put it simply, technologies and concepts are patented; creative works are copyrighted.

i am aware... ...That's why I was comparing two different forms of legal protection...

Quote by kawaiiguy[

Quote by Archer79
...imho copyright should only prohibit for-profit distribution (i.e. CD hardcopies), concerts, and successive works...


So what you're saying is this: every time a new CD comes out, one person in the world should buy it and make enough copies for everyone else in the world. This can be done as long as the person doesn't make any money. Unless CDs are exorbitantly expensive, this model just doesn't look like it can work...

A few things on this idea... ..First, what is the probablilty that only one person would purchase a hard copy? Second, production of hard-copy albums wouldn't be the only revenue sources. As I mentioned, concerts would be protected, as would any public appearance, etc. Further, the artist would still be provided protection against copycats, etc. There is, however, at least one flaw that you did not mention. That being damages if another company decided to spam albums of a targeted artist (for free) inherently causing monetary damages.

Quote by kawaiiguy[

Quote by jhujhitiDRM is like telling your customer, "I don't trust you, so I'll do it for you." It's going to annihilate computer sales once the general public finds out what's going on. The value of a non-DRM CPU is going to climb very quickly =)


Wow... I forgot about DRMs in the upcoming CPUs. I think eventually they'll become adopted into the mainstream. Why? Because the majority of the people don't know enough to care ;)

Which CPUs will be the first to incorporate on-CPU DRM?

  • Jul 10, 2005
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I doubt that it's very economical to use your customers as guinea pigs by selling CDs/DVDs using an imature DRM-method that doesn't work on every system/music-playing-device. I mean it's not like DRM is something the customer wants.

Those companies that ripped me off by selling CDs that didn't work on my music-playing-device of choice, my Linux-box, won't ever see one cent of my money. Messing with their customers, even if it's an economically unimportant minority, can't be a good thing and they won't make friends by doing so.

kawaiiguy

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The new Intel Dual-Core chips are supposed to contain some form of DRM protection. The ones going into Apple's new computers are supposed to as well.

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Just call up the folks at DivX* and ask them how well it worked for them.

But, on a serious note, I highly doubt DRM will ever catch on. The problem with it is inherantly a consumer issue. No one is going to pay more for a product that gives them less functionality.

Take for example the Sony PSP. Now, with the current shipping firmware for the unit, you can actually run emulators and home-brew code off of the console. Some amazing things have come about from this, and I can personally say that without these capabilities I would not have purchased the unit. However, now sony is trying to get people to update thier unit firmware, and the ONLY thing the update adds is better DRM materials which kill the ability to run emus and homebrews. Right now they're just being subtle, but how long till people are forced to update? I know for one that I will never do anything that takes AWAY functionality.

If there's no consumer incentive, people won't pay for it. And don't try cheaper prices, because we all know that's simply a fallacy.

*Note: Not the video codec DivX, the old attempt at licensed DVD titles. It's kinda like betamax, except no one fell for it this time)

  • Jul 11, 2005

kawaiiguy

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Quote by AtmaWeapon
But, on a serious note, I highly doubt DRM will ever catch on. The problem with it is inherantly a consumer issue. No one is going to pay more for a product that gives them less functionality.


There are some success stories out there...

Take the iTunes Music Store. Since it's launch in 2003, iTMS is currently on its way to 500 million downloads (there's the big countdown on the home page, along with a contest). The iTMS features music encoded in 128kbit AAC with a DRM wrapper. If people wouldn't pay for something protected by DRM, then why has the iTMS been the most successful store for downloadable music? I'm not saying there aren't people out there who complain about the restrictions, but there's a large group of consumers who don't mind paying for legal music.

Most DVDs today come with some sort of copy protection. While it doesn't completely restrict the user, it does prevent them from easily making "backups" of the disks. Guess what? People still buy DVDs. While this isn't a DRM in it's truest sense, it is an area where industry-invented restrictions work. I haven't heard of someone saying "This DVD has copy protection on it, I'm not going to buy it."

The Betamax format was something different entirely. It was by no means a way of providing copy protection or preventing people from illegally distributing media. Betamax was simply a competing format to VHS that was developed and promoted by Sony. It provided somewhat higher quality video and a few features that VHS lacked. Why didn't it catch on? Who knows. It's like today's competition between dvd+r and dvd-r. Neither is really better than the other, but we may eventually see a phase out of one.

