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The purpose of DRM is not to prevent copyright violations (2013) (plus.google.com)
782 points by adrianmsmith on May 15, 2014 | hide | past | favorite | 234 comments



This is one of the most important points about DRM.

DRM are marketed to users (and the society, including politicians) and to artists as a way to prevent copies. Most engineers implementing DRMs think so too. And all the discussions we've seen on HTML5 are around this. People have little arguments against this because it "sounds morally good" to help artist "live of their creations".

I am the de facto maintainer of libdvdcss, and have been involved on libbluray (and related projects) and a few other libraries of the same style; I've done several conferences on this precise subject and I've fought the French High-Authority-on-DRM in legal questioning about an unclear piece of law... Therefore, I've studied DRM quite closely...

The truth is that if you consider the main goal of DRM to prevent copies, no DRM actually work. ALL of them got defeated in a way or another. Indeed, GoT-broadcast-to-top-of-TPB time is counted in a couple of hours; so why do they try to push those technologies still?

The answer is probably because the main goal of DRM is to control distribution channels, not copy-prevention. Copy-prevention is a side goal.

This post of Ian is excellent to explain this.

PS: You can see me speaking of the same point, in French, in June 2013 here: http://www.acuraz.net/team-videolan-lors-de-pas-sage-en-sein...

NB: I'm not discussing here whether DRM are good or bad.


"The answer is probably because the main goal of DRM is to control distribution channels, not copy-prevention."

How is this, in principle, inconsistent with "helping artists live off their creations"? How IP products are sold, though what sort of channels at what prices, has to inherently be a part of that, if for no other reason than that these companies won't be sending rich royalties to artists for unsuccessful properties, they're not charities.

Which is very different than reality, of course. Don't know about the French scene besides the movies I like, but as you've probably heard, Hollywood has its own very special kind of accounting, although I suppose its stars tend to get less screwed than US recording artists.

To reify this, back in the '70s, thanks to a loophole in US law, my family (and many others) made a lot of money making unauthorized by record labels 8-track tapes (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/8-track_tape).

This was legal as long as you sent the artists their royalties. BUT, the biggest relevant entity to do that through, ASCAP, absolutely refused to accept payments from my father, who on advice of his lawyer put the money in an escrow account....


It's not about artists; it's about distribution (which eventually makes it back to artists, but that's another story entirely).

The distribution of media content is controlled through very complex business agreements where the content rights owners assign licenses and limited copy rights to other organizations based on a number of factors, including time windows, geographic restrictions, device restrictions, etc. The content owners generally do not trust the distributors to enforce these restrictions; nor should they (why have 500 implementations of something when you can support 2 or 3?)

Enter DRM. When digital copies of content are given to a distributor for distribution, that content is encrypted. Usually this content must be played through a special player that contacts a DRM license server to get a decryption key. One of the things this player does is verify you have an account with rights to play the content. The company you have an account with has certain distribution rights (like the content is only licensed for playback in the UK before December 1, 2014), so the player then checks your location through some mechanism (GPS, geolocation, etc) and the date before decrypting and playing the content. If it's after December 1 or you're outside the UK, it won't play back.

Because the player has to be trusted to enforce these restrictions, that rules out any sort of open source player. Even if the default distribution of the player enforced the rules, it would be trivial to modify it and remove this enforcement mechanism. Hence why DRM is so despised by the open source crowd.

For better or for worse, these types of distribution agreements are fundamental to how the media industry works. Sometimes rights will get passed along two or three times before they actually make it into the hands of the consumer (e.g. a studio licenses their US movie distribution to Disney, who then licenses a subset of films to Epix, who then licenses a subset of those to Amazon, but only in a certain window). It's likely not changing any time soon because as you said, it makes the owners of this IP a lot of money.

DRM can be broken relatively easily if piracy is your goal; but the real goal of DRM is to provide content owners control over legal distribution channels.


> For better or for worse, these types of distribution agreements are fundamental to how the media industry works.

They are not fundamental at all. They are PRed as such. Yet, counter examples of DRM-free distribution disprove any need for them.

> It's likely not changing any time soon because as you said, it makes the owners of this IP a lot of money.

It can change depending on competition. Advance of crowdfunding helps artists and independent studios to release their works without involvement of thick-skulled publishers who drag this DRM insanity into the distribution. Most indie releases are DRM-free. One can ponder why that is. They also need to make money, so one can't claim they have less business sense than legacy publishers.

For example, in computer games there are more and more DRM-free releases coming out each year. And this already includes funded by publishers, and not just indie games. With more competition releasing something DRM-free, there would be more reasons for publishers to change their attitude. With movie industry that doesn't happen yet because competition is still weak. Most publishers are a tight conglomerate of related companies which follow the same policies and agree on common terms. It can be enough for one strong disruptor to break that situation.


In the music business, most indie releases are a total loss financially. This is true in the main stream music industry too, but the difference is they have some big hits which hopefully generate enough revenue to make a profit.

I find the hysterical arguments against DRM hard to grasp. Accessing various types of IP content is not a human right. There is an abundance of content available in the US which is not DRM'd. It just happens to usually of low quality.

FWIW, the contribution of the artist is only a small cost of the "product" that we consume. There are many other people who work on the teams that create content, and without them it won't reach a mass market (publishers, finance, legal, marketing, logistics).

I find the arguments that somehow DRM is detrimental to the production and distribution of high quality content to be obtuse.

To take another example I am familiar with: software for audio production. Many of the best creators of such software have moved to a very annoying and powerful form of DRM: the use of a physical dongle. Most of them say that without this, they could not be in business, as the pirating of such software is rampant. The DRM doesn't stop it, it merely throws enough roadblocks in the to get a significant percentage of users to pay who otherwise wouldn't.


Who said they are total loss because of piracy and not because of mass market junk produced? Even big labels funded music can be a loss if it's bad. Good music is sold normally.

> Accessing various types of IP content is not a human right.

DRM interferes with various legal usage of content (fair use), especially because of anti circumvention provisions which are derivatives of DRM (like DMCA 1201). Plus DRM is always a violation of privacy and security. You need to analyze it deeper, beyond PR labels put on it by the DRM proponents.

There is no acceptable reason for DRM proponents to institute a police state approach to "protect their IP".

> I find the arguments that somehow DRM is detrimental to the production and distribution of high quality content to be obtuse.

I fully agree with that. High quality products can be and are produced and sold successfully without any DRM. And on the contrary, DRM always degrades the quality of any product because it cripples its usability.

> I am familiar with: software for audio production. Many of the best creators of such software have moved to a very annoying and powerful form of DRM: the use of a physical dongle. Most of them say that without this, they could not be in business, as the pirating of such software is rampant. The DRM doesn't stop it, it merely throws enough roadblocks in the to get a significant percentage of users to pay who otherwise wouldn't.

The pirating of such software is rampant despite any DRM they put in it (as you said yourself it doesn't stop it, and once DRM is broken - that's it, piracy ensues). So they can stop wasting their time and resources on putting that DRM there, and instead of crippling the product for paying customers reallocate efforts to making their product more attractive for them.


The most popular dongle used for audio software is called iLok and it creates a terrible user experience. The developers know this, but say that without it they can't survive. The software is still cracked, but there are problems using cracked software beyond the ethics. So they get enough licenses to keep going ( the best that is). There are other systems of DRM in use, but I don't know of any audio software vendors that don't use some form if DRM. These are small companies usually, so there is nothing stopping them from doing away with DRM. Attempts have been made, but have not worked.

