Is Hiding A New DRM Standard Behind The Guise Of 'It Works On Any Device' Really That Compelling?

from the not-convinced dept

A few months back, we wrote about Disney’s attempt to create a new kind of DRM called “keychest” that would supposedly let a “buyer” (really, limited use “renter”) access the content he or she paid for on a variety of devices. As I noted at the time, all this was really doing was giving you back your fair use rights on content, while wrapping it in additional DRM. Many noted that this was actually Disney’s attempt to respond to a wider industry initiative (that Disney is not a part of) called DECE for Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem. While many are excited about this, I still fail to see what the big deal is. With the Consumer Electronics Show underway this week, DECE is getting a ton of publicity, where it will be demoed. But it’s still the same old story. It’s giving you your fair use rights wrapped up in another layer of DRM that you have to hope never goes away. It’s good that the industry is finally realizing that locking you to a single device is a bad idea, but this isn’t the solution.

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Comments on “Is Hiding A New DRM Standard Behind The Guise Of 'It Works On Any Device' Really That Compelling?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 tl;dr

Perhaps. However, you have been known to post early in the morning or even during lunch. Maybe you need a more capable smart phone than the one you’re currently toting around. Have you considered that one made by Apple? I’ve heard great things about it; and I think, gosh, I think it’s called an “aPhone” as in “ApplePhone”.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:


I’d like to come up with some awesome analysis of this move…but I can’t. When I read what the Mouse is trying to do here, the picture in my mind is too disturbing.

It’s as if we told them we like cupcakes. Then they realized they make really good cupcakes that we’d like to consume. So they called a press conference to announce the cupcakes, showed them to us from the dais, closed their eyes and enjoyed the applause….and then promptly pulled down their trousers and took a big steamy shit on the cupcakes and said, “TA-DAA! Disney cupcakes! Get ’em while their stinky!”

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Sigh...

“I’d like to come up with some awesome analysis of this move…but I can’t.”

I’m predicting this is the start of a new marketing program to try and get people to the that the “rights” in DRM refers to the consumer’s rights. “DRM: ensuring your rights to interoperablity!” A bit like how they tried to convince us that “trusted computing” meant that they were ensuring that you can trust your computer.

Anonymous Coward says:

Hang on a second--

Isn’t everyone who wants to reformat purchased single-format content to enable playing on multiple devices kind of already doing it? It’s not exactly difficult. Sure, it requires physical storage instead of streaming, but that’s cheap. How can these people be hanging their hope on this tech? It hasn’t even come out and it’s already obsolete.

Overcast (profile) says:

Will it work for devices in the future?

What if a new format comes out that would require 13TB – or 130TB – of digital storage for a movie – perhaps 3D or something holographic? Would available bandwidth be viable for that? Particularly if the media in question could easily hold that. And if not, will they freely ship what you have ‘bought’ on the new media?

Or – more likely – will they refuse to convert the older shows to the new technology for fear of just that. (with the assumption that’s all possible – and who can say?)

However; I do like the concept of buying the ‘rights’ to a program, and being able to get it on whatever media – whenever. That would solve a number of problems – but the CORE question then is – will it be retroactive since many of us have already ‘bought’ the rights for many shows, correct?

The Anti-Mike (profile) says:

DECE or something similar is likely what the future holds. It is the sort of system that balances artists rights and consumers rights, giving the consumer pretty much all of their fair use rights, while giving the artists / rights holders the confidence that their products are more difficult to share without permission.

The true completion of this sort of a system will be when resale rights are handled correctly, such that content and devices could be resold without the risks of content migrating without permission.

I cannot see which of the blessed fair use rights would be missing under such a system.

Oh Mike, your forgot “DRM tax” and “Bono sucks” in this thread.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re:

DECE or something similar is likely what the future holds. It is the sort of system that balances artists rights and consumers rights, giving the consumer pretty much all of their fair use rights, while giving the artists / rights holders the confidence that their products are more difficult to share without permission.

I’ll let Ed Felten answer that one…

“As usual, we’ll kick off the new year by reviewing the predictions we made for the previous year. Here now, our 2009 predictions, in italics, with hindsight in ordinary type.

(1) DRM technology will still fail to prevent widespread infringement. In a related development, pigs will still fail to fly.

By tradition this is our first prediction, and it has always been accurate. Guess what our first 2010 prediction will be? Verdict: right.”


chris (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

from that article i think number 32 is more relevant:

(32) The present proliferation of incompatible set-top boxes that aim to connect your TV to the Internet will lead to the establishment of a huge industry consortium with players from three major interest groups (box builders, content providers, software providers), reminiscent of the now-defunct SDMI consortium, and with many of the same members. In 2009, they will generate a variety of press releases but will accomplish nothing.

