Dear MPAA: DRM Is Not A Requirement For Releasing Movies

from the nice-try,-but...-no. dept

We've written about the request from the MPAA to the FCC to grant a waiver that would allow the MPAA to use "selectable output control" (SOC) in order to block DVRs from recording their movies. As we noted, the movie studios basically would like to add in another movie release window, letting movies appear on television before they're released on DVD. Of course, there's absolutely nothing stopping them from doing so today. However, they claim that it's impossible for them to do so unless they get to implement DRM via SOC to stop people from recording these movies. The MPAA's own defense of this plan was exceptionally weak, but now some others are actually coming forward to defend the MPAA's position.

Ryan Radia, over at the Tech Liberation Front, has a long and thoughtful article where he tries to paint the MPAA's position as being pro-market and anti-regulation: "Consumers are willing to pay to watch new movies at home, and content producers are willing to transmit them, but government is standing in the way." It's a neat twist, but it's 100% wrong. The government is not standing in the way. If consumers are willing to pay, the movie industry can absolutely offer up the movies and let them pay.

Radia's claim is based on the entirely false premise that the MPAA needs this special kind of gov't approved DRM in order to release its movies. Radia plays a neat trick in spinning this the other way, claiming: "But content owners aren't required to ensure that all movies can be easily timeshifted and archived." Yes, indeed, nor are movie studies required to use DRM.

There is absolutely nothing stopping the movie industry from making use of this "new business model" other than its own unsubstantiated fear of non-DRM'd content. It's not a government regulation. It's not some weird FCC rule. It's the MPAA itself.

Mark Cuban gets it right when he points out what a huge mistake the MPAA is making in even bringing this issue up in the first place:
For all the money the RIAA wasted on trying to stop digital piracy, about all they accomplished was explaining to everyone exactly where and how to steal music. Please do not make the same mistake. Right now its a hassle to unitlize the analog hole to copy movies. Most people have no idea how to do it, particularly for HD delivered movies. Please do not go through a big process of teaching people exactly what the analog hole is in hopes of getting companies to prevent its use. All you are going to do is turn on the lightbulb for many who would otherwise not have a clue.

The theatrical exhibition industry just experienced a phenomenal several weeks with The Dark Knight setting record after record. People by the 10s of millions went to the theater, many multiple time to enjoy the unique experience of going to a movie. Could you please, please, please use the money you are going to spend fighting the unfightable and instead spend it on promoting the fun of going to the movies ? More people going to the movies is more people getting excited about movies. More people getting excited about movies means more people watching movies on TV, which is good for revenues, and more people buying DVDs or legal downloads of the movies. Again, good for revenues.
Piracy is not, and has never been, a real threat to the movie industry. The movie industry is doing incredibly well by releasing good movies that people want to see. Even if they're available for unauthorized download, movie watching is a social experience, and the better the industry makes that social experience, the better it will do. Wasting time demanding unnecessary DRM isn't necessary. It's not blocking any business model. Wasting money fighting for this "analog hole" to be patched won't stop piracy at all. If anything, it will attract more attention to that analog hole, while pissing off more viewers and making it that much harder to get movie fans to want to pay money to see movies. Even if the MPAA prevails, it won't put a dent into unauthorized file sharing. People will figure out how to get around the SOC protection, and once a single copy is out there, it's everywhere. Focusing on stopping file sharing is a lose-lose proposition.

So, please, movie industry, stop pretending you need DRM for your business models. You don't. You never have. And the more you pretend you do, the more trouble you're causing.

Filed Under: business models, drm, movies, mpaa, selectable output control, soc


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  1. icon
    chris (profile), 14 Aug 2008 @ 7:22pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Well... it all depends on how you see the problem. It is true, I do not know of any DRM who has been successfully enforced. But your assumption is a common fallacy: just because we haven't successfully done something right, that means it has to be impossible to do it right.

    dude, you don't know shit about drm. it is completely impossible to do DRM "right".

    DRM is based on encryption. the content is "scrambled" and only permitted to play on an authorized player (hardware or software) that has the correct keys to decrypt the payload.

    the authorized player has the key to unlock the encrypted content. if you give out the encrypted content, AND the key to unlock it (in the form of an authorized player), the game is over and you've lost. crypto only works when your keys are accessible only to the people that you trust. keys are kept secret only when the two trusted parties (sender and receiver) actually care about keeping the keys a secret.

