Who’s security, Harry?

December 22, 2007 at 4:47 pm | Posted in Movies, Music, Technology | Leave a comment

Curious trends in technology.

Just picked up the latest Harry Potter DVD to watch over the holidays with the family. It comes with an ad for your “own digital copy” of the film you can download for viewing on your computer or (certain) portable media device. You get this by inserting the second DVD which launches its own player and offers the download option. But this offering requires a “security upgrade” for Windows Media Player first. (the offering doesn’t happen to work for any non-Windows device, like an iPod, but thats another proprietary story)

Then one asks the question of oneself – whats the point of a download you can only watch on your computer if you own the DVD you can play on your computer??

But the real rub – its not a security upgrade at all, unless you happen to be Warner Brothers. Its DRM which stands for Digital Rights Management. This is technology that prevents you from doing what you choose to do (non-commercially) with the media you buy. Whats known as “fair use” in copyright law. You may be able to put it on one player, but may not be able to copy it to a CD for playing in your car, even though you bought it for that fair use.

The industry has gotten silly with paranoia about theft and “lost sales”, attempting to avoid the “loss” they “suffered” with audio tapes. In my experience, most trading is done by people who can’t afford to buy, so they use time instead. The people who can, buy to have their own copy. They don’t want the hassles of bad and illegitimate versions. But the industry – both media and computer – is going after the little guy.

I fully support going after people who are commercially profiting by selling pirate copies of software and media. But some of those copyright notices imply you can’t take the film to a friends house for a movie night. I see those events creating sales as people want their own copy.

Some of the trends are simply foolish. Like creating specially packaged “audio CD’s” with a surcharge on their cost, when the content is the same as CDR’s without the audio label. That didn’t work, so they go after all recordable CD’s, implying that most are used to steal copyright material when most are used for files and backup.

The problem is, they’re getting worse. DRM is now built in to Windows Vista. And Mac iTunes. When this is fully implemented, you willl not be able to play new media releases on your computer unless ALL hardware components in the playback chain are DRM supported. So, no DVI – only HDMI to connect your monitor for example. If you plan on building your computer as a Media Center with Vista, be prepared to have to replace your sound card, video card, monitor and more. They don’t want anything in the chain to be able to capture the media. And the cost of this paranoia is all born by you, the customer.

You may have noticed the controversy with Microsoft pushing “Genuine Advantage” onto users (and business) computers without asking (even when they’re set to notify only) and constantly updating it, forcing end users to repeatedly verify they really own their copy of Windows. Lets all treat our customers like crooks is the prevailing message. And lets tell them my way or no way.

And they’re doing this in a market with innovators and choices. It will be interesting to see how far they go before people just decide to say shove it. Most new computers sold now already contain this technology, claiming to be “Vista ready”. Well – ready to run Vista, but perhaps not all that media you planned to put on your new Home Server…

We talk of the coming ubiquitous computers and media. That all depends on who can choose.

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