I'm simply discussing this because I know the market, but it's a clear case of developers using DRM to minimize piracy, not to control the distribution channel.


You said that cracked software has additional problems. I guess they were lucky there, because in many other cases pirated versions provide the same software as the original just without the DRM nonsense.


I'm not sure I can think of a single iLok protected plugin that I haven't been able to pirate successfully.


> reallocate efforts to making their product more attractive for them.

The product is attractive to them already, they are illegally downloading it for use already. By making it more attractive do you mean lower their price to compete with piracy? Hard to stay in business when you compete with illegal free copies of your software.


Removing DRM makes the product easier to use. Freed resources can go to anything else there is to improve. Nothing is ever perfect.


Agreed, especially the last part. What was it, 3DStudio that used dongles back in the day? Or some other similar software... I wouldn't know because all I saw in my country were uncrippled pirated copies without the dongle. Why they insisted on the dongles is beyond me. (Well, actually TFA answers this)


>I find the hysterical arguments against DRM hard to grasp. Accessing various types of IP content is not a human right.

In this sense, nothing is a "human right" per se, not even not being murdered.

Human rights are what we define them to be.

Now you might change your argument to "it's not a serious enough right".

But in that case, I'd argue that the issue of open access to cultural artifacts, even if it's Ben Stiller and not Plato or the Principia Mathematica, is quite serious matter.


>But in that case, I'd argue that the issue of open access to cultural artifacts, even if it's Ben Stiller and not Plato or the Principia Mathematica, is quite serious matter.

if Plato were DRM-ed, the license servers would probably be not available today, and thus the Plato itself. In that regard DRM to today's cultural artifacts is like Alexandria library fire to the artifacts of ancients.


This could be extended to the ephemeral nature of digital formats and their co-dependence on certain execution environments. As much as I love this example I don't think it's DRM specific.


>This could be extended to the ephemeral nature of digital formats and their co-dependence on certain execution environments.

there is significant difference - knowing the format (or even just basic principles of the format like in case of compression) one can restore the content ( http://www.cs.huji.ac.il/~springer/DigitalNeedle/ ), while in DRM case knowing format isn't enough. Another illustration - one can apply some analysis and probably read lost ancient language texts while it is fundamentally different from reading cyphertext even in known language. I.e. DRM is intentionally and explicitly converts "information" into highest entropy content, i.e. "erases" the "information". Basically what flame does to human artifacts.


It doesn't have to be DRM specific to be a flaw of DRM use.

Plus, there are formats that would be able to be read a trillion years for now. Plain utf-8 or ascii text for one.


The other side of the argument that accessing IP is not a human right is that forcing DRM into every channel is not the industry's right. They're going to corrupt the web with DRM because that's where the users are. Just like they corrupted every other open medium. We were hoping the web could be different and stay open, guess not.


That makes no sense to me. If someone television or production company wants DRM on their website, sure, it's their right. Who's forcing me to put DRM on my site if I don't want to? DRM is an option, it's not like someone's pointing a gun at your router telling you "go visit drmwebsite.com or else."

I obviously fail to grasp why DRM is so bad, or its importance. I just can't fathom why everyone thinks it's so sinister. I mean, don't get me wrong, it coukd be annoying as fuck, but just don't visit that website? I don't do things that make me unhappy.

Also, the point some people are making about distribution channels, I would like to point out that we, people who frequent HN, are sometimes too idealistic, which is good, but can be a fallacy sometimes (at least I belive so).

Imagine you're Paramount, you spent years working on a movie, and you want the product of your hard labour (and that of thousands of your employees, probably) to be distributed the way you want and how you want it. I think that's fair. Yes, there's still gonna be piracy (and I thank God for that), but DRM gives them that option to protect themselves against it, if only at least legally. If someone is so horrendously against DRM, then they don't have to watch your movie? I find the whole affair as simple as that.


DRM leads to stuff like this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sony_rootkit

And like this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sony_Computer_Entertainment_Am...

But that's the result, not the reason why it's sinister. It's sinister because it shifts from presumption of innocence to police state method of "all guilty by default". Like the Sony exec quoted in the first link above expressed it:

>>> The industry will take whatever steps it needs to protect itself and protect its revenue streams... It will not lose that revenue stream, no matter what... Sony is going to take aggressive steps to stop this. We will develop technology that transcends the individual user. We will firewall Napster at source - we will block it at your cable company. We will block it at your phone company. We will block it at your ISP. We will firewall it at your PC... These strategies are being aggressively pursued because there is simply too much at stake.

And in practice it's always bad because it's not a theoretical "protection of content", but something actual running in your private digital space (your computer, your OS, your program), with the sole purpose of not trusting you and doing whatever (you usually have no clue what - DRM is a black box). Something not trusting you should be not trusted in return - i.e. always treated as potential malware.


If you want the content in the channel, then it is the industry's right to set conditions on how it will be provided. You can't run a streaming service with no content, and much as I like silly cat videos on youtube the fact is that 99.9% of user-generated content is junk. People still pay money for movies and TV shows because that content has a high level of technical quality.


The important thing about IP rights is that they eventually expire. The whole deal is that you can get a limited monopoly only if you release to the public.


Not if Disney has anything to say about it. Mickey Mouse shall never go out of copyright, as long as politicians are able to change the laws.


This is dead wrong.

Indies don't make nearly as much money as studio titles, nor do they have such a huge investment on the line. Consider that for something like a new superhero movie, the production costs are easily >$100 million and marketing costs are about the same (a 50:50 ratio of production to marketing investment turns out to produce the optimal return, based on empirical measurements). $200 million and up is a lot of money, so films like this are largely financed by presale agreements with distributors. Yes, this can be offset by stars taking a profit share instead of up-front payment and by wealthy investors with deep pockets - but there are limits to both approaches, and neither is sufficient for really expensive projects of the kind the public has come to expect.

Of course things like Kickstarter and so on are great and will continue to gain in importance. However, they are much ,much better for established media properties (eg cancelled cult TV shows with an existing fan base, or projects by existing celebrities in other media, like if Justin Bieber decided to start making movies) than they are for innovative products (with new actors/ directors/ writers/ characters).

No doubt it will continue to grow and before the end of the decade a crowdfunded project by a bunch of unknowns will turn into a monster runaway cinema hit. But then it will revert to the mean. Anyone who is a filmmaker is familiar with the 'first time director X made a hit movie with a tiny budget of $Y' story. Blair Witch Project! El Mariachi! Primer! We love stories like this but there are a few things to bear in mind. First, the low-budget figure is not what it cost for you, the consumer, to see it, but what it cost to get it in front of a studio executive who OKed spending the money on making it market-ready. Second, it's untrue because there was a list of free stuff as long as your arm in the way of donations from friends of favors owed or suchlike, that most people don't have access to. Third, there were hidden costs in time or lost production quality. And fourth, and by far the most important, only one film every few years out of many thousands made every year hits a sweet spot and recoups some very large multiple of its original budget. It's like getting a royal flush in poker, or successfully splitting your blackjack hand multiple times: it's always a possibility, you could hit an enormous jackpot if you succeed, but odds are that you won't.

