I love this story via BoingBoing‘s resident awesome guy Cory Doctrow about a publisher who locked up their ebooks with DRM, limiting how their customers could interact with the book they thought they had bought.
Unfortunately, the company that handeld the DRM has gone out of business and taken the license keys with them. This has led to the following F*ck-You from the publisher to their customers:
However, as noted above, other formats are delivered through third party aggregators. We do not have legal control of those third party servers. If those third party servers “go dark” for one reason or another, we have no way to continue delivering those files.
Yup, once again proving why any company who uses DRM cares less about their customers than they do about over-protecting their market-share.
These are the sorts of stories that must scare the hell out of big media corporations. According to TechDirt, Spore, the hugely anticipated and horribly DRM‘d game for Electronic Arts, is now the number one most pirated videogame in the world.
Yup. As TechDirt puts it:
“In other words, EA’s “antipiracy strategy” backfired almost completely. The company got a huge PR blackeye which probably only encouraged more people to download the game via file sharing. Can someone explain, again, why any company thinks DRM works?”
I think of this as a rhetorical question, but, honestly, can anyone explain it?
Little piece in the NYT is pretty much the clearest example of the canary in the coal mines for DVDs.
Warner Brothers is changing the way they do business in South Korea.
“It will now start renting moves over the Internet two weeks before they are released on DVDs, making South Korea the first market in the world where movies will appear online before they hit the store shelves.”
Since technology rarely moves backward, it would be tough to make an argument that the same thing won’t be happening here in the States sooner than later.
I wonder what the DRM situation is in S. Korea…
I just love this post from TechDirt that explores how various members of Old Media – music, Hollywood, newpapers – have responded to the impending changes forced upon them by New Media:
“One of the interesting people I met at last week’s Princeton workshop was Douglas Dixon, who points out that almost all 20th-century media companies are going through the five stages of grief, but different media industries are going through the stages at different rates. Back in 2006, we noted that the music recording industry was still in the denial stage. Now, Dixon says that it seems to be “stuck cycling between Anger, Bargaining, and Depression — as it still lashes out by suing its own customers, and grabs on to each next new copy protection scheme while simultaneously going DRM-free in other venues.” And indeed, as we pointed out a couple of weeks ago, Hollywood is still firmly in the denial phase, insisting that effective DRM is just around the corner.”
This is a clever and useful metaphor that could very well hold up. I was at a New Media panel at the Tribeca Film Fest a few weeks ago and one of the head lawyers for a major distributor was speaking and he actually said that “that effective DRM is just around the corner.” Literally. He said that.
Last night I was at a great birthday dinner downstairs at the “chefs table” at Blue Ribbon. Lots of cool people there and I got into a chat with a guy who works for an eBooks publisher.
Our conversation started with the Kindle – an eReader that is promoted by Amazon and the first one to make a bit of a splash. He was a fan of the device but agreed it looked a bit lame. He loves that it has wifi and allows users to download new content basically anywhere.
We both ended up feeling that it was tough to convince people to carry around another device. Eventually, something like the iPhone will be all we carry. Screen-size is an issue and maybe the coming of the flexible screen will do something about that. I really think recent advances in circuits on contact lenses will lead to a fulltime “heads-up display” but I am kind of a futuristic optimist.
Where things got a bit contentious was on the subject of DRM (Digital Rights Management) – the piece of code that, in theory, stops those who “purchase” an eBook from copying and disseminating it throughout the universe. He literally couldn’t imagine how the digital publishing industry could survive without DRM. He admitted that he no longer pays for any music because he can find it for free (illegally) on torrent sites largely thanks to the lack of (or cracked) DRM on music files. He couldn’t imagine why the same wouldn’t happen to the eBook world if DRM was removed from the equation.
I asked if there were circumstances under which he would pay for the music he found online. Turned out there was. He wanted to be able to be able to sample it first, in its entirety, not 30 second clips, and then decide if he wanted to pay for it. Not unreasonable. He also felt the price-point was high and wanted to know his money was going to the artists. I agreed. I asked him if the same might not be true for eBooks. He thought they might.
So, the real issue turned out not to be that nobody would pay for books if they were free on pirated sites but that the publishers of eBooks were not providing their potential customers with a system that was better. Imagine a site where DRM-free eBooks were available to be read for free. After you owned the book for a certain amount of time you would be asked if you’d like to pay the author for their book. If you decide not to pay maybe the file gets locked, maybe not. Maybe you decide how much to pay.
By the end of the chat I think I might have at least convinced him that fighting for better DRM was never going to be the way to beat the pirates.
Two separate stories highlight the difficult, and I would argue pointless, attempts by various companies to impose either DRM or other locks that make it impossible for end-users to have complete control over the date or hardware they’ve gotten.
First, DownloadSquad has the story on the BBC:
“The release of BBC’s new iPlayer brought with it the typical suffocating DRM restrictions, with the typical amount of outrage in the blogosphere.
However, when the BBC released the new beta iPlayer software that allowed users to view BBC streams on their iPhone, the streams made for the iPhone didn’t didn’t include any DRM. Certain intrepid programmers and users were quick to jump on the fact that the iPhone streams were unencrypted. One user was able to use a PC to watch the unencrypted streams by using the Firefox plugin Fast Agent Switcher to convince the iPlayer that it was an iPhone. Developer Paul Battleyreleased a Ruby script to download the iPhone formatted files to your PC.
In response, the BBC iPlayer took countermeasures to block the streams from non-iPhone devices. Just yesterday, in fact.
In response to the response, and after a mere 24 hours, users again figured out a few ways to watch the iPlayer iPhone streams without an iPhone.”
Next, BoingBoing has news on the the now completely cracked WII:
“The locks on the Nintendo Wii have been comprehensively broken. Now, just by loading some code onto an SD card and sticking it into your Wii, you can unlock your console so that it will play homebrew games written by anyone, not just big companies that have paid big license fees to Nintendo!”
It’s amazing how much money these corporations are spending to stop these actions and how quickly and completely they are failing. How much longer will they keep it up? And what will happen when they finally admit defeat?
TechDirt sounds off on Hollywood’s ongoing inability to create a customer-friendly distribution system:
“And the reasons they’ve flopped are frankly pretty obvious: high prices, restrictive DRM, and no easy way to move videos to the device of your choice. I won’t re-hash those arguments, but I think it’s interesting to compare the anemic development of the digital video marketplace with the rapid development of digital audio a decade ago.”
This is more of the “canary in the coal mine” argument that I’ve mentioned. I like the additional comparison they pull out of an excellent paper by Tim Wu, Columbia law professor:
“Wu’s basic insight is that too much centralization of control over any one part of the economy can lead to poor decision-making. In an extreme case, such as Soviet Russia, a government can try to run a whole economy by central planning. But the same principle applies on smaller scales.”
Well, we all know what happened to the USSR…