The issue circling Betamax was the Sony v. Universal Studios lawsuit. Universal claimed that the betamax could be used to facilitate the illegal distribution of copyrighted material. This case went all the way to the Supreme Court. The court ruled in favor of Sony, saying that Betamax had more non-infringing uses than infringing uses. As a technology, it was legal. This argument is used time and again in today's argument for P2P technology. Why should the courts be able to go after developers who pioneer technologies like BitTorrent, Napster, and Grockster?

This is getting somewhat off topic, so I'll stop there. As I've mentioned elsewhere, Cornell University hosted a very interesting debate on this last Spring. A video of the debate (as well as the followup debate) can be viewed here. Beware, it is quite lengthy. The second one went for three hours.

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jhujhiti

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I just found a fantasic site explaining DRM and trusted computing. http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~rja14/tcpa-faq.html Show this to everyone. The best hope for beating this beast is to make sure as many non-technical people are as pissed off as possible.

  • Jul 11, 2005
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Maybe I will have to import my computers from China or Taiwan in the future to get rid of the DRM-Hardware-crap. =)

Why should they go after Bittorrent? I don't see the point. Noone forces you to use Bittorrent to download warez, pirated movies or something like that. There are lots of lawful ways to use Bittorrent. Downloading the newest Linux-ISOs, Software-updates, Open Source-music (Creative Commons Lisence). P2P-programs are just tools, if you use it in a lawful way or not is up to the user.

I'm not sure if the region code of DVDs can be defined as copy protection. Ok, it does prevent you from copying your films but why 5 codes? 1 would be more than enough. I think the main purpose of the region codes is to prevent you from buying a better product outside of your local market. (In other words preventing fair trade.)


kawaiiguy

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I think the argument against BitTorrent is the exact opposite argument of the Betamax case. Currently, there are more illegal uses for BT than thare are legal uses. With Betamax, there were "more" legal uses than illegal uses.

As for region codes, I was more referring to the CSS copy protection schemes. I think region codes exist to help protect the copyrights in different countries, not necessarily prevent people from copying disks. It's kind of like the old days, with PAL and ntsc, it served as somewhat of a barrier to prevent people from buying tapes in Europe and sending them to America (that's probably more of a side effect than anything else...)

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EternalParadox

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Scanning through the last few posts, I noticed that kawaiiguy mentioned the 1984 Betamax ruling.

Quote by kawaiiguy Why should the courts be able to go after developers who pioneer technologies like BitTorrent, Napster, and Grockster?

That ruling has seen modification from the MGM vs Grokster case. I started a thread on it, here, but apparently noone was interested. jk

But to summarize, in the Grokster ruling, the Supreme Court modified the Betamax ruling by adding that if there is a clear intent by the developer of a new technology to facilitate copyright infringement, then the developer can be found liable for the illegal actions of its users. Grokser and Streamcast was found to be liable in that case, for they actively advertised their software as capable of providing users with free copyrighted material.

The ruling and the relation to the Sony Betamax case is best summarized in this statement from the ruling itself:

"For the same reasons that Sony took the staple-article doctrine of patent law as a model for its copyright safe-harbor rule, the inducement rule, too, is a sensible one for copyright. We adopt it here, holding that one who distributes a device with the object of promoting its use to infringe copyright, as shown by clear expression or other affirmative steps taken to foster infringement, is liable for the resulting acts of infringement by third parties."

How does that really tie in to the DRM? First and foremost, media companies will perceive this as a victory, though the validity of that claim is questionable. Nonetheless, they will now continue to push for the expansion of litigation against filesharing developers as well as of DRM in their methods of distribution.

The possibilty of a widespread use of trusted computing can only come about if there is enough backing from content providers, and thus, the Grokster case provides them with that necessary support from the film, movie, and large scale program companies. "See, the Supreme Court just ruled in favor of future copyright protection, so why not push DRM to the next step??"

As for whether one would pay for these more copyright laden software? People will pay for a service if that service proves its legitimate reliability, originality, ease of use, and content variety. iTunes has done so, and thus it is becoming a hit.

