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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  1. identicon
    Lou L., 6 Jan 2006 @ 6:59pm

    Re: 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).

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