An initiative called DECE tried to do exactly this, with the predicted results. Verdict: right.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“giving the consumer pretty much all of their fair use rights”

DRM, by definition, removes fair use rights. It’s impossible to have a DRM that gives you all of your rights. If it only retains “pretty much” all your rights, you still lose *something* (most likely the ability to play back on non-approved devices, maintaining the status quo for Microsoft, Apple, et al., at the expense of new innovators in the market).

Unless you can actually come up with an actual reason why any of this is beneficial for the consumer, then it’s simply not. Therefore, it won’t be universally acceptable and will do nothing to stop “piracy”. As often maintained here, it only takes one cracked copy of a DRM file to make the DRM useless and only affecting those who buy content. “Pirates” are not penalised.

“I cannot see which of the blessed fair use rights would be missing under such a system.”

Off the top of my head:

– The ability to play back the content you have bought on the device of your choosing (you’re an idiot if you think that all “minority” systems such as Linux, Archos, older legacy systems, etc. will be universally supported by such a scheme.).
– The ability to back up said content for personal use.
– The ability to edit & remix content for non-commercial use & personal use.
– The ability to play back content legally purchased from outside of your current physical region.
– The ability to transform the data to another medium (e.g. CD to MP3, burning a standard DVD from a digital file).

Almost Anonymous (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Zomg, I can’t believe it. I almost agree with TAM.

Many sci-fi writers foresee a similar fate, and I wouldn’t be so bothered *IF* resale rights were preserved. Can you imagine a musician doing a limited run of 10,000 mp3s? Essentially digital goods would no longer be infinite. However this scenario would require a complete alteration of both the fabric of the internet and computing as a whole, since as we know this would require enforcement at the hardware level.

Luci says:

Re: Re: Re:4 old media

And you continue to spout the same retoric we hear from the recording industry year after year. DRM does nothing but piss people off. We expect to be making a purchase, but DRM defies that, makes it a rental. Sorry, I’ll record it off the radio, first. See, I’ve got this great thing called a computer? Will let me turn those tapes into MP3s? I’ve already done it with the stacks of audio cassettes from the 80s.

Vincent Clement says:

Re: Re: old media

If you can use your content on any device…

That is a big if.

My wife can’t watch several DVDs of her legally purchased Lost Season 2 on a variety of devices, especially older ones. Thank you copy protection.

So I rip a copy that strips away all the protections, fake vts and errors, burn a copy and voila she can watch them on any of the devices that the original discs did not play in.

When you start pissing off people that legally purchase a product, your business model is bound to fail.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: old media - publicans

In our country (UK) publicans are the people who own/run public houses (AKA pubs – bars in US).

Your talk of “Giant publicans” conjured up a strange image in my mind.

We have a comedian over here called Al Murray who has a persona as “the pub landlord” (ie publican).

I was imagining a HUGE version of him…..

Lawrence D'Oliveiro says:

The Citizen Kane Tactic

Anybody else remember that scene in “Citizen Kane”, where Kane (Orson Welles) is nobly explaining to his friend (Joseph Cotton) how he will “give the people their rights”? And Cotton points out that rights are something the people already have, they don’t need his permission?

In honour of that, I propose that we label these “kinder, gentler DRM” subterfuges as the “Citizen Kane tactic”.

Anonymous Coward says:


Expecting Disney to embrace fair and balanced copyright is like expecting fair and balanced news reporting out of Faux “News”. Not gonna happen Bucky, so move on.

Take nothing from the Copyright Cartel, give nothing to the Copyright cartel. The Copyright cartel does not exist! Your objection is best in the form of not consuming intellectual property as a first user. Only buy used DVDs, CDs, and disconnect cable, sat, or UVerse.

Anonymous Coward says:

I am still attempting to understand where it is established as a matter of law that the duplication of a copyrighted work other than a computer program intended as a backup is a priori a fair use. Certainly the Betamax decision made no such unqualified holding, opting instead to rely upon the Plaintiff’s/Respondent’s evidence produced at trial to declare that it had failed to produce evidence sufficient to overcome the evidence produced at trial by the Defendant/Appellant pertaining to fair use as set forth at 17 USC 107.

This is a far cry from unequivocally stating that duplication of a copyrighted work, even if for non-commercial purposes, is an unqualified legal right inuring to one who makes a duplicate.

