If Bill Gates Thinks DRM Is So Flawed, Why Doesn't He Do Something About It?

from the money-where-your-mouth-is dept

Microsoft’s been trying to get all touchy-feely with bloggers lately, and had a bunch of them up to its HQ for, among other things, an audience with Bill Gates. Apparently he was asked for his thoughts on DRM and copy protection, and his reponse was that it’s pretty much broken. While not dismissing it out of hand, he says nobody’s gotten it right, and that it causes too many problems for legitimate buyers — which it does. So if Bill thinks it’s such a problem, why doesn’t he do something about it? It’s all well and good for the likes of us to sit here and explain how DRM hurts content providers’ businesses, but somehow, it seems that Hollywood’s more likely to listen to somebody like Bill Gates when it comes to these things. Instead, we get Microsoft kowtowing to the recording industry and enabling all sorts of DRM-related problems with its Windows Media DRM, in particular its lack of support for devices like non-Windows PCs, and even its own Zune. It’s high time that influential people who know better start explaining this stuff to the big content companies, whether it’s Bill Gates, Steve Jobs (though his affinity for DRM seems to have changed), Yahoo execs or the few in the content business that seem to understand what’s going on. Content owners need to wake up and realize that getting rid of DRM is good for their businesses; the idea just needs some influential evangelists to get them to listen.


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Comments on “If Bill Gates Thinks DRM Is So Flawed, Why Doesn't He Do Something About It?”

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27 Comments
franticindustries (user link) says:

big companies.

I’m working in a big company, and I can tell you one thing: if all big companies are like my company, then very often no one man – even if he’s the manager – can really control what the company does.

A company in its early stages is good in nature, but once it establishes itself it’s a money making factory and that’s its only goal. And when you have a lot of big companies joining in a common goal of making money (DRM), it’s a tough job taking their candy from them.

Microsoft is not different. Bill Gates probably cannot do anything about DRM even if he wanted to.

justin says:

re:

why is it bills responsibilty to do anything about a known flawed system? He didn’t created it, but he is stating the obvious … and since he mentions it, he should write the code/plan/whatever to get it correct?

lame.

Maybe the RIAA will fix is, since it really only effects them and the trillions of dollars they are losing on CDs that are worth 1/10 of what they are being sold for.

Bumbling old fool (profile) says:

Re: re:

why is it bills responsibilty to do anything about a known flawed system? He didn’t created it, but he is stating the obvious … and since he mentions it, he should write the code/plan/whatever to get it correct?

lame.

Uh, no, its up to Bill to fix if if Bill wants to reap the benefits fo fixing it. That is all the incentive there ever was, and Bill has proven that is enough incentive for him.

Carlo (user link) says:

Re: Why don't you.

I assume your comment is directed at me. Here’s why:

1. To my knowledge, I, nor a company I run, are currently responsible for creating and copy protection technologies or software that run counter to my feelings about DRM.

2. As I stated in the article, “It’s all well and good for the likes of us to sit here and explain how DRM hurts content providers’ businesses, but somehow, it seems that Hollywood’s more likely to listen to somebody like Bill Gates when it comes to these things.” Perhaps I’m just just overly humble, but I’d imagine that Hollywood execs who tend to think DRM is necessary to protect their businesses (and insist on using it) would sooner listen to Bill Gates’ thoughts on the topic than mine. But I appreciate the obvious high regard in which you hold me.

Vishy Venugopalan (user link) says:

How to fix DRM?

Given how broken DRM is in practice, I am glad it is being acknowledged by an influential figure like Bill Gates. DRM is broken today because it ties ownership of a media artifact (mostly) to the device it is being played on, rather than its owner. I’ve written up a blog post about how using SIM card-like devices for digital media might lead to saner DRM schemes.

misanthropic humanist says:

Companies vs people

@beerhunter “Gates is on his way to retirement. Why would he want to take on such a negative project?”

For exactly that reason. Maybe he sees it as a positive fight. I mean we know copy protection and DRM is unworkable an impossible at a logical level right? So does Gates because he’s not stupid. He’s an odd character Gates, not that I know anything firsthand, but he’s complex that’s obvious. Once he is free of the responsibilty of Microsoft expect to see him do and say some wild things as he becomes an old and cantankarous legend in his own lifetime. Deep down he’s old fashioned benevolent capitalist, earned it all himself etc etc. He enjoys respect and being liked and even though he probably understands the thinly veiled jealousy of the fellow geek world can’t quite understand why he’s become a figure of hate just for writing a a shitty operating system (Ok, *the* seminal shitty operating system). I suspect he doesn’t want to be remembered for that and has plans to remain involved in “technology issues” while there’s still breath in his body, which I hope is a long time yet. And I say that as a Windows hating Linux zealot too.

@ franticindustries

Agree. Corporations literally become an entity in their own right, not just a ficticious legal persona, but something gestalt. Individuals, even those who appear to have power, become the servants not masters of their creations. That is why we need have the law treat corporations with the exact equivilent powers to real people, not just the halfway niceities of incorporation, but have corporate murder, corporate insanity and corporate jailtime – sanctions that can usefully wipe out a company that is deemed a threat to society at large. Of course if that ever happened, Boeing, Haliburton, General Dynamics, and the whole nest of death profiteers would be disbanded within months.

rijit (profile) says:

Re: Companies vs people

@misanthropic humanist – In all the Sci-Fi and fiction I read, Corporations gaining individual rights or being treated as an individual is a bad thing 😉

As for DRM, I still maintain if you tag a file when it is made/copied with the information of who did it, where, and when would make it easier to find pirated content. The Riaa and the Mpaa can feel like they are still needed by downloading the content of various sites and checking the tags daily, hourly, or whatever. If a tag doesn’t hash out, they can go to work with the legal overkill and punish the mean ol’ pirates. Of course there is problems with this system as well but at least we could use the files on the platform we want to use them on without having to buy the same content two or three times.

another says:

Do you even understand the issues?

I think not. The content owners are the ones who demand DRM, not Microsoft. These are two different industries. Bill Gates can talk to the content owners, but is powerless to do anything about it other than that because Microsoft doesn’t produce content. The content owner doesn’t care about the device, because they don’t profit off the sale of the device.

Why do you continue to ignore the fact that different industries have different goals and agendas? I know that content owners want their content being sold on as many different devices as consumers choose, but you need to realize that content owners want to be paid for their material. Its not a technical issue (although getting DRM to work is) its a business issue of who gets paid.

Joe Schmoe says:

“The content owners are the ones who demand DRM”

And let’s not forget, it’s the RIAA & the MPAA that are the content owners, not the content producers (artists who have signed over their content for the industry’s age old promises of fame & fortune and seemingly lucrative deals…)

The deathnell of the RIAA & MPAA will not be their non-acceptance of DRM free content. Rather, it will be from more and more artists realizing that they don’t need to make deals with “the Man” anymore, and strick out on their own. Unfortunately, it is/will be a very long drawn out process.

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