Tag Archives: drm

DRM and You: How to Break the Cycle


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One person who called in to the live show the other night had some pretty tough questions for me about DRM. He asked my thoughts on the direction of DRM technologies and the perceived war on consumers by media giants… mostly the methods the companies are using to interfere with the fair uses that we enjoy.

It all boils down to a matter of control. A lot of the media produced by the larger companies are what is consumer unfriendly. When you buy an audio file that is licensed for playback only on a certain system, that’s where it’s unfriendly. It tends to happen when a particular service is pulled or cancelled and your music (or video) becomes completely inaccessible… even if you paid for it.

It’s not that I have an issue with something being tied to a certain platform. I don’t mind that. I don’t appreciate DRM in any capacity. It feels too much like being locked in to a particular vendor.

Piracy is going to happen whether or not there is DRM on our media. DRM isn’t deterring anything… it’s making the thieves work harder to find ways around it. DRM is hurting those of us who are honest, and pay for our music, games and movies. Thankfully, I don’t see DRM in its current form being around forever.

If there’s any company out there who is going to destroy DRM, it will be Apple. They’re already well on their way with their iTunes Plus program: pay a fee every month and have the DRM removed from the content. You can play it anywhere you like from then on, without any hassles.

I understand why companies are doing what they’re doing, but I disagree with the way they’re going about it. It’s just not working the way they intended it. Digital reproduction is not going away. The companies either need to get with the program or go away.

If you’re against DRM, then don’t support it. Pay for services that have DRM-free files, such as eMule. I happen to have a coupon for that particular website. Email me for more information if you’re interested.

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iPad DRM Thoughts


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Dylan feels that the iPad is a step back in content consumption, due to the fact that there is DRM all over it. We’ve tried so hard to move away from the DRM environment. He points out that the Marvel Comic Book app takes away the fun of trading comic books with your friends as an example.

At first I thought he had been reading Cory Doctorow, but it turns out that he didn’t even know who he was. I’m definitely not a fan of DRM. The argument could be made that the iPad is a step back in content consumption as far as DRM goes. However, I sat in my bed the other night with my iPad and caught up on my favorite television shows. I have no want or need to store those elsewhere. If there was DRM keeping me from doing things with them, I wasn’t aware of it.

As far as limitations as to what you can do with the content you’re watching on the iPad, I don’t think most of the world cares or will notice. I don’t like DRM, but I don’t see it as a huge issue with the iPad.

I digest content in an ad-hoc on-demand capacity. I subscribe to Rhapsody. Rhapsody has DRM, but why does that matter to me? I pull up the app and play the music that I want to hear. This is the same thing when you buy a CD. You own the physical disc, and the right to listen to it. You DON’T own the right to the music itself, and don’t have the rights to copy it to other places and people.

DRM is a tricky thing, to be sure. There are a lot of people on both sides of the line. However, with the iPad I don’t see it as being a huge issue.

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Build Your Dream Computer

I noticed a post on Lockergnome earlier that made me chuckle a little. The poster asks everyone whether they would buy a Windows machine or a Mac if they had up to one thousand dollars to spend. I can already picture the responses to that question: fanboys on both sides of the coin arguing with each other! However, I have a feeling that some of our more hard-core Geeks will want to just build a machine and slap some flavor of Linux on it!

What would you do if someone handed you a grand and told you to buy any computer you wanted? What would you look at first… and why?

There have been many excellent articles posted in our community today. I hope you didn’t miss out on anything!

Don’t forget to stop by our software center to see what’s new! Don’t miss out on all of the great software deals we have found for you.

Cory Doctorow's Little Brother: DRM-Free Audio Book

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Cory Doctorow has written a new audio book, entitled “Little Brother”. He sent me the following email to give us all a peek at the plot, and to explain something very important and ground-breaking about this book.