To paraphrase the famous Dov Simens, that's why they call it 'show business' and not 'show luck.' The business model is that you make an entertaining movie that people want to watch, movie theater owners rent it from you in order to rent out seats and sell expensive snacks, and then later streamers rent it from you and a you make some additional money on hard copies. (There's whole additional business model built around merchandise/franchise income like toys and theme park rides, but those are generally limited to family-friendly sci-fi and fantasy films with vast marketing budgets.) You can't run a business around the idea of producing surprise movie hits on a shoestring. You build one around the idea of being able to reliably pick projects with commercial potential and reliably match your investment with the profit potential. Essentially it's fund management in a market where many of the producers and consumers behave irrationally and unpredictably. If you want to do big deals, then you need to be able to sell the film before it gets made. Publishers are hard-headed about these things not because they are stupid, but because the alternative is losing a ton of other people's money and having to exit the industry in fairly short order.

So there's more DRM-free content every year, yippee. That's wonderful. It's wonderful in the same way that you can get better digital cameras for less every year and so on. But tell me what fraction of industry revenues this content accounts for, and what the economic inputs and outputs are. It's great to see Louis CK put out DRM-free editions of his stand-up performance, but his downside risk on that was maybe $10,000, $25,000 at most. Plus he was already famous. It's great that Veronica Mars raised $5.7 million on Kickstarter, but it only made 2/3 of that back at the box office although I anticipate it will break even by the end of its second financial year. And again, that was from a base of a multi-awarded hit cable show that ran for 3 years and had already had several million invested in it. Kickstarter works extremely well if you already have a franchise to leverage, because the marginal cost to the fan-investors of backing the project is pretty low relative to the opportunity-cost value of the time they have already invested in the franchise. But if you don't already have a brand, it's a very different situation.

I've brought this up again and again on DRM-related threads here. Publishers don't want to make consumers' lives difficult or prevent you from enjoying yourself - that's a juvenile and inaccurate picture. They're businesses that compete intensively against each other and launch a large number of extremely high-risk products each year, many of which never break even. The portion of the public that goes out and expends effort to discover artistic quality is tiny. Most people want to be entertained - and given that the #1 whine about DRM is the 'inconvenience' it imposes on consumers (eg the original article's complaint that having to stop the movie so one family member can let the cat out is an unacceptable loss of enjoyment), I'm pretty sure that the anti-DRM lobby is not champing at the collective bit to free starving artists held hostage by studios, but rather to watch more or less the same expensively-produced and marketed blockbuster entertainment as everyone else in their demographic cohort.


I don't see how anything above negates what I said that more competition will make things change. The point is that publishers somehow need to grasp that DRM serves no useful purposes whatsoever. For that they need examples, and that comes from competition which doesn't use DRM.

> Publishers don't want to make consumers' lives difficult or prevent you from enjoying yourself

They obviously want that. Since they use DRM which doesn't affect pirates but affects those who buy stuff. So the obvious conclusion is that either publishers are morons, or they want to insult all their users, or they use DRM for completely unrelated sinister purposes.

What I meant above about competition is simple - the more successful DRM free projects there are, the easier it is to disprove that DRM is needed. The size of the budget is completely irrelevant to the fact that DRM is ineffective against piracy. It equally applies to a low budget or big budget project which spends millions on marketing.

Of course we are talking about publishers which are just clueless. Those who use DRM for side purposes won't care since they have other goals. Those will be forced by hard competition only. I.e. imagine a big publisher coming which doesn't want to be a part of their cartel and makes DRM-free releases. Many would prefer that, and it can force other publishers to drop their crooked reasons when they'll start losing profit.

> It's great that Veronica Mars raised $5.7 million on Kickstarter

That's a bad example. WB didn't allow it to come out DRM-free despite it being crowdfunded. It should be a lesson not to trust these backwards thinking publishers ever.


DRM certainly serves a purpose, which (as articulated in the source article) is to provide publishers with leverage over distributors. Distributors provide by far the largest chunk of revenue to publishers, and the fact that many of them are in other legal jurisdictions from the publisher gives them considerable leverage. Absent DRM, distributors can promise a lot to publishers but will suffer little loss if they breach the contract. DRM provides publishers with a way to track distribution and to lock out dishonest distributors in a way that will withstand legal scrutiny.

You keep looking at it as consumers v producers in a zero sum game. This is a wholly inaccurate model. distribution is a business fundamental for reasons that I've explained above. In fact, it's a legal fundamental as well, because thanks to antitrust laws in the US film studios are prohibited from owning distribution channels like chains of cinemas

That's a bad example. WB didn't allow it to come out DRM-free despite it being crowdfunded. It should be a lesson not to trust these backwards thinking publishers ever.

It's a great example of the reality of film industry economics, even though it doesn't support your point. So what if they didn't let it come out DRM-free? Are you saying it would have been a runaway hit otherwise? No chance. At that, they gave refunds to annoyed customers who had problems with the Flixster purchase. If you think that the mediocre sales are the result of DRM you're looking at it from inside a bubble.

First, backers of the movie were entitled to a digital download as part of the Kickstarter reward. they didn't like Flixter, so WB issued refunds to people who had filed a support ticket, allowing them to download it via more popular outlets like iTunes or Amazon. This had zero effect on buyers who downloaded through those two main platforms. It may have deterred some potential online purchasers, but not many, I don't think.

As a rule of thumb, about 30-35% of respondents in surveys cite DRM policy as a major influence on buying decisions, in fields from e-books to videogames. As a second rule of thumb, home viewing revenue is about 50% of theatrical box office. (I'd have to write a few thousand words to fully describe sales channels and common deal structures in the industry. studios are very tight-lipped about the terms of individual deals, because that's very valuable commercial information, but we can also rely on the aggregate sums shown on tax returns and compare them with known box-office revenue, historical models, and so on. I'll skip the in-depth explanation and a raft of citations if you're OK with that; I have no reason to mislead you about this). So we can figure that potential lost sales from WB's DRM policy - which they are likely contractually obliged to stick to anyway - is about 1/6th of box office. Let's be generous and say it's 20% due to the extra publicity. It would actually be a lot less since core fans who were Kickstarter backers got digital copies and would not have had any incentive to purchase them separately absent DRM, but let's leave that aside.

Now, VM had production (including marketing) costs of ~$5.7 million. Box office revenue after 6 weeks in about 300 theaters is $3.3m, plus a few hundred thousand $ for worldwide (unsurprisingly low, given the limited international audience for the TV show). That's pretty bad from the studio's point of view. The studio (qua publisher) gets ~50% of the box office, so to break even the film needed to make $12m. Of course, the upside is that Kickstarter backers wanted a Veronica Mars movie more than they wanted financial profit, so Warner Brothers hasn't actually lost any money, but that's beside the point here. If we take our guess above that 20% of potential home viewer revenue was lost due to anti-DRM sentiment, that's about $700,000 at the very most. ---

Those will be forced by hard competition only. I.e. imagine a big publisher coming which doesn't want to be a part of their cartel and makes DRM-free releases. Many would prefer that, and it can force other publishers to drop their crooked reasons when they'll start losing profit.

Jeepers, biased much? Look, that's not going to make any difference because audiences don't go out saying things like 'let's go watch a Paramount film tonight' or '20th century Fox is my preferred studio.' Marvel, Disney and Pixar are unusual because they have such strong brands, but they operate within pretty narrow market/genre parameters. Film products are not easily substitutable, so your basic supply-and-demand model isn't applicable here because we're not talking about commodities.