    DRM is a lock with the key taped to it. it's a locked computer with the password taped to the screen. there is nothing stopping you from extracting the content once it has been unlocked, or just extracting the key and embedding it in an unauthorized player or decryptor.

    with DRM the trusted user and the attacker are THE SAME PERSON. you want them to see your content, but you also want to lock them out. that's ridiculous.

    if you want to "fix" drm, stop handing out the freakin keys, but you can't cuz then nobody can view the content. DRM is a joke and circumvention is the punchline.

    all of the "advances" in DRM have to do with keys that can be "black listed" or revoked, but as you revoke and replace them, those keys will be compromised as well, probably even faster than the first set thanks to all the reverse engineering work that's already been done.

    how do you stop that? brick everyone's blu-ray player and tivo everytime a new 'sploit is released? you going to make everyone buy/download a new player every time a new circumvention tool is made available? what's to stop the cycle from repeating?

    all this does is inconvenience your legitimate users. it doesn't affect the pirates in any way. in fact, if you play too many games with your legitimate users, they will stop being legitimate and start playing for the other team.

    the pirates win because only one copy needs to be compromised and released into the wild. you can revoke all the keys you want, but once an unrestricted copy is out there, it's out there forever.

    if you encrypt something, and sell the key to it, the key will be copied and integrated into unauthorized players, decryptors, and other tools. that's not a theory, that's not a possibility, it's a fact. it happens every day.

    this isn't about breaking the crypto, this is about breaking the key off of it's leash. you can seal up movies in AES256 bit military grade crypto, and as long as the key is embedded in the player you will lose every time, regular as gravity. the lock with the key taped to it is still intact, all the community had to do is break the tape and copy the key.

    controlling access to digital content is impossible, plain and simple. it cannot be done. investing in these technologies is wasting money that could be spent improving your product, improving your relationship with your paying customers, improving your customers' experience with your product, or simply pocketed as profit.

    DRM does not stop piracy. pirated works have either been stripped of their protections prior to their release, or they never had any protections to begin with. the people who download stuff will always download stuff. they are not your customers.

    DRM hurts your legitimate customers. if you buy a DVD and have to strip the DRM off of it to rip it to a portable player, it's easier to just download the rip. if you frustrate the user enough, they will just download the rip and not bother with buying the DVD in the first place.

    The best DRM (the one we are STILL about to see) will come in every window: exhibition, home video, VOD, etc. There is no successful DRM alone. What can be successful is a full strategy covering all windows of utilization.

    as long as those windows require keys to view content, the locks on that content will be circumvented, every time, regular as gravity. reverse engineering is a hell of a drug.

    I haven't heard of pirate copies of a SACD. Have you? And I still haven't seen copies of a Blu-ray disc. But if you still think a successful DRM strategy is impossible, look at Sony: they control content (movies and music), hardware (cameras and players) and software (discs and files). They have a huge following (Samsung, Matsushita, Fox, Disney, Sony Pictures)and just recently we felt their muscle when they smashed HD DVD (who had less DRM - no less).

    owned:
    sacd: http://thepiratebay.org/search/sacd/0/7/100
    bluray: http://thepiratebay.org/search/bluray/0/7/200

    TPB is a public tracker BTW, the best stuff (0dayz) is on the private ones :-)

    those who DO copy DVDs some will not go through the P2P nightmare of endless downloads... and the eventual disappointment that sometimes the file does not work... or the the picture is lousy, etc. That's success. That's slowing down piracy. It may be not significant now, but it's a big start.

    go to any tracker, do a search and sort the results by the number of seeds. piracy is a meritocracy. the good stuff lives and the bad stuff doesn't get seeded. crews that share good stuff are treated like rock stars. read the comments, pirates share information, the comments will tell you about the quality and if the file works.

    Can you make a copy disc of a PS3 game?
    yes:
    http://thepiratebay.org/torrent/3893432/Call.of.Duty.4.Modern.Warfare.USA.PS3-PARADOX

    you just need an iso loader (like paradox)

    can you play a PS3 game on a Mac computer? How about on a PC? That's the biggest form of DRM known: incompatibility. You claim you want to use anything anywhere. Can you really play a PS3 game on a Mac computer? Can you access Xbox live content from a PS3? Some you can because they allow you to. Others you cannot.

    the PS3 uses the cell processor, which is a different processor architecture than a mac (the new ones are intel based, the older macs are presumably less powerful than the ps3). so you would need an emulator. emulating a processor architecture in software is totally possible (see qemu, mame, project64, gens/kega) but can be resource intensive depending on how much power the emulator needs for rendering.

    don't despair,the PS3 is a fixed platform. it's not going to change over time. the PC/mac is different. they will rapidly gain in power, just give them time. there are already PS1 and PS2 emulators, my personal favorite is PCSX2. in time there will be others for more recent consoles. in the meantime, use an iso loader or a softmod on your console.

    that's not DRM BTW, it's just difference in platform. you can access live content from a PC and in the future play live games on a PC against console players.

    or you can say "fuck closed networks like live" and use your pc/mac/nintendo/modded xbox/whatever to check out xlink kai. it's free and everything :-)

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