(Mis)Uses of Technology

by Timothy Lee


Filed Under:
drm, video

Companies:
amazon, netflix



Newfangled DRM Even Better At Punishing Paying Customers

from the that-sounds-backwards dept

Slashdot points us to an interesting story that highlights the ongoing farce that is Hollywood's anti-piracy efforts. A guy named Davis Freeberg says he purchased a shiny new high-definition monitor, and discovered that one of the consequences of his upgrade was that he could no longer play movies downloaded (legally) from Netflix. After some further research (research that a lot of consumers would have neither the patience nor the knowledge to perform) and several tech-support phone calls, he concluded that the procedure for re-enabling Netflix would likely cause him to lose the ability to watch videos downloaded from other services such as Amazon Unbox. The really absurd thing about this is that all of these "security" features don't in any way prevent him from going to a peer-to-peer site and downloading illegal copies of the movies he wants to watch. It's only when he foolishly tries to obey the law and pay Hollywood for the movies he watches that he's cast into tech support hell.

This kind of problem is a predictable consequence of Hollywood's constantly-escalating demands for copy protection. Normal engineering principles dictate that devices should be designed for reliability, and should attempt to recover if it detects a problem. But DRM turns this principle on its head: if something appears to be amiss, it assumes someone must be trying to circumvent it and shuts down. So as DRM becomes more and more intrusive (and the copy protection systems in Vista are downright pervasive) it becomes more and more likely that something will go wrong. As a result, you end up with the absurd situation in which paying customers are punished with a never-ending stream of mysterious tech-support problems.


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  • identicon
    Daniel Mittleman, 7 Jan 2008 @ 5:21pm

    My take from the DRM postings

    I don't download (or rent) videos. Am not that interested in them. But I do have a fiance who is an avid NetFlix user. When we get a house together I am sure she is going to want me to set up my PC and TV to watch her movies.

    From what I am learning at TechDirt, there is no way I will permit DRMed movies into my system; I will set her up to grab P2P movies online.

    But note that she is happily paying NetFlix today to watch the movies on her tiny old TV; And I have no objection for paying for material.

    However, I saw what Sony did with their rootkit two years ago and I will not let any DRM scheme anywhere near my PC.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Obsidian, 7 Jan 2008 @ 5:43pm

      Re: My take from the DRM postings

      Daniel Mittleman, you could not have said it better. I have clear instructions with my family: No Movie or Audio DVD's or CD's are to be used on this computer at all, unless they were burnt by us.

      I used to watch DVD movies on my PC before the Sony fiasco. No more. If I want to watch a movie on my computer, I use Torrents. No Netflix or anything like it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    TSO, 7 Jan 2008 @ 5:26pm

    Movie Industry to consumers:

    All Your Movie Are Belong To Us!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pope Ratzo, 7 Jan 2008 @ 6:06pm

    No mas

    Since the entertainment/industrial complex has decided to forego any further efforts to cover up their hostility toward their customers, I have decided to return the favor.

    I will no longer pay for any entertainment except directly to the artists themselves. I have also abandoned any feelings of guilt over the acquisition and enjoyment of ripped or pirated media.

    I'm rooting for the complete collapse of the entertainment industry as it exists today. If all sponsoring members of the RIAA were to go out of business tomorrow, I would not fell even a little bit of regret.

    If that means there will be no more mega-budget blockbuster movies, or albums with 5 million dollar budgets, that just fine. I will just have to do without Pirates of the Carribean 5 or Charlie's Angels 6.

    I have no fear that music and movies will no longer be made. Artists create. That's what they do. And they innovate. The ones who are worthy will find a way to make their art, and find a way to make a living doing so.

    As someone who makes his living from creative work, I have been able to completely go outside of the mainstream and still get paid. In fact, since making all of my work either Creative Commons or Public Domain, my income has increased. I would make everything PD, but many producers are too afraid to work with unprotected content. That's fine, because there is a growing number who will do so.

    When the management of Movie Studios and Major Labels lose their jobs, at least it will solve any manpower shortages in the fast food industry. After making their money all their lives from the creative work of others, that's about all they'll be qualified to do.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 7 Jan 2008 @ 7:24pm

      Re: No mas

      I have also abandoned any feelings of guilt over the acquisition and enjoyment of ripped or pirated media.

      I can kind of understand that sentiment. It kind of sounds like the moral doctrine of "dirty hands" that says that someone with dirty hands (from dirty dealings) does not deserve to profit from those dealings. Hollywood has certainly been dealing dirty by not revealing to prospective customers the problems their DRM will create. Due to that some people believe that Hollywood has lost the moral, if not legal, right to profit from those actions. It's the same moral principle that asset forfeiture in criminal cases is based on.