Here's an alternative scenario: a big studio decides to do DRM-free releases, and its domestic and overseas distribution network cuts presale revenue offers by half. The upside potential is maybe 11-12%. The downside potential is not being able to take large projects into production because you either can't raise sufficient funding or you can't get a financial institution to provide bridge financing or issue a completion bond (which is essentially production insurance).

I'm sorry, but you seem to view studios like cartoon villains twirling their mustachios as they sit on top of piles of ill-gotten loot. The reality of film financing is that it involves large numbers of stakeholders in a very high-risk market requiring extremely conservative contractual arrangements. From the distributor's point of view, they have little incentive to pay large sums of money to a studio or production company that won't guarantee them exclusive rights within a particular territory. After all, the distributor isn't likely to capture any of the extra revenue from DRM-free digital copies.


> DRM certainly serves a purpose, which (as articulated in the source article) is to provide publishers with leverage over distributors

So, it means they lie when they insist that DRM is about piracy. And if they lie about this, they can lie about whatever else it is for. So it's logical to assume it's something bad. The unethical nature of DRM and its derivatives like DMCA-1201 which are forced on people through undemocratic means only prove the point that intentions behind it are never good.

> It's a great example of the reality of film industry economics

I meant it's a bad example of competition that can be used as a case study. Because it didn't turn out to be DRM-free despite being crowdfunded. My point above was not to debate the benefits or downsides of crowdfunding vs. publisher funded production but to say that successful DRM-free examples provide practical ways to demonstrate that DRM is not needed. So Veronica Mars is not relevant to the subject at hand.

> First, backers of the movie were entitled to a digital download as part of the Kickstarter reward.

They made a mistake of assuming it means what any normal person would expect - a DRM-free video file. Not some DRM Flixter garbage. Their second mistake was trusting WB to act decently like many other authors of the crowdfunded projects who release their works DRM-free. But WB is WB. They had to know better that if the pledge never said "DRM-free" explicitly, they were risking never to get it.

> As a rule of thumb, about 30-35% of respondents in surveys cite DRM policy as a major influence on buying decisions, in fields from e-books to videogames.

Very interesting, good to know. Do you have any links to such surveys?

> Here's an alternative scenario: a big studio decides to do DRM-free releases, and its domestic and overseas distribution network cuts presale revenue offers by half.

What does the network care? Network is the middleman, not the owner of the IP. According to Netflix for example, they don't care about DRM and wouldn't use it if not for publishers' demands (I don't believe them though, since they have some content which they own, and it's not available DRM-free either). So why would distributors care about DRM? Usually they blame all that on the publishers, not the other way around.

And if some distributors want exclusivity - they can get it. They can agree that the publisher will sell that content only through their channel. What does it have to do with requiring DRM? Same thing can happen with a DRM free release.


Shmerl, you're just using a kitchen-sink style of argument here, while dancing around the realities of economics. What I've described is intricately intertwined with piracy, and piracy is a major problem which DRM seeks to disincentivize. Just because it can be broken, so what? Banks get robbed in spite of having security, does that mean security is therefore a waste of time and they should just let everyone wander in and out of the vault? What a stupid argument.

Here are some papers examining the issue through surveys: http://www.mtm.uni-koeln.de/team-loebbecke-publications-conf... http://people.cs.uct.ac.za/~aarnab/drm/papers/survey.pdf http://www.nclnet.org/images/PDF/ncl_dvdsurvey_report_040620... http://www.mirlabs.org/iasl/volume_1/IASL_Vol_1_Paper_12.pdf http://beta.orionshoulders.com/Resources/articles/26_22273_I... (last one only for statistical masochists)

And if some distributors want exclusivity - they can get it. They can agree that the publisher will sell that content only through their channel. What does it have to do with requiring DRM? Same thing can happen with a DRM free release.

No it can't, what are you smoking? Are you going to put up money to buy territorial rights for content which the publisher is going to give away DRM-free? Of course not, there's a high risk that you'd never recoup your investment. Territorial markets matter a lot, because those block sales represent the production's best hope of breaking even. All those markets are different, which is why distributors exist in the first place; they know their local markets better than any individual studio or producer can, and they have the cash flow to write a check based on the budget and the quality of the cast attached to the project.

This is how most commercial movies get financed: a large chunk of the budget is ponied up in advance by the international distributors. In turn, they have some control over the release window (which varies by country for all but the most giant projects, because every country is different with different holiday weekends etc. which are more important to consumers than all but the very biggest movie releases), and they impose touch contractual requirements on the studios. This is a completely different market from Netflix. When Netflix licenses something, they (in most cases) already know how it performed and can negotiate the cost of the license based on that date. International distributors are taking much larger financial risks at a much earlier stage of the business cycle. They're like VCs, not simple retailers.

I don't mean to be rude, but you're making these breezy and uninformed statements about a ~$35 billion industry that's been running for over a century and is one of the most competitive and meritocratic sectors of the economy. You keep saying how stupid the people at the studios are, and yet you obviously don't know the first thing about how the industry functions.


Thanks for links to the papers. A common tone in them is that there is a significant amount of people who are opposed to DRM. More than I expected at least. That's good. But I guess it's still not enough to eliminate DRM.

Some mention the same idea I brought above:

> DRM systems were widely resisted by many other interviewees. They were quite openly considered rather as a cause to piracy than a tool to inhibit it.


Like I said earlier, about 1/3 of people find it obnoxious enough to alter their economic behavior. So you have to weigh the possible additional revenue from that 1/3 of people if you abandon DRM against the equally possible loss of revenue from people from people who would have been willing to purchase but now suffer no loss of convenience if they choose not to do so.


You would think they'd consider to drop DRM to gain 1/3 of users who they otherwise lose. But they don't do it. That doesn't make sense to me.


Bank security is a poor comparison. Bank security doesn't significantly inconvenience the customers. It primarily causes extra work for the employees and, of course, potential robbers.

DRM, on the other hand, causes the most inconvenience for customers, and little to none for pirates.


It's also a bad comparison for another reason. Bank holds limited goods. I.e. even if robbers break the security, they'll just get those goods, and all other robbers will have to go through breaking in again when they decide to rob it. That actually deters most of them.

Digital content is easily duplicatable. When DRM is broken, pirates redistribute it to all others without limit. In the bank analogy (to make it comparable), it's like becoming an infinite fake bank, so all subsequent criminals don't need to rob the original bank anymore, but can take from that secondary source as much as they want to. That's exactly what makes DRM completely irrelevant in reducing piracy.


> What I've described is intricately intertwined with piracy, and piracy is a major problem which DRM seeks to disincentivize. Just because it can be broken, so what? Banks get robbed in spite of having security, does that mean security is therefore a waste of time and they should just let everyone wander in and out of the vault? What a stupid argument.

You said it's economics, yet your comparison doesn't make any sense economically. Banks analogy is not similar at all. The fact that DRM can be broken makes it completely irrelevant because of the nature of the digital space. Once it's broken, duplicates of DRM-free pirated material are shared ever since. Purpose defeated. As Cory Doctorow often points out, one of the core mistakes of DRM proponents is trying to measure the realities of the digital world applying the physical world logic.

Anyway, I thought we already agreed above that DRM is not used for the purposes of preventing piracy. So why are you going back to it?

