Tuesday, January 24, 2006

DRM is a complete lie

Charlie Demerjian over at the Inquirer has published an excellent article on how DRM is a complete lie.

Good points, well made but could have gone into more detail on the various flavours of DRM control from the DRM infections peddlers as implemented by the "record industry pricks" - I think Frank Zappa has a way with words, don't you?. The long and the short of it is that they are fighting each other over DRM and control rather than us - we're simply caught in the crossfire!

My take is slightly different. DRM was created (however far you go back) to stop content being duplicated without authorisation. The various DRM peddlers have come up with different solutions to the "problem" (and there's a ton of words out there on what the "problem" actually IS) and the people with copyright / something to fear have bought it dependant on their circumstances at the time. The "war" between the various flavours of DRM have caught us, the end users and underlying paymasters - we PAY for this crap in every sense of the word - in the middle.

The sensible solution (and one that won't ever take off because it is so sensible) is for there to be one form of DRM, agreed by everyone, requiring no special "player", no special passwords and no restrictions. Arrrrrr. The haXor community will then have only thing to crack and we can all get on with the rest of our lives. Kill DRM - before it kills music.

There is a link to the full text above, but for ease I have published the full text below. Copyright owner - if you want me to take this down just send me a mail or leave a comment.

DRM is a complete lie

Opinion : It has never protected a single thing

By Charlie Demerjian: Monday 23 January 2006, 01:15

DRM IS A LIE. When an agenda driven DRM infection peddler gets on a soapbox and blathers about how it is necessary to protect the BMW payments of a producer who leeches off the talented, rest assured, they are lying to you. DRM has absolutely nothing to do with protecting content, it is about protecting the wallets of major corporations. The funny thing is they aren't protecting it from you, they are protecting it from each other.

Let's look at the shattering success of every DRM solution to date. Every single one has failed. The score card is hundreds if not thousands against, zero for. Name me one song, movie or software title that is DRM infected that has not found it's way to the net within a week of release, usually long before release. There are none. To protect content, DRM is an abject and total failure, and will continue to be.

It also hurts the user - there is no DRM infection that in any way benefits the consumer. It costs more to develop, costs to license, makes hardware more expensive and complex, and screws the user under legitimate uses. It has a negative value to the consumer.

So, it makes content less attractive, less playable, and is legally dubious, so why is the industry hell bent on infecting everything from your prophylactics to your computers? Simple, they want a bigger slice of the pie, and DRM is the way to get it. No, not bigger profit margins, the greedy bastards already do that with each format change, DRM infections are about edging each other out.

Here is the problem, every DRM infection is unique, patented, copyrighted, copywronged, and DMCAd ad nauseum, They protect their code in every way possible, and make it so you have to get their approval to use it. This is all done under the guise of protecting content, but that is a lie. If you are going to steal content, do you think violating another copyright on the DRM mechanism will make you lose more sleep? Not a chance.

If you are a rival company though, you can't really violate such things and get away with it for long, Sony, MS and most people swiping GPLd code are proof of that. So, you have to license it to play ball, or at least play music and movies. That is the true nature of DRM infections, to keep other big greedy companies out.

So, say you are a big immoral record company that see walking wallets, aka customers, as not giving you enough of their hard earned money, some have the gall to buy from other big greedy immoral companies. Bastards! What do you do? Make sure they have a hard time playing things from the other guys.

Let's take a good example of this, the first few generations of Sony's DRM infected failures of an almost MP3 player. Sony decided that its proprietary ATRAC format was better than MP3, and technically it could be, but that is irrelevant. They didn't support MP3s out of the box, but would do a one way conversion if you wanted to put your MP3s on the Walkman. Taking them off was a bit curious though.

Also, if you wanted to buy music, you could go to the wonderful (sarcasm people, sarcasm) Sony connect store, and buy almost anything that Sony licensed artists made. If you wanted a song by a Warner artist, well, tough. Stepping into the land of make believe for a minute, imagine that Time-Warner made digital music players, and lets pretend they have an encoding system and DRM infection called HURT-SCAM. You can buy a TW player and download any HURT-SCAM song, curiously this meant only titles from a Warner artist. If you have a Sony player, it doesn't support HURT-SCAM, and TW players don't support ATRAC.

Now, if this hypothetical TW player wanted to play ATRAC, they could reverse engineer it, and get bitten by the same DMCA laws they bought so many Congresspeople to implement, and the same is true for Sony wanting to implement HURT-SCAM. (Please note, I am not intoning that these companies buy government, remember this is make believe. The US governmental system is immune to such things, just ask them.). Basically, both sides have to license their bitter rivals before they can interoperate.

Now, lets step back into the land of reality. You have ATRAC, FairPlay (har har), Real, WMA, and a host of other DRM infections, and none can play any of the others. If you have a player that can do one, chances are that it can't do any of the others, almost like the license terms preclude it, but it would take someone much more cynical than I to say that. You have enough walled gardens to last a lifetime, and each one is filled with greedy execs trying to wrap their mind around how much money this will bring them. The stakes are high, they each want it all, and want all the others to go away, there is no middle ground.

The enforcement mechanism is quite simply the DRM infection Without DRM, the other guys could invade their garden and do thing that might benefit the user, I mean take away the profits they feel are rightfully theirs. In the mean time every piece of media thus 'protected' is available for download. DRM has done, is doing and will do nothing to stop piracy.

Basically, you and I are the innocent bystanders in this drive by shooting called DRM. The big companies are at war, and we are the casualties. So, they have to send their flying monkeys to sue single moms, 12 year olds and octogenarians to make it appear that they are doing what they say. Bull, they are lying. The sad part is that the public, and worse yet, the governments are listening to them.

The misinformation campaign seems to have sunk in, people don't even question that DRM is about protecting content any more, even though it has never done so. It hurts the users, and hurts the companies making it, but they have their eyes on the big prize. DRM infections are the only way to keep their rivals at bay, lobbing a few bullets at the users is a low price to pay for that.

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