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Fun with DRM

November 15, 2009

The other day my students got an earful from me about the ills and evils of Digital Rights Management, better known as DRM. I loathe most DRM techniques, since as most reasonable people realize, they do nothing to thwart illegal file sharing, but contribute plenty to increased blood pressure and stress levels in legal media users.

Today I encountered yet another bit of DRM absurdity. I was surfing around and noticed that my beloved Steelers were locked in a death match with the Bengals, with about seven minutes to play. Neat, I thought, I will find a radio broadcast of the last few minutes. What I found instead was this:

more-pain-from-drm

So much for globalization

Now I sort of get this kind of blocking (even though in the end I still find it protectionist and worthy of derision) when it comes to content that has a clear commercial outlet in Germany, e.g.- studio movie productions. But NFL radio broadcasts? Please. Who is making money on those in Germany? If they are available here somehow, I envision having to go through the seven layers of technical and bureaucratic hell to get access to them.

What I know, of course, is that there are myriad backchannel (read: illegal) ways to get live sports broadcasts from around the world. I used them this summer, often, when my legally paid for Eurosport Web feed crapped out during every single critical moment of the Tour de France because the French firm behind it clearly does not know what “server capacity” and “peak load” mean when used in the same sentence.

In this case, the game is so close to being over it makes no sense to find an illegal site through which to view/hear the game. But I would like to thank all the parties who made the annoying message pictured above possible. You underscored the main point of my lecture last week: DRM sucks, and turns us all into criminals at some point.

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9 Comments
  1. Jennifer permalink
    November 16, 2009 03:18

    so, um, who won the game?

  2. Dale permalink*
    November 16, 2009 08:54

    Ouch, salt in the wound. The Bengals.

  3. Tomasz permalink
    November 16, 2009 19:16

    Ok, the solution is so-called Social DRM

    it means embedding a buyer’s name into a multimedia content
    to discourage copying, right? Regards,

  4. Dale permalink*
    November 16, 2009 21:25

    Interesting concept and service, Tomasz, but what it appears to do is bring DRM down to the individual level, making it possible for everyone to digitally watermark their files. Although I said bad things about DRM in my post, this actually makes sense, and could help avoid future tangles should someone, for example, ignore the terms of a Creative Commons and the content creator needs to prove ownership. In particular, I do not have a problem, I think, with watermarking content offered for free via Creative Commons or other free distribution mechanisms.

    Where it goes wrong for me is embedding a buyer’s name in a file. With physical media, I have the ability to resell items I no longer need at a price determined by the market for such goods. While with digital files the purpose of mydrmspace would be to enable the selling of one copy, and then making it harder for the one copy to be illegally redistributed, the buyer should have the right to resell that one copy. I know I am talking largely theory here, since in practice such a thing would rarely happen.

    At any rate, thanks for the comment and the link.

  5. Elena permalink
    November 23, 2009 15:38

    Dear all,
    I’m a student of Management Engineering at Politecnico di Torino. One of the objectives of my master thesis, applied to a real case study, is the protection of confidential or valuable content using Digital Rights Management (DRM) techniques. I would like to start my research by doing a survey among expert and professionals in the IT sector.
    As part of this work, I have developed a questionnaire whose purpose is collecting feedback in order to come up with an objective assessment of the market where such software for protecting digital assets could be deployed.
    If you would be so kind to help me in doing my thesis, I will be happy to share with you the results of the survey by sending you the final report (which will be anonymous and respectful of your privacy). You can find the questionnaire online at the following link:
    http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=Hqd7dR8baumIgsg_2fpmjLQA_3d_3d
    Thank you very much in advance for your kind help and your time.
    Best regards,
    Elena

  6. Tara permalink
    January 5, 2010 16:05

    http://xkcd.com/488/

  7. Dale permalink*
    January 5, 2010 16:12

    Love xkcd as a rule, and this must be why. Expresses my feelings about DRM in a single graphic. DRM is the antichrist.

  8. Tara permalink
    January 6, 2010 02:14

    DRM and complicated EULA are keeping me from getting an ebook reader. I won’t complain about it if I’m borrowing something. For example, when I borrow a audio or ebook from the State of Kansas Digital Library, I know I’m borrowing it for a week or two. They have the right to yank it back. I have problems with paying for something and them telling me what I can do with it. I want to own, not lease.

  9. Dale permalink*
    January 6, 2010 17:36

    Can only second this notion. Recently purchased a Kindle and a Sony Reader for my classes here (with university funds), and have been less than impressed with many aspects, not least the strongarm tactics employed by Amazon with regard to their content. Wait, that would be my content since I paid for it, or so I would have thought.

    In general, I am not enthused about the readers, and I honestly thought I would be, being generally open to new gadgets.

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