> Are you going to put up money to buy territorial rights for content which the publisher is going to give away DRM-free? Of course not

You still didn't explain why. DRM has no effect on piracy. Content with DRM which the publisher A agreed to sell through distributor B will be pirated the moment it will appear from B. So, why can't that agreement involve DRM-free content? The result (piracy wise) won't be worse.

> there's a high risk that you'd never recoup your investment.

How is that risk high when there is no DRM, and low when there is one? I don't see any connection between DRM and risk. It's like saying that sailing on a ship with broken lifeboat which is beyond repair has less risk than sailing on a ship without one. Risks are the same because the lifeboat is irrelevant (in our case that's DRM).

> All those markets are different, which is why distributors exist in the first place; they know their local markets better than any individual studio or producer can, and they have the cash flow to write a check based on the budget and the quality of the cast attached to the project.

That's fine, but again, what does it have to do with requiring DRM? With all your attempts to explain why publishers or distributors might require DRM, you still didn't provide any sensible reason for the root cause of requiring it so far. I get the reason of "We need DRM because the other side requires it", even though it's a bad justification. But I'm asking about the root. I.e. who requires it first. Publisher? Distributor? We already agreed that it's not because of piracy. So why can't they drop DRM from all this then?


Banks analogy is not similar at all.

It's very similar, because of the abstract nature of money. Think about it.

You keep offering your premise 'DRM has no effect on piracy because it be broken' - as an argument, but it's only your opinion, not a fact. You don't put up with DRM because it's technically easy for your to circumvent, but a lot of people do and are even willing to forego consuming something until it becomes affordable or accessible. By your logic, DVD sales and streaming revenue should already be zero because pirated versions are available. Since people are clearly still willing to pay for these products and services, how do you explain that?

We already agreed that it's not because of piracy. So why can't they drop DRM from all this then?

You keep saying this, but I don't agree with it. DRM makes piracy more difficult, which imposes a delay on the time between release and the availability of pirated versions; it limits piracy to those who know how to break the DRM, making it easier to identify vectors of piracy; it distinguishes pirated from non-pirated content and so has an evidentiary function in copyright infringement cases.

It also provides a way of tracking distributors' activity and preserving publishers' options to serve media to new channels on a timescale of their choosing, allowing them to figure out how to market it, package it, and charge for it, which are reasonable sorrt of things for businesses to want to do.

I'm not going to keep up with his conversation if you just keep repeating your own opinion over and over and trating it as fact. It isn't.


> You keep offering your premise 'DRM has no effect on piracy because it be broken' - as an argument, but it's only your opinion, not a fact.

Sorry, but you are wrong. It's not an opinion, but fact which can be demonstrated by observing how fast pirated materials with DRM stripped off appear after DRM-ed releases come out. Q.E.D. DRM never deters piracy. And as you said, dropping DRM can gain as much as 1/3 of sales which are otherwise lost due to users opposing it. So not dropping DRM is simply insane from any business standpoint.

> You don't put up with DRM because it's technically easy for your to circumvent, but a lot of people do and are even willing to forego consuming something until it becomes affordable or accessible.

No, you didn't get what I was saying. That's not how it works. It works like this:

1. DRM-ed release comes out.

2. A few pirates who know how to break DRM break it and make the content available DRM-free to other pirates.

3. Any subsequent pirate who is interested in that content takes it from that DRM-free pirate source never dealing with any DRM.

4. Legitimate users on the other hand are left to deal with DRM junk.

That's it. I'm perplexed that so many people don't get this.

> By your logic, DVD sales and streaming revenue should already be zero because pirated versions are available.

No, not all people are pirates. However dropping DRM will turn part of the current pirates into paying customers increasing current sales of the same content. Plus it will gain sales from those who aren't pirates but simply oppose DRM. Total gain overall.


Thanks for a sensible explanation about the possible rationale of the actors. Perhaps a different way to distil your point: the film industry is stuck in a particular local optimum, and one needs to take into account the position of the actors when assessing their actions.


>>I've brought this up again and again on DRM-related threads here. Publishers don't want to make consumers' lives difficult or prevent you from enjoying yourself - that's a juvenile and inaccurate picture

History tells another story, look at what Sony did last decade. Unless, of course, you consider installing a rootkit on Windows w/o users' consent that actually benefits the customers.

The main problem with DRM is that aside propaganda it serves no purpose as it can be worked around.


I'm not saying that another business model is impossible, but that's not how the industry works today.

DRM for PC games has always been an iffy proposition anyway. It's just too hard to enforce and too easy to crack since you can just access the program on the stack and remove the DRM checks. This is harder to do on more secure platforms like mobile or consoles; which is where much of the media consumption has headed.


Ability of breaking it applies all the same to DRM for video, or books and etc. So that doesn't differentiate them.


Right; but with streaming media it's less about piracy and more about ensuring that the default option for the intermediaries is to protect the media, not leave it unprotected.


> with streaming media it's less about piracy and more about ensuring that the default option for the intermediaries is to protect the media, not leave it unprotected.

I didn't understand that. What does "protect the media" mean if it's not about piracy?


Ensuring the media can only be played back according to the terms of the business agreement. Netflix pays a certain amount for US distribution rights to Disney movies. If a UK company didn't enforce the geographical restrictions in their contract, they are effectively distributing in the US without paying for it. Netflix would not be happy with that.

It's less about people using VPNs or downloading torrents -- you can't stop that as easily. But the legal distribution methods have to make an honest attempt at ensuring the contractual restrictions are honored or else they become meaningless.

I'm not arguing that these geographic or windowing restrictions are a good thing -- just that they're a thing and they have value in a contract that companies want to protect. The pirates aren't the issue here -- the competition is.


> It's not about artists; it's about distribution (which eventually makes it back to artists, but that's another story entirely).

Does it make it back to artists? Stronger control of distribution channels would increase power of the distributors. Which I think would make it easier for them to minimize artist payouts. The monopsony equivalent of an oligopoly, whatever that's called.

An example that springs to mind is music. In 1994, Steve Albini wrote a legendary breakdown of how much it sucked for artists [1]. He recently said that the Internet's open distribution has greatly reduced their power. [2]

[1] http://www.thebaffler.com/past/problem_with_music

[2] http://qz.com/202194/steve-albini-the-problem-with-music-has...


Do you get that without a distribution channel there is no hope of an artist getting paid. Running a distribution channel business is really hard, only the true fanatic would consider doing the grunt work for love and glory.


> How is this, in principle, inconsistent with "helping artists live off their creations"?

In principle, it's not.

The point was that I prefer when things are correctly labeled and explained to people, for them to choose.


The fact that the public is misled about intentions behind DRM only demonstrates the point that it should not be acceptable. But the public somehow needs to become aware about it first.


Controlling distribution channels is equivalent to "screwing artist by having a monopoly to their audience", not to "helping artists live off their creations"


To reify this, back in the '70s, thanks to a loophole in US law, my family (and many others) made a lot of money making unauthorized by record labels 8-track tapes.

Eh? What loophole was that? The Wikipedia article doesn't mention it.


Copyright law was insufficiently specific about copied media, which I guess wasn't much of an issue when pressing discs way back the, and in retrospect it's clear the Congress hadn't been captured by the RIAA, heck, I suspect back then they weren't too popular, so it took quite some time to close.

This was big enough to be covered in US News and World Report, the general weekly news magazine my parents subscribed to back then (competitor with Time and Newsweek). Time period would be in the early to mid-'70, or at least that's when my family started doing this for a few years.