      I think there is even something similar in civil law about dirty hands? Maybe some lawyer who knows will read this and respond.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    MrScott, 7 Jan 2008 @ 6:30pm

    This is the main reason I simply WILL NOT upgrade to Vista. Like the first comment, I won't allow any DRM scheme in my machine either. I'll watch whatever I want to, WHEN I want to, and WHERE I want to. I don't need some company's rules telling me that I can't watch this movie, or listen to this music on ONLY this device and not another one I have. I paid for it, they got their money. End of story, right??? Not by their rules it's not.

    And I'll be DAMNED if I ever have to pay for the same thing twice or three times just because I first (legally) downloaded a movie to my machine, only to have my machine go belly-up for some reason, reinstall the operating system and then find out that I can't watch my movie (which I paid for the first time) because of DRM telling me that something in my machine is different. Right here is the reason I have several DIVX sites bookmarked when I want to watch a movie. DIVX can be very high quality resolution-wise. Most of what I see is 720p, and with my widescreen monitor and digital 5.1 sound receiver, I have no complaints. And if I like it, I have no problem burning it to a DVD.

    When you think about it, shouldn't VCR's or VCR tapes be outlawed because they can copy whatever you put into it? I can easily record any show I see on my screen and play it back however many times I want to, and not pay for it over and over and over each time I see it. I know this all goes back to the betamax ruling many years ago, but with today's technology brandishing DRM schemes or copy protection to prevent this in movies and music, what's preventing most of us smarter folks from getting around it in the first place? (ain't AnyDVD great!)

    The REAL reason the movie and music industry is losing so much money today is not because of illegal downloading, it is because of two factors: 1 is all the DRM and rootkits they pack into their product, and the word spreads fast to stay away from it. And 2 is most of today's movies and music simply...aren't worth a damn! We've seen so many variations of the same subject in films and the music all sounds the same, with small variations. (how many times have you heard a familiar tune on the radio only to find out that another artist is singing it?) Case and point!

    Stop shooting yourself in the foot movie and music industry! So many online music sites are NOW selling DRM-FREE music and it's selling like hotcakes! DUH!! Get a grip! Is that not telling you something?

    Enough said!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Haywood, 7 Jan 2008 @ 6:58pm

    Vista is ok with p2p stuff

    Like was said, it only chokes on legit stuff. Media center is so much cleaner in Vista even if it is annoying as an operating system. i barely see the O.S. I start and shutdown with my remote, & only do basic stuff with the mouse once in a while. My gamer and work computers will stay on XP.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Jan 2008 @ 7:36pm

    Hey! my computer had vista! I then upgraded to vista ultimate (relax, I spent $10 due to student discount). And then I went the final upgrade and am now dualbooting 64bit linux and 64bit xp. They're both exponentially faster than either vista, and I was almost surprised by the fact that the drivers for hardware were easier to find for linux than for xp (as a matter of fact I have yet to search for any drivers for it, while I spent several hours each day over the course of 3 days looking for xp drivers and software, and it's still unstable compared to linux).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Hellsvilla, 7 Jan 2008 @ 7:59pm

    Important to note:

    In Billy Gates's own farewell speach, he said the future was full of HD everywhere and seamless integration.

    And yet... This DRM that netflix uses is actually PROVIDED Billy's own beloved Microsoft.

    Is this why you're stepping down dear Billy? 'cause the big bad media companies took over your office and won't even let you answer your own email anymore?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    prophet of the obvious, 7 Jan 2008 @ 8:32pm

    The whole damn industry is going to come crashing down someday soon. And on that day, there will be rejoicing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    fugitive247 (profile), 7 Jan 2008 @ 11:07pm

    High-tech Territorial Pissings

    I'm with the good Pope on this one, big time. And for much the same reasons. But let's spin this in a different light. It's no secret that the entertainment industry have proved time and again that their modus operandi is the Almighty Buck. And one must surely be living under a rock if they're unaware of the DMCA and many of its legion (RIAA, MPAA and SPA, amongst others).

    Various technologies aside, one could conceivably be charged with reverse engineering if he/she were to change region-specific codes or settings within media and/or electronics in order to have even a legally owned OEM version of the media or device perform to the needs of the owner. Failing those (for whatever reasons), a viable, legal and hassle-free alternative for enjoying "media x" should be granted considerable latitude where the DMCA is concerned.

