Obama's Gift To British Prime Minister Rendered Useless By DRM

from the learning-process dept

A few years back, it emerged that US Senator Ted Stevens had been given an iPod by his daughter, and it had changed the way he saw the RIAA and the measures for which it lobbied. It's always seemed to me that once politicians -- at least those not beholden to the entertainment industry -- experienced the stupidity and frustration of the locks and controls that groups like the RIAA and MPAA put on content and want backed up by law, they'd realize they were little more than attempts to frustrate consumers and prop up outmoded business models. Maybe the UK is prepared for a similar political inflection point: its Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, was recently given a gift of 25 DVDs of classic American movies by US President Barack Obama. When Brown sat down to watch one of them, he found he couldn't -- because Obama had given him Region 1 DVDs, unplayable in Brown's Region 2 DVD player. The pointless DRM didn't stop any piracy, it prevented an absolutely reasonable use of legitimately purchased content. Maybe this experience will help the British government understand how many of the entertainment industry's efforts to strengthen intellectual property controls do little more than irritate legitimate consumers in the name of supporting failing business models.

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  1. identicon
    pp, 21 Mar 2009 @ 3:01am

    WeirdHarold is right. All businesses try and segment markets, so they can choose the optimum price (i.e. highest they can get away with) for each segment, independently of other segments.

    For example, an airline might have a 'budget' subsidiary, which offers the same product (flights from A to B) much, much cheaper. They do this to mop up the less affluent fliers who would otherwise just not fly at all. However, they want to stop their more affluent fliers from just switching to the cheap flights, they want those who can afford high prices to carry on paying them. To do this they might deliberately give the budget airline a tacky, embarrassing name, garish colours, all sorts of pointless restrictions that don't in themselves serve any rational purpose, making the service unnecessarily worse, just so as to deter the high-status business fliers from using it.

    The same logic explains why Intel will at times deliberately cripple perfectly good chips and sell them to more budget-conscious customers as slower ones (if their chip-yield is actually too good).

    This practice is, in a way, totally irrational, it is actively destroying value. But its an inevitable consequence of capitalism. Its one of the arguments socialists will use to attack capitalism. As socialism appears not to work terribly well though, we appear to be stuck with it, however daft it seems.

    Of course its an ongoing battle, just because businesses want to do this doesn't mean it always works out. I don't see any moral reason why people shouldn't try and circumvent it if they can get away with it (e.g. back when folks found you could massively overclock some Celerons).

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