Memo To Macrovision: Interoperable DRM Is An Oxymoron

from the snake-oil dept

Macrovision "chief evangelist" Richard Bullwinkle has an article at News.com that's a bit of a head-scratcher. He sings the praises of Apple's iPod ecosystem, but then complains that Apple's DRM prevents content from being played on non-Apple devices. Consumer electronics manufacturers and content creators, he says, need to "work together to create standards" for digital media. That's music to my ears. Except that I suspect that Bullwinkle isn't actually talking about open standards. Macrovision, after all, is a DRM vendor. If companies wanted to distribute their music or movies in open formats like MPEG, they wouldn't need Macrovision's help to do it -- they could just ditch DRM altogether (which, clearly, Macrovision doesn't want). What Macrovision appears to be pushing for Apple and other vendors to switch to its own "open" DRM format. But in fact, there's no such thing. DRM is a walled garden by definition. Some walled gardens are easier to get into than others. The DVD format, for example, has been licensed to a bunch of different vendors. But that doesn't change the fact that there's still a DVD cartel that shuts down innovative devices they don't like. An even more egregious example is Microsoft's "interoperable" PlaysForSure format. Microsoft touted it as an "open" alternative to FairPlay until last year, when—surprise!—they decided not to allow people to play PlaysForSure media files on the Zune. Ultimately, Macrovision isn't interested in getting rid of walled gardens. It's just upset when it's not the gardener.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  •  
    identicon
    Melanie, Dec 21st, 2007 @ 7:13pm

    Macrovision's review of Apple's iPod ecosystem

    Perhaps the Great Wall of Macrovision? lol Apple's iPod ecosystem works surprisingly well, in a pinch, in the workplace.

     

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    IT Guy, Dec 21st, 2007 @ 8:07pm

    Heh, you think their content DRM is bad

    Try dealing with them on commercial software. Pay $1000 a seat for a license, but good luck finding which of the 9 million ways it doesn't work that's affecting you today.

     

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    Alfred E. Neuman, Dec 21st, 2007 @ 8:17pm

    One of the Best Cartoons

    Bullwinkle: Hey Rocky .. watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat.
    Rocky: Again??? That trick never works.
    >
    Bullwinkle: Opps, wrong hat.

     

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    listen_to_blogs, Dec 21st, 2007 @ 10:52pm

    Macrovision's vision of DRM interoperability.

    Tim, isn't it correct that with DRM interoperability we could buy music for device from vendor A and transfer it to device from vendor B?

    That's definitely a problem music lovers would like addressed.

     

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      Tim Lee, Dec 22nd, 2007 @ 7:22am

      Re: Macrovision's vision of DRM interoperability.

      Only if vendor A and vendor B both licensed Macrovision's DRM scheme and followed Macrovision's rules about what features the devices could have. In practice, even "open" DRM schemes tend to be very limiting in the kinds of functionality they allow.

       

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      PaulT (profile), Dec 22nd, 2007 @ 4:00pm

      Re: Macrovision's vision of DRM interoperability.

      "isn't it correct that with DRM interoperability we could buy music for device from vendor A and transfer it to device from vendor B?

      MP3s already do that of course, as do non-protected AAC files. Music lovers should be insisting on those, which you can get through Amazon, eMusic or iTunes among others.

      Don't support DRM, and you won't get caught out when you find that your device isn't one of the 'approved' devices for interoperability.

       

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      chris (profile), Dec 22nd, 2007 @ 11:36pm

      Re: Macrovision's vision of DRM interoperability.

      Tim, isn't it correct that with DRM interoperability we could buy music for device from vendor A and transfer it to device from vendor B?


      the whole point of DRM is to lock you in to a service or vendor.

      if you could play iTunes music on a zune, then everyone would buy the best player, and buy music from the best service.

      it's much better (for the vendors, not you) if your device dictates what service you use.

       

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      PaulT (profile), Dec 24th, 2007 @ 12:01am

      Re: Macrovision's vision of DRM interoperability.

      "Tim, isn't it correct that with DRM interoperability we could buy music for device from vendor A and transfer it to device from vendor B?"

      There's already a number of file formats that do that perfectly - open AAC and MP3 to name just two.

      The problem is the content providers' fruitless quest to find a DRM that works to get rid of pirates while not locking out existing customers. This is impossible, since the point of DRM is to remove rights from customers in ways that are relatively easy for pirates to bypass.

      All they have to do is realise this and use open, non-DRM formats. Judging from recent activities, this is finally happening, albeit slowly.

      "That's definitely a problem music lovers would like addressed."

