Friday, October 21, 2005


Dumb Rights Management

Bill Machrone is right on with his analysis of what DRM is going to bring, an age of inconvenience. Pirates used to concern themselves with hacking software protection schemes. Now, the hackers have made piracy too convenient for all media and even convinced a good bit of the public that the behavior they are participating in is not "piracy." It's something else, but not piracy.

Back in the day when I was trading software like baseball cards, we realized who we were. We didn't hide it or warm it over with some twisted logic to ease the conscious. It was piracy, and we were pirates. It's not that we were evil. Well, maybe some were. It was a hobby like trading cards. The challenge was to have the biggest collection with the best software. My policy was to purchase any software I actually used, which makes the current wave of copying media a little different. Are people buying the music they are trading and listening to? If they really like the band, they will. Copying music screws the music companies AND the artist.

Hackers made ripping, encoding, and trading copyright materials too easy. Now the public can easily participate. The media moguls have to take action to protect their empires. This brings us to DRM. Digital Rights Management locks down any media file to a particular device, like a PC. This consumer model isn't going to succeed in a country where we are "free to move about the country."

Don't get me wrong. This situation is not a one way street, not solely consumer driven. The media moguls have made and are making enough missteps to force the consumer to take action on their own. They have price gouged. Their industry is bloated with too many hands in the pot looking to get more than a fair share. Increase efficiency, lower costs, and pass the savings on to consumers. Technology offers so many possibilities to make this happen.

I had my run in with DRM when I purchased some music from iTunes. (I wouldn't have, but it was part of an exclusive pre-order deal. Never again, but that's a different log entry.) The only machine I can listen to the files on are the machine where I made the purchase unless I install the iTunes software beast on the other machines. I can't listen to the music on my HTPC in the other room without installing the terrible iTunes software. Such inconvenience does not exist with CDs... Well,the unprotected ones.

The only work around I know of is to burn to an audio CD and rip back to the PC. The problem I have with this is the Xerox effect, a copy of a copy will not be as good as the original. Granted, most of the process is digital and maintains integrity, but opportunity for compromise exists during the burn and the rip. None of this matters really BECAUSE iTunes, Satan's preferred choice in music software, will not burn audio CDs. It says I should be able to burn purchased music, but the software fails to burn. Again, that's part of a long story with iTunes left for another log entry. Bottom line: Friends don't let friends use iTunes. (I bought music from Real's music store and had zero problems accomplishing the above using RealPlayer.)

Media seems like it costs a lot, but it is lower overall than what it used to be. I began collecting CDs when it was over $300 for a single disc player, the selection in the store was one column on the shelf, and new releases were so small in quantity, you could track them in a monthly magazine. CDs cost $17-$20/disc. LaserDiscs easily cost over $50. Good laser discs were $75-$100 per movie. Yea, ONE movie, $75. I paid those prices, so CDs under $10 and DVDs under $20 ain't too bad from my perspective given the quality of the media. So if you really like an artist/band or a movie, go buy it from a legit source. Camcorder recordings from movie theaters sold on the streets does not count.

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