The folks who create the various DRM schemes used to try and secure content these days are growing uneasy as signs of a consumer backlash appear to be growing. So what do they do when faced with a potentially angry pitchfork wielding crowd? They hasten to blame somebody else for their sins:
SEPT. 19 | NEW YORK—The reason consumers hate digital rights management isn’t due to the technology itself but to how copyright owners have used it, DRM providers said at the Digital Rights Strategies conference here this week.
“Most deployments of DRM today have flown in the face of consumer behavior,” said Talal Shamoon, CEO of InterTrust, a leading provider of DRM and forensic tracking solutions.
In his opening presentation, Shamoon offered a laundry list of DRM’s current shortcomings, including:
- it obstructs what people (legitimately) want to do;
- it tries to defeat the advance of technology (digital copies, networking, online socializing);
- the security is inevitably easy to defeat or is misapplied;
- it’s used to protect monolithic vertical [interests] instead of enabling new business models.
Shamoon was not alone in pointing the finger at content owners.
“To some extent, DRM deployments have been done backwards: They started with the DRM and then tried to force consumers into certain usage models,” said Brian Lakamp, president of Fluxe, a start-up working to develop a neutral platform where consumers’ content could reside independent of particular DRM systems.
In other words: Don’t blame us for coming up with these protection schemes, blame the content owners for actually using them as intended! To which there’s at least some truth, though it hardly absolves the people who came up with the DRM in the first place. For their part, the content owners trot out the old “if we didn’t use DRM then we couldn’t release any content for fear of going out of business” argument:
Although content owners were scarce at the conference, Motion Picture Assn. of America executive VP Fritz Attaway acknowledged that current DRM systems are imperfect.
“DRM technology right now is not yet sophisticated enough. There is a problem in the area of fair use,” said.
But Attaway stressed that the studios have little choice but to use the technology available.
“Are you saying the studios should not release any content until the technology is there to allow consumers to do everything they want with it?” he asked at one point. “If we took that approach, I’m not sure we would have launched the DVD yet.”
No, we’re suggesting that your DRM doesn’t stop the pirates and thusly only punishes the honest consumers. But you don’t seem to have a problem with that.
The award for Most Hypocritical Statement comes from Scott Smyers, the VP of network and systems architecture for Sony Electronics, who readily admits the commits felonies on a regular basis:
“I think there is a role for DVD burning. My kids have a lot of DVDs that they play in the car, and after a few trips, they’re often unplayable. So I rip and burn them to protect the originals,” an illegal act that the CSS copy-protection system on DVDs was designed to prevent.
“You can’t deny that consumers want to protect their investment,” Smyers said.
A Sony VP who breaks his own company’s DRM. Go figure. The rest of the article discusses how what these people think the solution to the problem would be and you’ll never guess what it is! A different kind of DRM!
Worse, according to Lakamp, Apple’s successful use of a proprietary DRM system for iTunes has become the paradigm other operators are seeking to emulate.
“The technology is actually there already for interoperability” among DRM systems, Lakamp said. “The problem is that everyone who has the power to enable that model, from content owners, to CE, to IT, to network operators and wireless, has looked at what Apple did and is chasing its taillights trying to create a proprietary relationship with consumers.”
The result, Movielabs’ Helman said, could be a severe consumer backlash.
“We see a huge risk of a bad consumer experience from the inability to move content among devices,” he said. “The engine is not yet on fire, and the impact won’t be quite as bad as a plane crash, but there is definitely a huge risk out there.”
They say this as if it’s some sort of a surprise that folks are trying to follow Apple’s lead. Apple pretty much owns the digital music market at this point with not only a popular download service, but amazingly overpriced hardware that’s required to use it. What company wouldn’t love to have the same sort of lock on movies or TV shows? It’s almost as though, gosh, they were out to make as much money as possible.