Google's Copy Protection: Supplying The Tools For Others To Be Evil

from the yay!-less-choice! dept

When we called attention yesterday to the news that Google was apparently launching its own proprietary copy protection, we dinged AP and Reuters for completely ignoring it in their reports. At least for the AP, the reason they didn’t mention it was because it was under embargo, and that embargo is now over, since Larry Page is on stage in Las Vegas talking about it. Unfortunately, Google’s copy protection scheme sounds just as bad as we feared. It is their very own, and it will limit what you can do with the video significantly. You can’t transfer the video to mobile devices. It doesn’t work on a Mac. And, you can only view the video when you’re online, as the copy protection obviously is calling home first (which, of course, opens up the potential of security holes).

On the flip side, Google will (I’m sure) quickly point out that their DRM offers more “flexibility” than others, in that you don’t have to use it, and if you do, you have choices about how restrictive it is. In other words, Google is basically going to say that they built the locks, but it’s up to the content provider to be evil with those locks. As part of this whole offering of letting anyone sell videos through their system, they’re also offering more payment options so that (unlike iTunes) content providers can choose how much things cost, and even allows some variability (for example, Charlie Rose will offer free streaming for a day after his shows air, and then unencumbered downloads for $0.99 after that). Google takes a 30% cut of any sale. It’s nice that they’re giving content providers some choice, but it’s still quite worrisome that there’s now yet another incompatible copy protection scheme that will be making the rounds. This isn’t good for anyone and shrinks the overall market. Google may think that it was “necessary” to simply give content providers the option to hang themselves with bad copy protection, but it’s a cop out position. Google, at this point, should have a strong enough market position to let content providers know that there’s a better way to offer content without copy protection — and if content providers are too scared, that’s their problem. Eventually they would come around when they saw success stories without copy protection.

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Comments on “Google's Copy Protection: Supplying The Tools For Others To Be Evil”

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TriXx says:

but why?

When I buy something, I consider it mine. I understand that companies believe that they are loosing money on copying and illegal recording of videos and music and such. My problem is the fact that the very machines people use to copy these products are in fact made by the same companies that are producing the anti copying technology. Like sony for example, the believe there right to protect their property means they can invade my computer with files typically used in hacking and such, leaving me open to further attacks (which they stole from another company from what i understand). Do these big buisness not see that the public is getting smarter and is recognizing the fact that sony wants you to buy a cd/dvd burner, and disks, but they dont want you to copy anthing with them. They want you to buy there movies and music but they want to control how we use them. I dont know about anyone one else, and perhaps my arguments are irrational, but I kinda feel like there taking my money, am I’m not really getting anything in return except headaches. If i buy something, i want it to be mine, to do with as i please. If you dont like the fact that i copy something, or download something, change your buisness model to allow me to do what I want, i hold all the cards, i am your customer, its my money you want. FIGURE IT OUT! *sry for bad spellings

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: but why?

Why did they need “major players” like ABC to sign on? Why not let those smart enough to realize copy protection isn’t needed to sign on first. As content providers become successful without copy protection, the stragglers would have their bluff called.

I just don’t see why Google needs to kowtow to the big content players. Despite what those content player believe, they’re not necessarily the core of successful online video content.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 but why?

Because big content providers have money and power. Google’s number 1 job is to make money. As much as possible as fast as possible for their shareholders. That’s how it works.

Right, but what we’re saying is that this will make them *less* money. They’re shrinking the market by fragmenting it and cutting off all sorts of opportunities to really make money by trying to prop up an obsolete system.

If anyone could see that, it should be Google.

Lou L. says:

Re: Re: Re:3 but why?

All I can say is that Google is being smart, I believe. Personally, I can’t believe that they’re doing copy-protection at all, but I think that it’s really the non-Mac capability that’s going to kill them. Also, of course they had to add it in the first place. They know that not one person will sign on (or, rather, be able to sign on, inasmuch as the industry pulls these guys’ strings) if there is no protection because the industry is retarded. Now it’s possible that as soon as they’ve locked these guys into a contract, they’ll lift the DRM, in which case they would be better serving the community, but will never get the trust of any single person (or, rather, their agents or network, see above parentheses). All in all, it may not seem to be so, but it is a very good business decision for their bottom line (because one must remember that as great as Google is, it’s still a business).