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  • Jul 12, 2005
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@kawaiiguy: Just an idea of what might happen in a world where DRM is widely accepted:

Imagine, in few years the industry has finally found a good DRM-method that works on nearly every Computer and every OS, a method that is nearly impossible to crack. Internet connections are so fast that it only takes a few minutes to load files of multiple GB in size.

You are a customer of an online-shop and you download all your music, videos and commercial software there. You are very comfortable with this shop because the quality of their music, films and software is top notch, the prices aren't that bad eighter and you get lots of free goodies like screensavers, extra-videos for every purchase.

To make these files usable your mediaplayer/OS needs to connect to one of the shop's servers to get the autorisation-key every time you use one of the goods you purchased there.

One day someone detects a security hole of the key-server's software and cracks it. After that he uses the key-server to spread maleware. Afterwards the shop's key-servers send it's customers the keys they need + "a nice little program".

Your computer is safe because you know what you are doing but lots of other computers get infected.

A few days later the shop's administrator has fixed the problem and the key-servers are up and running again but most of the shop's customers got scared off already.

A few months after this incident your favourite online-shop is bankrupt. They have to close down and they can't afford to pay for their servers. Therefore they turn off all of their servers, including the key-servers. From now on your computer refuses to play your DRM-protected videos or music and it refuses to run your DRM-protected software you bought.

Would you still like and support DRM after your media- and software-collection turned into data garbage? Wouldn't you prefer the good old DRM-free media, without all of the authorisation hassle?

I know that this scenario isn't very likely, but it's not impossible eighter.

Quote by kawaiiguyAs for region codes, I was more referring to the CSS copy protection schemes. I think region codes exist to help protect the copyrights in different countries, not necessarily prevent people from copying disks. It's kind of like the old days, with PAL and ntsc, it served as somewhat of a barrier to prevent people from buying tapes in Europe and sending them to America (that's probably more of a side effect than anything else...)

That's exactly what I meant by preventing fair trade. Companies try to force you to buy DVDs (/videotapes) in your region. You should not be able to buy a better product for a better price from somewhere else.

kawaiiguy

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Fabian: Point well made... It's one of the downsides of DRM. If the main system goes down, everyone is pretty much hosed. I think the scenario you describe could very well happen in today's versions of DRM.

However, in a world of one standard DRM, wouldn't the client/server model change to reflect this standardization? Say everyone uses WMA or M4A in the future (not to say that one is better than the other). The individual "store" wouldn't be the maintainers of the keyservers, since that would be extremely impractical.

To draw on another example, let's take the automobile manufacturers and supporting industries. Say you drive a car made by company X. You've trusted company X for years. They make good cars and you've bought all your vehicles from them. In fact, you get all your friends to buy from them. There are other places you can buy from, but you have loyalty to a particular brand.

One day, a major defect is discovered in the manufacturing process. The defect causes the engine to fall out. Since you're handy with a wrench, you're able to fix the problem yourself. Many others, on the other hand, weren't so lucky. The company is forced to issue a recall on all vehicles manufactured. The process is extremely expensive, and the company falls into the red. After several legal battles, the company can no longer keep itself afloat. They file for bankruptcy and shut down.

You worry that you can no longer drive your car. However, since it uses mostly standard parts or parts provided by a third party manufacturer, you will always be able to maintain the car if it breaks down. Also, the fuel it uses is standardized across the industry. Brand X cars use the same fuel as brand Y cars, and they share the tail light bulbs with brand Z. Will there be some problems with getting replacemnt parts or repairs? Inevitably, yes. Are you completely out of luck? No. The industry standards have prevented that.

While I agree that the current model has a lot of problems, it may not be as bad as everyone makes it out to be. If one standard does eventually become adopted, it may be adopted on a level much higher than it is used now. It may be something employed by the recording industry itself and maintained by a "much higher power." Of course, there will be sacrifices. One standard will have to lose out to another one, causing some compatibility issues. There may even be concessions made for those who purchased music protected by the "losing" standard.

I'm sure we'll see a lot of development over the course of the next few years.


As for the topic of DVDs, I think it's to make sure the money is going to the "right place." It really isn't as big of a deterrent anymore, since there are plenty of ways around the region encoding. Also, import fees charged by retailers help keep the traffic at a certain level. Even without the region encoding, the prices alone may be enough of a barrier.

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