      Then address it yourselves. Only buy music from MP3 vendors such as Amazon, Beatport, 7digital or eMusic, or choose non-DRM formats when buying from iTunes. If customers don't buy DRMed music, the type of DRM used will become completely irrelevant.

       

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    zcat, Dec 22nd, 2007 @ 12:18pm

    iPod DRM

    iPod DRM has been described as "Digital Inconvenience Management", because it is so easy to get around.

    It seems that Apple made a brilliant strategic move _against_ DRM by adding DRM to the iPod and then refusing to license it to anyone else. Every other store now has to make a choice; they can sell music in some other DRM format that won't play on the iPod, cutting themselves out of about 90% of the market, or they can sell music with no DRM, which is the only way they can sell music that will play on an iPod.

    But at the end of the day Apple still control Fairplay. They could change the rules and stop the 'burn to CD' option that lets you legally strip the DRM off your Fairplay music, or they could be total asshats, move to some new format (Certified For OSX Leopard!) and stop supporting Fairplay at all. It's still a walled garden, Apple are just (so far) being a very benevolent gardener.

     

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    inc, Dec 22nd, 2007 @ 6:37pm

    Only if you signed over your soul this wouldn't even be an issue. I don't understand why you people think fair use should still exist. Why shouldn't you pay for every instance of a song? Hell, you should pay just for singing along.

     

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    b33f3r, Dec 23rd, 2007 @ 4:46pm

    oxymoron?

    i think they mean redundant.

     

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    Dan, Dec 24th, 2007 @ 6:12am

    "by inc on Dec 22nd, 2007 @ 6:37pm

    Only if you signed over your soul this wouldn't even be an issue. I don't understand why you people think fair use should still exist. Why shouldn't you pay for every instance of a song? Hell, you should pay just for singing along."

    "Hell, you should pay just for singing along....."
    LOLLOLOLLOL.
    Oh, maybe I shouldn't be laughing. You are SO in line with the thinking of DRMmers and recording industry.

     

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    Rose M. Welch, Dec 24th, 2007 @ 12:43pm

    I have a Muvo from Creative Labs that will plays any WMV file that I put on it. It is *supposed* to play DRM mp3 files, but gives you instructiosn on how to get around DRM-protected files that don't want to play on it.

    My friends and I all share CDs with each other. When we want new ones, we go in together and buy a bunch of used CDs on amazon.com for about 4 bucks a piece, which ends up being less than eighty cents per person per CD. At an average of 12 songs per CD, it ends up being about six-and-a-half cents per song. Now, truth be told, we don't want every song. So half it and say that we only wanted six of the songs that came with it. It's still about thirteen cents per song, way cheaper than the average. This is cheaper than buying them online and gets right around the DRM problem.

    After a Staples coupon and a rebate, my 2 gig Muvo was about twenty-three dollars. I never saw a commercial about them, they don't have huge displays in Wal-Mart like the Zune and they don't have the proprietary issues like the Ipod. And if people weren't so worried about looking cool with a really brand-name device, they would explore thier options and see that they can ignore this corporation crap until this DRM movement is over and done with.

    They have the ball and the hoop and they want you to think that they own the only court there is to play on... But they don't. So walk away and go play your own game. They won't keep trying to make us play by their rules when we're all on someone else's court.

     

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    Chameleon Headsets, Dec 24th, 2007 @ 3:19pm

    DRM is doomed, the handwriting is on the wall - No sooner do new "protection" techniques arrive than hacks to foil them appear as well. It's my bet that there will be a shift to "pay for content" that gives users licenses for XXX amount, package deals for volume buyers, etc. Bill Burke http://www.phoneportals.com Your Audio, Live Streams, and more... To every phone: On-Demand or Shouted-Out

     

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      niftyswell, Dec 25th, 2007 @ 9:52am

      Re:

      DRM is going to be killed by companies ditching their attempts sooner than anyone thinks.

      Got the die hard 4 movie for xmas with the digital copy of the movie...put it on my PDA, My media pc, and converted it to play on my kids mixmax without any problem. Deleted the half decent copy I downloaded that had sound issues part way through the movie. I showed it to a buddy who was over with the kids doing the gift exchange...did he ask me for a copy? Nope, instead said he is running down to the store to get it tomorrow.... I am not saying that it wont end up being ripped everywhere- like every other movie is these days, but it took away the main reason I download movies- because it is a pain to strip out the protection and convert DVD to avi/divx or wmv. I did not see one advertisement for diehard 4 in this format- I think they made a mistake not promoting it as a movie you can put on any player.