    For example, if one owns a functional OEM Laserdisc and a dead player he/she should be legally able to download a copy of that media in whatever current standard is available. Of course this is assuming that a format conversion has already been done and is internet accessible. This aspect of p2p has been a great asset in archival media preservation.

    But then there's always the mega-corporate gluttons, and the abject industry sell-outs who will blindly pursue even septuagenarians using these same p2p services to enjoy work that's been in the public domain for decades. No names mentioned... **cough-cough-Metallica-cough-cough**

    Don't get me started on the whole piracy issue. Yo-ho-friggin'-ho, baby.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Paul`, 8 Jan 2008 @ 12:47am

    I'd gladly pay..

    If they offered me the content in a fashion I could enjoy getting. I mostly use torrents because of the convenience of letting whatever it is I want to get download over night and then be able to pause it and continue later. Also, if i pay for a film I want to be able to watch it whenever I want to, not within a time period set on some dodgey DRM.

    Interesting thing about that screen blocking netflix videos though, seeing as contend obtained illegally over P2P would simply be in .avi or some other container and thus indistinguishable to any other open form of content. Where is the rational in blocking things which are certifiably legal such as DRM'd content?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Killer_Tofu (profile), 8 Jan 2008 @ 5:36am

    DRM & My PC

    I still put DVDs into my PC.
    But that is with ALL autoplay completely shut off.
    And the only way the disc is accessed, is by a program that allows me to rip what I want off of it.
    This way my original discs (yah I know I shouldn't be buying so much) stay in pristine condition while when I go to watch a movie, I get to watch just the menu & special features without all those pointless previews and such.
    Other than making cleaner backup copies of my discs, I do not put music CDs or DVDs into my PC either.
    Don't trust them. They have shown plenty of reasons not to be trusted long before I started what I do now.

    And Vista really does hate legit HD content with a passion. Friend had the misfortune of getting it on a PC. He decided to take my advice later on and has since put XP back on it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Ima Fish, 8 Jan 2008 @ 5:43am

    The guy is wrong, completely wrong

    I wrote about this over at Slashdot already. The guy is completely wrong. Here's what I wrote:

    I've been waiting all day to come home and try Netflix's service on my new HDTV to see if this guy was right. Without much ado, he's wrong.

    First, the guy wrote that "Because my computer allows me to send an unrestricted HDTV feed to my monitor, Hollywood has decided to revoke my ability to stream 480 resolution video files from Netflix. In order to fix my problem, Netflix recommended that I downgrade to a lower res VGA setup."

    I have a computer with DVI out connected to a HDMI input on a 1080p television. A Samsung HL-T5087S to be exact. I'm running the TV at 1920x1080. But, yet I did not have to "downgrade to a lower res VGA setup" to get Netflix's streaming service to work. So, he's wrong.

    Next he said that he had to give Microsoft's "sniffing program access to all of the files on my hard drive." Once again, that is complete BS. I too was faced with "Reset Microsoft DRM Utility." I clicked it and a second later it was done. I have a spanned drive of 2 terabytes of xvid files on my computer. Do you really think Microsoft's utility could have scanned all of those files in one second?! Clearly, it did no scanning of my system at all, it merely reset whatever DRM crap it had to reset and it was done.

    Anyone who has read my posts and comments here know I'm not in favor of DRM. But if someone is going to attack it, they should get their facts straight and not simply make crap up.

    And I just have to add this, what sort of moron buys movies from Amazon's Unbox service?! If you really want to watch a movie over and over again, buy the DVD! You can watch it on any DVD player. You can take it to a friend's house and watch it. You can rip it to your iPod or other portable player. You can make as many backups as you want. Bitching about the DRM in Unboxed movies you bought reflects much more poorly on the buyer than on the seller.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Fisherman, 8 Jan 2008 @ 8:28am

      Re: The guy is wrong, completely wrong

      I have a computer with DVI out connected to a HDMI input on a 1080p television.

      Good for you, but that's not the exact same setup "the guy" has. And without the exact same setup (hardware, firmware, software, licenses, etc.) DRM tests performed on your gear will not necessarily reflect what would happen on "the guy"'s setup.

      Anyone who has read my posts and comments here know I'm not in favor of DRM. But if someone is going to attack it, they should get their facts straight and not simply make crap up.

      In claiming that your experience with your setup proves that "the guy" is wrong about his, you seem to be the one making crap up.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Jan 2008 @ 12:05pm

      Re: The guy is wrong, completely wrong

      I have a spanned drive of 2 terabytes of xvid files on my computer. Do you really think Microsoft's utility could have scanned all of those files in one second?! Clearly, it did no scanning of my system at all, it merely reset whatever DRM crap it had to reset and it was done.