> DRM are marketed to users (and the society, including politicians) and to artists as a way to prevent copies. Most engineers implementing DRMs think so too. And all the discussions we've seen on HTML5 are around this. People have little arguments against this because it sounds morally good to help artist live of their creations.

And to that end- that is the legitimate, marketable feature of DRM. As far as consumers are concerned, thats what it buys them- it allows the producers of the content to retain some control, live off of their art, and continue producing.

How would content producers possibly deter copying without exerting control on the consumption hardware and software? The only answer there is standardized DRM.

So HTML5 DRM seems to be the only solution which meets the consumer need (artists getting paid), and avoids the commercial control over your hardware and software.


> And to that end- that is the legitimate, marketable feature of DRM.

Except that it's not legitimate. First of all as the post above implied, DRM simply doesn't advance the goal of "living off one's art" in any way. Or to put it in business terms, DRM doesn't increase sales (because it doesn't reduce piracy). I'd even say it decreases sales because some users avoid DRMed products and it as well increases piracy (because some pirates see breaking DRM as sport - i.e. they are more likely to direct their attention to a DRMed product to pirate it, rather than to a DRM-free one).

Plus, it's not legitimate to employ overreaching preemptive policing justified by "need to live off one's art". Same way it's not legitimate to violate everyone's privacy by installing police cameras in people's houses as a preemptive measure against crime.

> How would content producers possibly deter copying without exerting control on the consumption hardware and software?

They can't deter it. They can reduce it (i.e. turn part of the pirates into paying customers). The way to do it is old and well known, yet many fail to remember it - treat customers with respect (and not as criminals by default). Establish more direct relation with your users, don't be a jerk, be user friendly and so on. People appreciate services which are explicitly DRM-free. On the other hand, paranoid attempts to "deter all copying" result in treating all customers as criminals by default, which turns many of them into pirates (i.e. serves exactly the opposite purpose).

For some reason not being a jerk and being user friendly is a novel idea for many legacy publishers which they find hard to digest. Independent studios get it way better.


> [authors] can't deter [copying]. They can reduce it (i.e. turn part of the pirates into paying customers). The way to do it is old and well known, yet many fail to remember it - treat customers with respect (and not as criminals by default). Establish more direct relation with your users, don't be a jerk, be user friendly and so on.

I can't tell you how much I agree with you.

I'm puzzled that so many people find this idea surprising. It's already proven to work. Of course, it doesn't work if your goal is to get rich, and it doesn't work for faceless corporations.


Any business should be profitable to sustain itself and potential growth etc. The point is, being DRM-free is not anti-business and not anti profit. Treating customers with respect is good for business, not bad.


I'm not certain about this notion, but I bet the media executives have done the math: DRM probably results in more profit due to lowered casual piracy than decreased profit due to people pirating out of DRM-protest.

And I wouldn't consider standardized DRM "overreaching preemptive policing". Compare that to the existing legal consumption options and you'll realize that this "policing" has been happening all along.

Look, its great to say that everybody should be nice, but you've got to realize that this existing control is the backbone of the big media industry. Without DRM and the control it ensures, there is no way to ensure advertisments get watched. The ability to track the success of an ad would be lost. As it stands, media consumption is very easy for the industry to monitor and control. This is a huge industry with enormous power- why would they give that up over some upset rights activists?

I'm all with you when it comes to indie studios. If the non-DRM party is going to win, its going to be with our wallets. I'd love to see more indie video and music. Maybe new non-DRM offerings will win out, as we are starting to see in the game industry.

tldr: At the end of the day, if you want to consume mainstream media, you've got to put up with the mainstream consumption hardware/software.


> tldr: At the end of the day, if you want to consume mainstream media, you've got to put up with the mainstream consumption hardware/software.

I don't put up with it, and hence have chosen to avoid devices which would impose DRM on me.

I'm a voracious reader. Several of my friends have asked why I don't have a kindle, and the answer is simple. Kindle may be the best reader right now, but unless I can freely move any books bought for it to another device down the road, I will REFUSE to pay the prices of e-books.

If I can not move it the same way I can move a physical book, I haven't bought it. Therefore, I will not pay even close to the amount of a paperback copy. Something like 30-40% of the physical copy price, at most, would be the correct range. And since I don't own it, I should expect to pay for it about the same amount I would get for it when taking it to a used book shop.

So, in reality the correct DRM'd e-book price for me would be something like 10-15% of the physical book's price. Anything more and I simply won't bother unless the book is supposedly really good. All in all, I'll rather leave the book unread for now and eventually get it for ~25% of the price second-hand.

That's a market the publishers don't make a penny on. Their loss.


I have the same approach. I don't buy media with DRM ever and only use devices and systems free of DRM (Windows for example has inherent DRM so those who avoid it shouldn't use it either). The only exception are DVDs, because DRM there is so obsolete that it's not relevant. On any Linux distro one needs to use libdvdcss to play them anyway.


>I bet the media executives have done the math

I get the feeling it's the opposite. They didn't do any math and do it out of inertia or because "everyone does it", or because of the completely other and crooked reasons (like the article linked in the thread explains). DRM doesn't affect casual or non causal piracy - this was already discussed at length in the past here. Because once DRM is broken, piracy occurs using those DRM-stripped copies. I.e. it takes one pirate to break it in order for others to never deal with it. Therefore it doesn't lower piracy rate.

And I already explained how not using DRM can actually increase sales. And about DRM increasing piracy, there was an example from CD Projekt Red about their own game which they originally released with DRM (on disks) in parallel with DRM-free version (on GOG). And it was immediately pirated. But not the DRM-free version like you'd assume. It was the DRM-ed one! They said it was an interesting case study for them, which demonstrated that some pirates apparently break DRM for sport (i.e. who beats others to break DRM and pirate it). So it demonstrated for them that DRM boosted piracy. They never released games with DRM since, and advance the DRM-free distribution cause through their GOG service.

By the way, music is largely available DRM-free for quite a while already. You can buy DRM-free files on Cdbaby, Amazon or tons of other music sites. Which again demonstrates the point that DRM-free distribution works just fine.

> This is a huge industry with enormous power- why would they give that up over some upset rights activists?

That's exactly the point. DRM is all about certain control (over the market for example), but not about piracy. Surely those who have that control want to retain it. But they lie to the public claiming that DRM is used for preventing piracy, while really it's used for control. It just adds to the reasons to always oppose it.


> DRM doesn't affect casual or non causal piracy - this was already discussed at length in the past here. Because once DRM is broken, piracy occurs using those DRM-stripped copies. I.e. it takes one pirate to break it in order for others to never deal with it. Therefore it doesn't lower piracy rate

Many who would casually pirate (or who would pirate without even realizing they were pirating) do not know about those DRM-stripped copies.


That depends on what you call "casually pirate". Numbers are important. The massive bulk of piracy occurs with copies stripped of DRM already by those who know how to do it. If some users of a DRMed service will decide to pirate something and will hit a roadblock of DRM not letting them to copy it, they'll quickly find other sources which provide the same thing without DRM. So DRM doesn't prevent them from anything - it actually encourages them to look for pirate sources essentially completely defeating the whole purpose of itself.


"Independent studios get it way better." On that note, may I suggest to those of you who are not already consuming comedy, the very best kind of comedy (the funny kind), from Louis CK to start doing so here: https://buy.louisck.net/


> How would content producers possibly deter copying without exerting control on the consumption hardware and software? The only answer there is standardized DRM.