Plot Synopsis Marcus, a.k.a “w1n5t0n,” is only seventeen years old, but he figures he already knows how the system works – and how to work the system. Smart, fast, and wise to the ways of the networked world, he has no trouble outwitting his high school’s intrusive but clumsy surveillance systems. But his whole world changes when he and his friends find themselves caught in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack on San Francisco. In the wrong place at the wrong time, Marcus and his crew are apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security and whisked away to a secret prison where they’re mercilessly interrogated for days. When the DHS finally releases them, Marcus discovers that his city has become a police state where every citizen is treated like a potential terrorist. He knows that no one will believe his story, which leaves him only one option: to take down the DHS himself.
The audio book is from Random House Audio, and was released on April 29, and cost is $20.00. What’s the big deal? The deal is that it’s ONLY being delivered as a DRM-free MP3. There will be no DRMed editions. This is a first for Random House Audio.
The audio book comes with the author’s sampling license: once you own it, you’re free to take up to 30 minutes’ worth of material from it and remix and then redistribute it as much as you like, provided that you do so on a noncommercial basis, make sure that it’s clear that this is a remix and not the original, and make sure that you tell people where to find the original. This is in addition to all the fair use remixing that you’re allowed to do.

After playing a half-hour of the audio book for my chat room, no one wanted me to stop! You guys know where to go to where to get the rest. How can you not love an author who writes about ‘saggy man boobs’? I love that Corey has taken the DRM out of the book, and I can’t wait to see others follow suit.

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Buying Music ala Carte vs Renting with Subscriptions

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Googler888 writes: “I’ve been a hardcore iTunes song buyer for a couple of years now, and boy has it been great. I know Chris loves using subscription-based song services like Rhapsody and Napster, so I am hoping to start a war between the two. So here are my top 5 reasons why I chose owning a song, rather than renting it.”

  • It certainly does feel awkward to be constantly giving money to “the man” every month, for an all-you-can-eat subscription. The fact is, if you don’t pay him, your tunes expire. You have then wasted around 80 Gigabytes of your hard drive space with songs you can no longer listen to. This will take forever to delete them all. It also means, of course, you will no longer have the tunes for your music player… unless you pay “the man” again, re-activate your tunes… and hope you don’t forget to pay next time.
  • Renting songs is a bad idea for people who travel a lot. Let’s say you have just loaded up your music player with these subscription-based tunes, and are headed out on your vacation. You leave your computer at home, because you shouldn’t need it on a trip to the Carribbean. You land in Barbados, only to find that your tunes have expired. Your seven days in the country will now be unpleasurable, because you forgot to re-subscribe and no longer have access to your music. Now you have to pay $25 to the hotel for their in-suite, on-demand music service, and you won’t have your tunes for when you go to the beach.
  • Piracy and Viruses. Piracy has been plaguing the music industry for years. There are now programs that strip these tunes of their DRM so that they can be kept forever. This means that services like Rhapsody will go out of business, because all their songs have been stripped and are now available from BitTorrent or Limewire. Mind you, services like Rhapsody and Napster are very cheap monthly, meaning that people are going to turn to them for their piracy-making. Also, this means that viruses, trojans, or other malware can be uploaded to BitTorrent or Limewire in the zip file that contains the song.
  • iPods. iPod does not support Windows Media DRM 10, which is what services like Rhapsody and Napster have been using to “protect” their music. That cool new iPod Touch or iPhone you just bought won’t play your subscription tunes, leaving you disappointed and in despair. Also, iPods are very sleek and cool looking. This puts people in the awkward position of choosing to get the “cool” iPod, or settle for an ugly MP3 player that “just happens” to play WMA DRM 10 songs.
  • Availability. Many places around the world sell MP3 players that support these shenanigans. Services like Rhapsody are not available worldwide. So if your favorite song that you want to rent is only on Rhapsody and you happen to be in Canada, Norway or China… you’re out of luck.

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DRM and Greed

Bruce Munro has been listening – and my videos on DRM and the future of the RIAA really set him off:

Before the RIAA can get back the business, they might want to look at what got them here. In the 60’s and 70’s, a 50 cent 45 RPM record was a promotional item, meant to entice the public to buy the LP. It was relatively successful but even if the LP was a dog, they made a small profit on the millions of 45’s sold.