      Now if only they would just make getting the releases sooner possible even if I have to pay a premium, I would be happy!

      They also need to re-release the older movies on the digital format in stores- 5 bucks each, throw in commentary about the movie success- actors then and now, etc. They would make a killing! My teenager and his friends are constantly going through my collection of hundreds of DVD's ripping, editing, and publishing. Ends up that old DVD of footloose I have is actually getting some mileage! Even so something is lost in the conversion- sound matching, volume consistency, frame skips, trails, etc...worth the couple of bucks to get a professional updated copy from a studio to put on the media pc and have a backup in a box in the attic/basement.

       

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    Shun, Dec 25th, 2007 @ 12:11am

    Macrovision Sour Grapes

    Yeah, sounds like Mr. Bullwinkle just didn't like the fact that he was cut out of the action. The fact is, he represents an interest that does not believe in the abolition of DRM. He just thinks Apple DRM is "worse" than Macrovision DRM. Really, he just wants a piece of the big iTunes pie, and doesn't realize why Apple doesn't give it to them.

    Here's a hint, Mr. Macrovision: Apple did not want DRM in the first place. The record companies insisted Apple use some copy-control system, but didn't specifically say what. Jobs, being clever and all, made sure that Apple developed its own scheme, while still allowing the iPod to play standard old mp3's. Why? First, because Apple tightly integrates its software and hardware, and jealously guards both. Apple tolerates "hackers" who tinker with their software, but would really rather see them go away. Apple will never "open up" their iTunes store, DRM, or iPod, because this integration is driving their profits.

    The other reason that Apple is not going to cooperate with Macromedia is that Apple is attempting to replace all rivals with iTunes and the iPod. The iPod, and later the iPhone, was a game changer. Apple is attempting to dictate the new standard in music players, and marginalize "old" players like Macromedia.

    They appear to be having quite a bit of success with this strategy.

     

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    identicon
    Gary, Dec 25th, 2007 @ 1:49pm

    I got my first DVD in 1999 as a present for my wedding. The first movie I watched was a terrible Bruce Willis movie (are there any other kind?)--"The Siege"

    I knew the DVDs were copy-restricted, but it didn't matter to me then, but only did it bother me later, as you'll read. This is because when I put the disk in, it showed me a menu. A few years later, the marketing pinheads managed to get disks filled up with trailers, etc. before the menu. This was easy enough to fix: Just press the MENU button.

    My wife bought "Bruce Almighty" on DVD in 2003. I found myself unable to skip the garbage the DVD author put before the movie: trailers, ads, FBI warnings, etc. (This was crap you could skip on a VHS cassette). At first, I thought something was wrong with the remote. Then I figured out that the motherfuckers who author and make DVDs want to control MY viewing experience. I was incredulous: It's in the DVD spec under PUO (Prohibit User Operations).

    To the marketing pinheads who think trying to control the way I view content I have paid for is a great idea: FUCK YOU. Let me repeat: FUCK YOU. Because of this, I rip every movie I buy, borrow and otherwise get my hands on, especially the DVDs for my son. For example, we got him a Dr. Seuss DVD that is inconveniently authored to show ads that cannot be skipped for several shitty movies, one of which is called "Johnny English," every time one puts it in a player. But he's never seen it because I ripped the DVD. Other stuff I rip comes from the library--Hollywood owes for the time I spend ripping and for the blank DVDs that I need to get what I want.

    What's my point? The artificially imposed inability of me to control my viewing viewing experience has made me learn all sorts of things about DVDs that I wasn't interested in before, such as ripping. You see, it's not about the money--I'll buy another if it gets scratched--it's about control and you assholes that author DVDs with your marketing department in mind instead of me, the paying customer, need to get a clue.

    In the end, copy restriction schemes ("DRM") adds no value to that product, but adds cost to the product I want. This includes such nonsense as "open DRM."

    If you want to author and distribute your video on DVD, don't waste your money on a CSS license.

    Also, who'll win the HD-DVD vs Blu-Ray battle? The one that can be ripped successfully first. In the meantime, I'll save my cash. I refuse to "upgrade" knowing the 30% (or whatever the number is) of the cost of a disc is related to the unbelievable complicated encryption scheme that adds no value to the product, but has a cost.

    I repeat: To the marketing pinheads who think trying to control the way I view content I have paid for is a great idea: FUCK YOU.

     

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    Smitty Werbenjaegermanjenson, Dec 26th, 2007 @ 10:16am

    @Gary

    Amen Brother!!!!

     

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