They could use the legal mechanisms that have existed in copyright law for a long time: they could find, and sue, infringers.

Part of the problem with DRM is precisely that it shifts the power to decide what infringement vs. fair use is away from the legal system, which has checks and balances and has to keep the interests of the public in mind, and toward those who control the technology. That is not an appropriate shift: copyright is a legal right to certain forms of control over work, given to creators as a compromise. It provides an incentive for them to produce that work, which is in the public interest. But how far that control extends should be a matter for the law, not media companies, to decide.


1) Artists getting paid is not a consumer need. It's an artist need. It's also a middleman need; take a look at what fraction actually goes to the "artists" some time.

2) DRM is commercial control over hardware and software, as it's only available with "blessed" software.


> How would content producers possibly deter copying without exerting control on the consumption hardware and software? The only answer there is standardized DRM.

That's not the only possible answer. In fact, there are already content providers (music, games) selling non-DRM'ed content. Another way of deterring copying is for the author to connect with his/her audience, participate in the community and make it morally hard for all of them to copy his work. This works and I've seen it happen. Some guys will be jerks and pirate stuff anyway (they will do this even with DRM), others will think "hey, the author is a nice person, and he/she makes something I enjoy. I'll pay for it and support him/her". This happens all the time with small-scale communities.

Of course, this requires work from the author beyond merely creating something, and it mostly works in the small scale, and he/she will probably not get insanely rich this way. But I doubt -- philosophically speaking -- that there is any inherent right to sell something in the large scale, without direct author-audience interaction, and expect police-state measures to work. I reject the assumption that everyone in the audience is a passive consumer and a thief who must be watched for their own good, and that there is no other way to handle the situation.


"How would content producers possibly deter copying without exerting control on the consumption hardware and software?"

Imagine this fictional scenario. Copyright owners sell audio and audio/video files for download. These are without ads, trailers, DRM or other restrictions; they're high quality, complete, available right away, and in popular codecs and formats. In other words, just like Pirate Bay, but legal, and prices are very low.

What would happen if this were real? In the mad minds of the cartel, one person would buy each file, and copy for everyone else, and everyone would get the files from torrents, p2p etc..

In reality, if I'm paying Netflix rates for my files (divide say $15 over a month), and others can do the same, why would I copy it for them? They can just get their own. Moreover almost everyone would be willing to pay for their own, because they'd be getting a bargain, and on these terms they would be pleased to support the creators (who sometimes get some pennies from the middle-man companies).


If you're paying Netflix rates for ALL your TV and movies, the content industry goes bankrupt in a year. Netflix rates are possible because there's now a very low MARGINAL cost to additional copies of a movie or TV show, but if all copies of a movie or a TV show went for that, nothing would recoup its costs.


I'm skeptical. Most TV shows are broadcast free of charge and supported by ads and product placement. Paid streaming, digital downloads and DVD sales are supplemental revenue streams. Offering inexpensive, high-quality DRM-free downloads is compatible with making money from overlay ads and (where applicable) product placement.

If the content industry doesn't take this path, I see piracy becoming more and more mainstream. My mother (65 years old, not very geeky) pirates TV shows so she can watch them on her tablet on a plane because her Netflix subscription doesn't provide a good solution for that. How long do you think it will be before she drops Netflix because The Pirate Bay has a better user experience?


Most TV shows are broadcast free of charge and supported by ads and product placement.

That's netowrk TV. Many of the most popular shows on paid cable TV channels. Also, those ads only generate revenue because people can't bypass them at broadcast times. Also, you're completely ignoring syndication revenues, which are often where the real money is.

My mother (65 years old, not very geeky) pirates TV shows so she can watch them on her tablet on a plane because her Netflix subscription doesn't provide a good solution for that.

I never cease to be amazed at the creativity of piracy apologists in coming up with new scenarios where piracy is the only solution. Seriously, what percentage of Netflix users are in transit without internet access so often that they're horribly underserved by the inability to pre-cache multiple TV show episodes?


> I never cease to be amazed at the creativity of piracy apologists in coming up with new scenarios where piracy is the only solution.

It doesn't need to be the only solution. It simply needs to be the most economically viable solution to the consumer.

Joe Bloggs is an Englishman. He likes high-quality US television imports - Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, House of Cards, True Detective. He wants to obtain them for his viewing pleasure.

His options:

1. Go old school. pay £100-£150 for all the box-sets.

2. Go new school. Pay £7/month for Netflix (BB, HoC). Pay £30+ a month for Sky TV subscription with Sky Atlantic for the others. Plus £x, plus £y for everything else he needs - not even to mention movies, which are very inconsistent across streaming services. (I fear that we Limeys get less out of our Netflix subscriptions than you.)

3. Go illegal. Spend an upfront cost of time, electricity, bandwidth and risk of malware apocalypse/getting caught to get all this stuff on his hard drive.

Forget the morality of the issue. Never mind the legality: if Joe is a driver, it's a statistical near certainty that he speeds; if he doesn't take drugs, it's not because they're illegal. It's simple economics. If three is cheaper - in terms of time plus risk plus money - he will do number three.

As long as The Pirate Bay offers real advantages over legal services - principally, beyond the monetary price, everything you could possibly want is there in one place - then people will choose it. And just as it's unrealistic to expect media conglomerates to share the EFF's view of DRM, so it's unrealistic to expect media consumers to put up with the enormous inconveniences for the sake of some mythical starving artist grubbing away at the bottom of the Hollywood food chain.


I do not shop lift.

When I am asked why I do not shop lift I say a bunch of stuff, but "it is illegal" is very far down the list.

Hypothetical-Bob does shop lift. When asked why he says a bunch of stuff, but will include some rationalisations for why this bit of illegality is okay. "At least I only rob big shops and it's all covered by insurance and huge profits" for example. His rationalisations might not be true nor even make any sense, but he believes them.

Hypothetical-Chris is a different style of thief. He burgles houses. Again, he'll justify it. "At least I'm not mugging old grannies".

Hypothetical-Dave does mug old grannies. "But I am a drug addict and I need the money And there is not treatment. At least I'm not like those scumbag paedophiles."

The illegality of an action doesn't appear to immediately affect whether someone does something or not. It does affect how sneakily they do it.

So that's the kind of attitude that many people have about piracy. But laws have longer lasting effects. They social engineer people into "acceptable" modes of behaviour. We combine advertising campaigns against drunk driving with stiff legal penalties. We back up outrage against racism with laws mandating equal pay and no workforce discrimination.

So, while DRM and anti-circumvention laws are hateful and stupid it is daft to think that they have no effect on rates of piracy.

There is very little piracy on Nintendo3DS games. This is not because people love Nintendo and want competition for Sony and Microsoft and mobile gaming. It's because the encryption has held and people who could work on breaking it don't want to risk the consequences. See the amount of piracy on regular DA or Sony PSP for examples of how rapidly people adopt piracy when it's available.

And people will pirate 99c games that have no drm.


> The illegality of an action doesn't appear to immediately affect whether someone does something or not. It does affect how sneakily they do it.

That's also a matter of social censure though. I mean, every thread I've seen on this EME fiasco has included people looking forward to the Adobe CDM, in anticipation of its being cracked. Which is illegal.