TriXx says:


Thx Dave, and I agree with choice, and the content owners having the ability to protect their investments, but not at my expense. All the money they spend on copy protection, and lawsuits and killing their customer base, should be used to find a way to let us do what we want. There must be a way, all the brain power their using to piss us off could be used to give us what we want, they would be hero’s. I know this would’nt work, but a suggestion would be perhaps a blanket fee.. download, copy, upload, an do whatever you want for a yearly fee… not only would something like that solve alot of shipping issues, it would make us happy. I don’t want to use this service to get this movie, that service to get that song, and yet another to get my software, the whole time my computer is being hacked to pieces by some 12 year old thats exploiting some software crack. I want a one stop shop for all my media that i can download and upload and copy untill my fingers fall off and my cd burner explodes, that i dont have to worry about spyware, hackers, or people trying to figure out what kind of stuff i like so they can pop up a bunch of crap on my screen, and I dont mind paying for it as long as its mine when i buy it, w/o a disclaimer a half mile long threatoning me with legal action should i do this or that….I want to buy something that is mine to do with as i please.. its that simple.

Charbax (user link) says:

Google DRM is possibly just DivX Networks DRM

As it seems DivX and Google have worked together to do this, 50 million DivX Certified dvd players are allready in people homes.

This means, if you buy a DRM video at Google Video, you will be able to burn it to a disc and play it back on your DivX Certified consumer electronics device, be it a DVD player or a portable device.

You just have to do some maneuvre when burning the disc, you have to put in the special disc burning program your DivX player DRM unique ID, thus the burnt copy will be quickly digitally signed to be played back on that DivX Certified device.

Sure I don’t like DRM, and I think CBS and others will quickly stop wanting to use it, and DRM will be a bad memory. But Google are maybe not introducing a new kind of DRM, they are maybe just using DivX Networks DRM. Or at least some kind of DRM that is compatible with the 50 million DivX Certified DVD players that people allready have.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Google DRM is possibly just DivX Networks DRM

As it seems DivX and Google have worked together to do this, 50 million DivX Certified dvd players are allready in people homes.

No, the Google DRM isn’t with DivX. Google and DivX separately announced a deal, but admitted that it’s in name only, nothing has been done. The Google DRM is separate.

Jeremiah (user link) says:


Mike, relax. I know you’re passionate about DRM (I am, too), but I think a longer perspective on this might do ya good.

First, like most DRM, it’s enabled by the copyright *owner*. I would submit that most IP owners don’t understand some of the longer term issues with DRM (myself included) and may choose it with little regard for those conseqeunces. It is, however, still their perogative, and their’s alone.

My hope is that a large, level playing field (“level” meaning roughly equal access to the same distrubution platform, i.e. the internet) provided by Google will make our contention shockingly obvious and clear: DRM-less media will far outstrip DRM-laden media in downloads, publicity, etc, due to its ability to seamlessly migrate over playback platforms.

At the end of the day, however, it’s still the sole determinination of the copyright holder what option is appropriate for them.


This may be far-fetched, but I’ll go so far as to invoke VHS/Betamax, in the sense that the core argument there was that while the possibility of copyright infringment (evil) was possible with the VHS format, the possibility of purely legal (good) applications was so overwhelming. Hence, the technology was allowed to survive, so to speak. Same with DRM: it may provide the capacity for copyright holders to “be evil”, but the probability is that it will be used in beneficial (to the copyright holder) ways is of a great enough degree that DRM (and it’s adherents) should be granted their own discretion at its use.

Dan says:

More Incompatibility for the Masses

Here’s my frustration. For technology to really take off it needs to work for the masses. Just about all of us here are true geeks – tech lovers who can deal with the multitude of incompatibilities and configuration options to get things to work. But think about your mom or your grandmother. All they want is for things to just work – and really that’s what I want as well. Competing technologies is great and what our open market is all about. However, we need a better process for determining which technology wins. The barrage of technology hitting the market place does not allow consumers to pick the best one. It confuses everyone and lengthens the time for a standard to emerge.
Final thought: Given that GMail has been in beta for like 18 months as have most Google technologies (ones they release rather than run on their own servers) I’d be fearful of spending any real money on their stuff.
Well I’m off to list my Betamax movies and 8-track tapes on eBay. Later.

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