Nothing does more damage more quickly to your community than deciding to place your fear of piracy over the the concerns of those who've already paid for your product. DRM is rarely, if ever, the answer. And yet, it remains an inexplicably popular "solution."
Daz 3D, which produces 3D art software as well as assets for use with third party software, has decided to do something about its perceived piracy problem. Last November, it had this to say:
[W]e feel the best way to fight piracy is make the convenience of doing something legally more so than the inconvenience of pirating. That is why we made finding, downloading, installing, and loading content in Studio as streamlined and easy as possible while making getting a pirate-able copy of the original product harder.
The solution to the problem, according to Daz 3D, was to have the software "phone home" at least once to obtain a key for content/software files, which would only arrive in encrypted form. Supposedly, this would be limited to once per computer but the new, encrypted files would pose problems for existing users.
Those on older versions of Daz's software would be unable to access any new content. Transferring old data could also result in problems -- something Daz acknowledged in a later post
, noting that scripts and tools might not work with unencrypted content.
At the time of the announcement, no plan was in place to provide offline users with authentication keys, nor would it be possible to purchase new content without running through Daz's "Connect" service, which not only authenticates users but "assembles" newly purchased content for use with Daz software.
Daz did the right thing and put its proposals up for discussion. This generated dozens of pages
of comments, many of which were from users opposed to the addition of DRM. Some were concerned about the Daz Connect DRM breaking content they'd already paid for. Others simply didn't like being treated like pirates when they'd actually paid for software and add-ons.
Daz's representatives were active in forum discussions and very straightforward about their reasons for looking into instituting DRM. The company is hoping a few extra installation hoops and another layer of authentication would deter casual pirates, leaving them only the diehard crackers interested in "capturing" a niche "market."
The willingness to listen and participate in the discussion separates Daz from many other companies
who've added DRM to their products. Unfortunately, it appears the discussion had little effect on Daz's final decision. The post may be titled "You've been heard," but the content contained in it
indicates the listening was little more than a formality. Daz will be moving ahead with its original plan, despite customers making it clear they'd rather have a product that doesn't introduce compatibility problems. Nor do they want to be limited to a single distribution system. And they're less than thrilled about the "phone home" requirement.
The new post, delivered four months after the original announcement, changes nothing about the DRM structure. While it does add some fail-safe measures (like third-party escrow that will prevent users from being locked out of their purchases if Daz goes out of business), the end result is still the same. DRM is coming to Daz and there's nothing users can do about it.
Currently Daz Connect gives customers the ability to install (among other things) encrypted content. Daz Connect also lets customers retrieve a Key to decrypt their content. Customers have raised the concerns of:
What if Daz is not available to provide the keys anymore, chooses not to, or starts charging an additional fee to get a key for previously purchased content?
Solution: We have developed and fully tested a utility which will decrypt, and save in non-encrypted formats, Daz products on a customer’s computer. We are also working out details with a software escrow company who will provide this utility to the public free of charge in the event that Daz is no longer in a business position to, or is unwilling to continue offering this as a free service. This will also be added to the Daz EULA to ensure customers of our commitment to enable them to always be able to use content that they have purchased a license for.
Obviously this does not address other issues such as scripts and tools that work on un-encrypted content. But those are solved in other ways. We are working (and will continue to work) with developers who have this need, in order to show them how to do it with encrypted content.
Apparently, "hearing" actually means ignoring concerns people expressed, including portability from older versions of Daz's software. And, as is nearly always the case when DRM to added to a previously DRM-free product, the company is presenting it as a win for paying customers
Is the encryption associated with Daz Connect essentially Digital Rights Management (DRM)?
We strive to add great benefits to being connected while limiting the impact to the user experience. Although we have included file encryption to protect our artist community, the primary target is to provide a better experience for our users. Daz Connect delivers and updates products more efficiently but relies on the fact that files are in a location and format that is maintained by the application. In this sense, Daz Connect provides some measure of digital rights management.
So, Daz is thinking of its customers while simultaneously willing to ignore those customers to institute something it thinks will decrease piracy. While I can appreciate the fact Daz wants to protect its bottom line, it needs to be aware that instituting these new restrictions will result in actual
lost sales -- something that may ultimately prove more harmful than the theoretical lost sales
Daz attributes to piracy.