      I don't know who is lying (if anyone) or not, but I can assess that the quoted text does not bear well for your intelligence...At the very least, it sounds like you have very little clue about how (MS) DRM (and verification/authorization of it) works on Windows

      geez, you think maybe the MS DRM Utility might keep a list of all DRM'ed content it has been asked (if even just once) to validate? You think it wouldn't be able to scan that list (whether in the registry, on your hard drive,...) in one second?! You don't think that was a large part of the "reset whatever DRM crap it had to reset"???

      Again, I can't judge who is lying or who isn't, after all neither you nor me has the guy's setup, so we can't say for sure. What I can say for sure though, is that your remarks don't fair you well in the intelligence department

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Ima Fish, 8 Jan 2008 @ 9:37am

    "Good for you, but that's not the exact same setup "the guy has."

    Nope, it is good enough because I proved his first assertion wrong. You can stream Netflix movies in an "unrestricted HDTV feed." He's wrong. Enough said. And read what the guy wrote, he never actually tried to stream Netflix movies in an "unrestricted HDTV feed" because he refused to go to the next step.

    "you seem to be the one making crap up."

    You don't know who is lying or who is right. However,it is also quite apparent that you never tried playing Netflix's streaming service in a HD set-up, so you have no first hand knowledge over this topic. In other words, and to put it politely, you're completely ignorant about the issue.

    However, I proved the guy wrong on both counts. And until you try it yourself, I think you should keep those ignorant fingers from mashing the keyboard anymore. Thanks!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Fisherman, 8 Jan 2008 @ 10:12am

      Re:

      Nope, it is good enough because I proved his first assertion wrong.You can stream Netflix movies in an "unrestricted HDTV feed." He's wrong.

      The only thing you proved was your ignorance. You should read the story again, he was reporting what Netflix told him. If you are asserting that Netflix didn't really tell him that (essentially calling him a liar), then I challenge you to prove so. Otherwise, you are beginning to appear to be the liar to me.

      You don't know who is lying or who is right.

      So far it's not looking very good for you.

      However,it is also quite apparent that you never tried playing Netflix's streaming service in a HD set-up, so you have no first hand knowledge over this topic.

      I've never tried it with his setup because I don't have his setup. So it's true that I have no first hand experience with how his setup works with the DRM. But neither do you. And I'm not ready to call him a liar without a little more to go on.

      However, I proved the guy wrong on both counts. And until you try it yourself, I think you should keep those ignorant fingers from mashing the keyboard anymore.

      Hate to disappoint you, but if you keep presenting made up crap as the truth I just might continue to call attention to it.

      Thanks!
      You're welcome.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    DeathRider, 9 Jan 2008 @ 6:50am

    VGA setup isn't really lower res. It's just that it is an analog output, not digital. It can still display 1920x1080 or any higher resolution...

    With my xbox360, going from HDMI->DVI-D input on my non HDCP monitor. It won't allow any HD material I downloaded onto my xbox (free or paid), as well as not even allowing output from a DVD to be displayed to my monitor. So, now I have to get a VGA output cable, which totally defeats the purpose of having an HDMI output my xbox.

    But of course and xbox360 isn't a "computer"...at least not in the sense of this article/thread.

    The old upconverting DVD players would upconvert through component, the new ones only through HDMI.

    Yes, anyway you slice it, DRM sucks and causes more problems than "fixes"

    As far as VCRs MrScott, that is still analog, like audio cassettes. DRM has to do with digital.

    Thing being, copying a VCR tape, it degrades with each generational copy. Copy a CD, DVD, the 100th generational copy is still equal in quality to the original.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Jan 2008 @ 1:12pm

      Re:

      VGA setup isn't really lower res. It's just that it is an analog output, not digital. It can still display 1920x1080 or any higher resolution...

      Not true.
      Some of the VGA specifications are as follows:

      * 16-color and 256-color modes
      * 262144-value color palette (six bits each for red, green, and blue)
      * Selectable 25.2 MHz or 28.3 MHz master clock
      * Maximum of 720 horizontal pixels
      * Maximum of 480 lines
      * Refresh rates at up to 70 Hz
      * 0.7 V peak-to-peak
      * 75 ohm impedance

      VGA supports both All Points Addressable graphics modes, and alphanumeric text modes. Standard VGA graphics modes are

      * 640×480 in 16 colors
      * 640×350 in 16 colors
      * 320×200 in 16 colors
      * 320×200 in 256 colors

      I think you're confusing VGA with things like SVGA, XVGA, and so forth.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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