As a practical matter, I have a difficult time believing that a copyright holder in the music and movie industries would peek through people’s windows and file a lawsuit challenging the making of a back up copy (of course the anti-circumvention provisions of the DCMA raise other issues not pertinent to this comment). Nevertheless, to say that in-home duplicators have surrendered fair use rights because of DRM, and that the approach currently associated with Disney “gives back” some of those rights is in my view inaccurate under existing statutory law and judicial decisions by the Supreme Court.

:) says:


We don’t own anything as the industry so quickly likes to point out every chance it gets so why pay $10 dollars? or 5 or even 1.

The right price for me is something like $0.05.


Because it is a service, and should be priced low so everyone can pay per use. 300 million people wouldn’t just use it once if it was dirty cheap they could even use more without even realizing but at $10 a pop, do people start to get conscious about expending and they form that mental barrier against it.

0.05 x 1000(uses) = 50 bucks.

300 million x 50 = 15 billion dollars.

0.05 x 100(uses) = 5

300 million x 5 = 1.5 billion dollars.

Of course this is an oversimplification but the potential there is huge and that price range is still high.

Google has it right when it pays something like $0.001 LoL

In the U.S. people still don’t use their phones to pay for something or can’t buy gift cards that contain credits to make purchases online(great to give it to kids as allowance) but the guy that makes an app for cellphones that contacts paypal or something like that and get nanopayments will be king of the hill.

That price range is so cheap that people wouldn’t bother to loose or maintain anything they can always go back and get more and they probably will go to the original creator, no need for DRM, friends could get together and watch or listen to hours without making worrying about going hungry.

To me it makes a lot of sense to see the recursive nature of repeated payment instead of a one off every decade or so.

Before anyone think this is nuts just consider how financial institutions make money out of people they don’t charge $10 dollars a pop they charge little fees that get lost in the statements.

Comcast I think have 12 million customers.
0.05 x 12M = 600 000

So that is a 1 day revenue stream in 30 days it would be 18M dollars if everyone just saw 1 program at a time and that is 219M per 365 days of course people wouldn’t just use it once they would use it more.

1x = 219 Millions
10x = 2.19 Billions
100x = 21.9 Billions(more money then the entire industry did worldwide)

And this people are preocupied about plastic discs?

100 songs listening would cost the customers 5 dollars.

Now why the entertainment industry guys are so dumb?

That sounds about right to me

:) says:


I remember in the 80’s people talking about how TV was killing books, people didn’t read which I think was not true, people just didn’t buy books they read a lot because every time I was in a public library it was always packed.

Now that digital came publisher are seeing interest in paying again. They will screw it up if they go the price hiking way again.

For the music industry I hope they die and I am waiting for news of great names of the past struggling to make the end of the month.

I will never buy a copyrighted thing ever, I may use it from friends but I will never ever again pay money to this kind of mechanisms.

I’m looking forward to the open culture(also known as free culture) movement to pick up pace it will happen because society is not being able to cope with the greed of some people and it will find ways to balance itself the first salvo was piracy and it mimics exactly what it did happen in the software industry as I recall. First the pirates cracked the stuff and distributed I remember going to my friends houses to trade games and I learn how to crack things, it was easy in those days just a security bit turn on and off I even learn how to debug and trace things and use JMP command, it was a lot of fun, but those days are gone for me now I help others do things because I just realized that money doesn’t substitute work done, the important part in live is create something original or not and that is what creates wealth not money, money is a vehicle to producing stuff to get people who otherwise would not want to work together to do something.

Governments should be worried because people forgot for a moment that they could do things by themselves but they are starting to wake up to the fact that if people want something they have to do it to themselves and companies will loose their monopolies as people start embracing new paradigms.

Lets change the world embracing the open movement that is growing around the world.

Steve R. (profile) says:

Did You Read The NYT Article?

The underlying New York Times article has some scary implications. Mitch Singer of Sony Pictures Entertainment is quoted as saying: ““Consumers shouldn’t have to know what’s inside,” he said. “They should just know it will play.””. Note the company name, Sony. Sony brought us the famous rootkit scandal. So here we have an implementation of a hidden DRM that effectively deprived the consumer of their rights to use their equipment as they wish.

This concept of “hiding” the technology also applies to the whole network neutrality debate. As Comcast already demonstrated, they can manage the flow of packets in an undisclosed manner. So given the capability, companies will implement since they have little respect for the consumers rights.

Clearly, the use of surreptitiously “hidden” technologies allows companies to turn your computer (device) into a zombie device that you loose control over.

Steve R. (profile) says:

Re: Did You Read The NYT Article?

In an email exchange, it occurred to me that I “missed” a thought on the lack of analysis in the NYT article. The article talks of making one standard for purposes of portability. Well, all these companies purposely designed their content with proprietary technologies to prevent portability. Now they want to portability under the assertion that they are doing it to help the consumer???? Hogwash.