Within a few years that same 45 was $2.49 and the record companies had already started to market new artists with little quality material, poor preparation and lots of filler to pad out $10 LP’s. People started to get smarter and just bought the 45’s but at least they were still buying. CD technologies were introduced and the price of an LP (CD) shot up to $25 with assurances from the music industry that prices would fall back to LP levels as soon as the majority of the public adopted the new technologies.

They lied. They kept prices high, drove vinyl off the shelves and created a brand new problem. They manufactured a perfect digital copy of the program and were helpless to prevent the duplication and eventual distribution through the internet. Smarter teens can simply fire up the family digital TV, go to the “radio” stations they all contain, hook up their media recorder and go away for a few days. Digital music, no DRM and easy to edit MP3 format for the computer. Reminds me of the reel to reel recorders and FM radio stations when I was a lad.

Lets see now, they stopped fair cost promotional distribution (45’s). Tripled the cost of the LP and rushed product to market with poor content. Did little in the way of promotion deciding instead to spend that money on litigation suing teenagers hundreds of thousands of dollars (by the way, teenagers don’t have any money) and generally making a pain in the ass of themselves to legislators and law enforcement around the world. I have a great idea, STOP everything you are doing now and lose the lawyers (nobody likes lawyers, really). Get back into the studio and create something worthwhile, stuff those CD’s full of entertainment and sell it for $10.

Lets see. 100 million CD’s at $10 as opposed to 1 million at $20. Do the math and for god sakes get that music executive a calculator because odds are he still doesn’t get it. One last thing, get your house in order, the artists are starting to promote themselves on the internet, many successfully. RIAA are you listening.

DRM is an unnecessary evil – so long as trust is well placed.

Top 5 Tips to Save the RIAA and the Music Industry

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With the advent of DRM, the music industry is increasingly losing serious amounts of profits. Piracy is at an all-time high, and there’s no end in sight. What can be done to help the music industry save itself? Here are five things that it may just want to pay attention to, as sent in by a community member.

  • Put money into open source iTunes killer, like SongBird for instance. Record industries need an app that works on all platforms, so that everyone can enjoy and use them.
  • Invest in Bittorrent, and make it part of the iTunes killer. BitTorrent is the fastest platform, and most widely used. (Note from Chris: keep in mind that BitTorrent isn’t a platform; it’s a series of networks. But I get what you’re saying here.)
  • Hire coders to make your music available to work on ALL platforms, programs and formats. Nothing is worse than not being able to listen to music you purchased on any media you want.
  • Allow any and all stores to sell music, don’t just lock it down like iTunes does. (note from Chris: It’s not really about HOW I get the music, than the fact that I just am able to GET it, period.)
  • Profit! (Note from Chris: I’m not really sure what he’s saying here. I mean sure, the record industry needs to make a profit, but in order to do that, it needs to increase sales. It can’t afford to do things to increase sales without profit. It’s a never-ending cycle.)

Lee sends us this comment:

Had to comment, as mindless and uninformed as it may be. The day any of these big musicians arrive for a concert in a Geo or flies coach or moves into my neighborhood because they can’t afford anything more that’s the day I think the music industry is in trouble. I don’t download music because I don’t have time and half the stuff coming out is really crap. But if there was something I did like I have no problem supporting an artist that can entertain me.

Of course you can’t support the artist without supporting the music industry. If there is any issue with the music industry it is that it is spending too much money fighting a situation an not taking enough time to see how they could use that situation. Yes piracy is out there, yes it’s a problem because it does cut off SOME of the overwhelming profit that comes in but by making music available and only available to listen to on an iPod (for example) the music industry is not doing itself any favors. I did subscribe to a music service for a short while.

When I found that I couldn’t listen to the music I bought on anything but windows media player well that was that. The points brought up in your newsletter were valid. The last thing is that there is nothing worse than buying an album because of one track and having remorse because that was the only track on the album worth listening to. When people have to wonder how they will pay for that next tank of gas it’s amazing to me that the music industry still exists. Hopefully that doesn’t sound to bad but remember it’s just one uninformed opinion.

The real impact is on the small or undiscovered artist who may be plenty talented but the MUSIC INDUSTRY does not want to take a chance on. In the end obscene amounts of money are being made but human greed knows no bounds I guess because they want to turn it into ultra obscene amounts.