Daemon_ZOGG (profile) says:

DECE "IS" Just Another DRM Problem For Consumers...

Just remember: All of those movies you already have in your personal home collection.. If you want to make use of your DECE “Digital Rights Vault”, you’ll have to buy those movies you have ALL OVER AGAIN. It’s just another way for the industry to make you buy more hardware to watch media locked into another DRM environment.
You’ll either need a computer, a “special” set-top device, or an expensive television to view your movies.

Henry Emrich (profile) says:

You "almost agree" with Anti-Mike? That's really pitiful.

“Many sci-fi writers foresee a similar fate,”

Please point us to them, preferably one that actually had an understanding of what digital content even *is.

“and I wouldn’t be so bothered *IF* resale rights were preserved.”

That’s what the corporate scumbags deploying this idiocy are counting on: you don’t give a shit about *principles* like fair use, why copyright is only intended to last a limited time, etc. — YOU just want to be ‘permitted” to “re-sell” existing copies. In other words, you take the “secondary market” enabled by the “first-sale” doctrine (or whatever it’s local equivalent happens to be in any given jurisdiction) FOR GRANTED, and just want to cash in on it.

“Can you imagine a musician doing a limited run of 10,000 mp3s?”

Can you imagine anybody actually giving a shit about it if somebody *did*? Let’s ignore the colossal hubris involved in taking advantages of the *benefits* of digital technology while counting on the “enforced scarcity” afforded by analog media. (Well, not actually even by analog media — that CAN be copied, too — we’ve just permitted an entire sub-specialty of lawyers, lobbyists, and leeches tasked with trying to prevent it.)

“Essentially digital goods would no longer be infinite.”

Ah, the “Fritz Chip” scenario — the ultimate corporate media/government wet dream. Pity it hasn’t actually worked out (technical savvy + political principles = “black hat” subversives who break anything like that AS A MATTER OF BASIC PRINCIPLE.)

“However this scenario would require a complete alteration of both the fabric of the internet and computing as a whole, since as we know this would require enforcement at the hardware level.”

It would also require:

1. All previous non-hobbled formats/anything capable of playing them back to magically disappear, which is impossible, for the simple reason that people *do* want interoperability/backward compatibility with the rest of their media.

2. By definition, the only truly “unbreakable” encryption is something equivalent to the one-time pad. Read up on it, sometime — it’s fascinating. One of the really amazing attributes of it, in terms of making DRM completely pointless, is that in order to be *really* secure, the “hardware-level enforcement” would *also* have to be invisible even to the “authorizing” authority. So how do you propose to make the PERMISSIONS (NOT “rights” — please stop calling this a “restoration of rights”) transferable?
Wouldn’t the “licenses” involved with this inevitably be *visible* in some form, say, when you’re switching from one “authorized” device to another? Can’t see how any such ‘enforcement key” would be anything other than a string of data associated with the file in question.

No way to do it.

Henry Emrich (profile) says:

More epic fail for "faux analog" digital "scarcity":

Let’s assume that the set-top box, home PC, or whatever other “authorized” device you’re running it on needs to be able to detect which uses of any given file are ‘permissible” (by matching them up to licenses, or some other type of authorization-code.)

For this to work, it’s going to have to “know” (at some combination of the software AND hardware level) the following:

1. That the file *is* the one associated with a given license-key.

2. That the license key *DID* actually originate from the “authorized” source. (In other words, it would require some “off-site” — probably centralized — repository of “authorized license keys” — a license-server. Why? If they use a non-infinite set of license-keys, you just run into the same exact scenario as they have nowadays with “pirated” software — if you have the license and reg info, you bypass the “protection”. Think “keygen”.)

(So the first — and most glaringly obvious — problem with any attempt to create “digital scarcity”, is that you’ll ned a unique “authorization key” for every single “legitimate” copy. You also need the ability for a playback device to “ask” the licensing-authority if the license is “legitimate” or not. Licensing server outage = NO copies of the content playable, even if they’re “legitimately purchased.”

Anybody remember when Wal-Mart (I think it was) wanted to shut down their attempt at a DRM-“protected” music store? They ended up having to TRAIN THEIR OWN CUSTOMERS how to break/bypass the DRM “protection”, so as to not run into people actually noticing that what they’d “bought” was completely dependent on the DRM-key servers continuing to be up and running.

BTW: Glad to see “Anti-Mike” is back, with his food-related ramblings: first hamburgers, now Kool-aid. Yummy! 🙂

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