And this was sent in by Gary:

We are tired of paying inflated prices here in Canada. Yet the smart entertainers go on the road and yes we will pay good money for these shows. Ottawa Ontario where I live has more road shows than Toronto or Montreal.This is a civil service town yet they come out in droves to see these shows. They have trouble coughing up $100.00 to see the NHL Senators but will fork out for music entertainment.

In the good old days and you heard about that somewhere I’m sure, Dick Clark had the right formula. Record stars performed on his show and yes hit singles made it to the top of the charts. 45s sold for a buck or two and the industry made money. Then they recycled the music into albums meanwhile still churning out new singles.We don’t have Dick nor Ed Sullivan and most of us don’t stay up for the late night shows. The music industry who own networks should start showcasing the talent instead of trying to take individuals to court for small downloads.Canada has stiff laws on piracy but not enough to stem the tide Ask any teen where he got his music for his iPod?

I prefer to buy a song not an album and if the industry could get their head around this they could get back to making money.Come up with ways to use the internet to your advantage. The world is changing. Why can’t those Music execs get their act together,

Gary Pocock
Ottawa Canada
P.S. You are my favorite geek. I’ve been receiving your newsletters almost since you first started having subscribers ..

What do you think can be done to save the music industry? Do you hate DRM as much as I do? Leave me a follow-up comment, or send an email to me at [email protected]

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DRM is Depressing

DRM makes people sad, depressed, confused…

Hey chris, my name is Lucas Oliveiro, I am from Malaysia. First I’d like to say what a big fan I am of your work and what you do, I always wanted to ask questions but didn’t know how to go about it till I saw one of your videos asking the user’s to directly email you.

So now, first what is DRM? What is the purpose of DRM protected files? If while ripping a CD using Windows Media Player do I have the option to not protect the file with DRM? If the answer is no, is there any separate software which could do that.

I want to convert a WMA file to MP3, but I wasn’t finding any software that would be able to do this. The only solution I had was to record the WMA file in real-time with Media Blaze Pro, and the sound quality was really bad. Please let me know is there any converter software and not real-time recording software.

I don’t see the point of this protection; the CD which I rip was an original disc, and I need to convert the file so that I can save it to my mp3 player. Are all WMA files DRM copy protected? Or is there other types of copy protection? How do I remove this DRM protection if it’s already there?

Chris please help me out, Whoever who created this DRM thingy must be really smart… duhh…. he expects us to carry around our desktops and laptops listening to our tunes on Windows Media Player… and I thought gone were the days where the people would carry around their stereo… HELP ME!!!!! Cheers, mate!

iTunes Sucks

http://live.pirillo.com/ – Chris has never really liked iTunes. While it has gotten marginally better over time, it just really isn’t as structured as it could be.

On Windows, iTunes is more of a hack or a shim than anything else: it looks and feels out of place, and doesn’t always play well with the operating system. Another problem is that iTunes is getting very bloated: it adds more Windows services now than it ever did in the past.

Matthew said someone in the chat room claimed that AAC was the iTunes format. It’s true that iTunes plays AAC and sells music with DRM in the AAC format, but AAC isn’t an iTunes-exclusive format.

QuickTime, iTunes, and RealPlayer all play AAC, an industry standard format. Windows Media Player, on the other hand, doesn’t play AAC, as Microsoft is trying to push its DRM format – WMA – on the industry.

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PC to HDTV HDMI Connection

http://live.pirillo.com/ – Roy asks why, when he connects his PC to his HDTV via the HDMI connector, he can’t see videos play back on his screen.

The problem is DRM: if you set the HDMI-out as the default monitor on Windows, then the videos will play. Windows Media Player only lets video play on the primary monitor.

Why is this so difficult? This is copy protection in action. Large content production studios don’t want you to steal (share) the video with other people. It’s called Digital Rights Management, and it’s a consumer nightmare.

As easy as it is to plug in an HDMI cable, DRM introduces another level of complexity that users should not have to deal with.

What’s the worst part of DRM? It doesn’t work. All you need to do is visit your favorite bit torrent website to confirm that hard fact.

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