See also people talking openly and frankly online about their usage of narcotics.

Which brings me to:

> So that's the kind of attitude that many people have about piracy. But laws have longer lasting effects. They social engineer people into "acceptable" modes of behaviour.

Again: drugs. Is taking marijuana less socially acceptable now after x decades of prohibition? No. It's completely bloody normal. And laws are slowly adjusting to the facts on the ground.

Will piracy become a big old taboo, like using child prostitutes? Will it continue to be 'normal', until anti-piracy people just give up? I don't have the faintest idea. This is going to run and run.

> So, while DRM and anti-circumvention laws are hateful and stupid it is daft to think that they have no effect on rates of piracy.

Daft indeed - everything has an effect. I'd want to see some numbers either which way.

Again: DRM has the effect, at the moment, of making it easier and cheaper to access content legally (by convincing Hollywood etc to license things to Netflix and co); but harder to use such content generally rather than under certain predefined conditions. Which one of these conditions is prevailing at the moment is a matter for statisticians and the like.

I would be surprised if Firefox's decision to implement EME mattered a hoot one way or another; DRM and non-DRM content will remain available through more or less the same channels as they were beforehand.

EDIT: on nintendo's encryption, this is (finally) some kind of concern. I notice that copy-protection is getting 'better' on certain popular music software (as well as more intrusive and annoying).


Again: drugs. Is taking marijuana less socially acceptable now after x decades of prohibition? No. It's completely bloody normal. And laws are slowly adjusting to the facts on the ground.

You missed the point he was making; it's still not acceptable to mug old ladies (or anyone else) to get money for drugs. Indeed, I predict that over time we'll see more and more drug use legalized, but any crimes committed under the influence of or in connection with drugs will involve substantially increased penalties, because the larger number of responsible drug consumers don't want to carry the can for people who can't or won't control their drug use and behavior.


Which is preceisly why publishers seek to impose deterrent penalties for copyright infringers, so as to increase the perceived risk.

some mythical starving artist grubbing away at the bottom of the Hollywood food chain

There are quite a lot of people, including myself, who make their living around the bottom of the Hollywood food chain. Attitudes like yours have made it incresingly difficult to launch small-budget projects of the sort that were designed to go direct to video, because ubiquitous low-cost piracy means that high-budget movies tend to crowd out low budget ones. Many world class directors, eg Martin Scorsese and James Cameron, got their start by doing low-budget exploitation pics that could be produced cheaply and sold cheaply. That market has been shrinking almost to nothing because piracy undermines not just cost structures but release windows, so in many ways it has become more difficult to bootstrap a film career than it used to be. Technology has made the process of shooting and editing a film a lot cheaper, but not across the board. Many economic inputs (like the cost of hiring locations or of feeding the cast and crew during production) cost as much or more as they always have, but it's a lot harder to raise a budget if you can't identify a predictable revenue stream.


How do you plan to make offering DRM-free content compatible with overlay ads? Are you suggesting having the ads actually baked into the video stream?


>Are you suggesting having the ads actually baked into the video stream?

Networks already do this on their broadcasts. Why couldn't they do it on free downloads as well? How many people are going to actively avoid the high quality, well-seeded, official download just because it has a few lower third ads?


The problem is that networks ALSO include interstitial ads.

From practical experience as an advertising buyer, I'd expect the CPM for those ads to be considerably higher than for the in-stream ads. Indeed, you'll see that most of the in-stream ads shown on network broadcasts are internal for other network shows, rather than being sold, strongly implying that the potential revenue is massively less.

As a result, just giving away free downloads with baked-in lower third ads would likely reduce the revenue from the shows being downloaded by a factor of 10 or more. That's gonna be a problem.

(Don't get me wrong - I'm not a fan of DRM at all and would love to find an equitable distribution solution to this problem. But as a professional in both the media and advertising industries, this sort of revenue generation is something I struggle with myself, and I know it's a non-trivial problem to solve.)


The existence of TiVo suggests that the answer is 'lots of people.' And 'a few' lower third ads? In the US, an hour of prime time usually means 15 minutes' worth of advertising. DRM is a heck of lot less distracting when I'm trying give my attention to a program.


DRM is pretty distracting when it prevents you from watching the show at all though.


Oh bullshit. That's like saying capitalism is preventing me from enjoying my Ferrari because I don't have enough money to buy one. Why do you start from a false premise of being entitled to watch anything you feel like at the price of your choice? Just because the marginal cost of copying is low does not create an entitlement on your part, nor does it reflect the fact that the fixed costs of production are often terribly high and have to be recouped by selling a large number of copies.

Of course, a Ferrari is a physical thing. But every Ferrar sitting in a showroom is one that nobody has been willing to pay for yet. Does that mean you should be able to take it for a ride when the dealership closes at night as long as you have it back there by opening time the following day (ignoring depreciation)?


Most of the things DRM is used to prevent would otherwise be classed as fair use.

Copyright law was, until quite recently about granting a monopoly on the large-scale or commercial use of a work. At-home copying for personal use was generally legal - even explicitly protected by law in some cases[0]. Same with multiplexing video on different screens, creating backups and skipping commercials.

DRM and legal provisions forbidding its circumvention change the rules quite a bit, stripping away significant rights from consumers. Losing rights one once had might well be grounds for a feeling of entitlement.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audio_Home_Recording_Act#Exemp...


That's a far cry from claiming you can't watch the show at all, which was what I responded to. As for watching on different devices, I can't say I've found this to be much of an actual problem in practice, and consider the claims about significant loss of rights to be wildly overblown.


So you're okay with the idea that the content owners should charge you every time you use the content for a different device, instead of "buy once, use everywhere"?


It's never been buy once use everywhere. I can't play a book on a record player or put a CD into a tape machine. I'm not saying you shouldn't be able to use the same file on different devices but you need to recognise that your demand is the new method of distribution here that needs to make its case (and I think will do in the long run).


The current situation in digital distribution is more akin to only being able to play your record on a Phillips record player from 1976-1979 or your CD in a Sony CD player from 1990-1994. Or to read your book by the Patented Blacklight Color Lightbulb from 3M.


It doesn't sound morally good because it's overreaching and preemptive policing (even if we falsely assume that DRM is effective). The fact is, most people don't think this issue through and don't realize how crooked and unethical the whole idea of DRM is.


I'm sorry if I was not clear on this part.

If you speak about DRM-for-copy-prevention to people in the street, a lot of them consider it as a 'necessary evil' because 'the artists need to live of their work'.

When you know more about DRM, you usually have stronger arguments against, of course.


Yes, and they make two mistakes - that's it's necessary (as you pointed out, DRM doesn't prevent piracy), and that such evil is acceptable (accepting massive surveillance or other overeaching police state kind of methods is similar).


I'm not making any judgment on DRMs, I'm just trying to explain how they work.


I understand. You are right about the main issue behind it - most people are not thinking this through, otherwise there would be more opposition to DRM.


Somewhat off topic advice - if you're trying to convince people of your views, calling things "evil" rarely works.

I'm willing to believe that DRM doesn't further the interest of society, but evil? I don't think you can say that considering the real evil that exists in the world.


Would you call police state evil? I would. Same thing is about DRM in my view.

How would you call something like this for example: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sony_rootkit


I'm quite curious what would happen if DRM got banned and everything had to be open.

I know it's wishful thinking however ironically I predict that content creators would experience an increase in sales since giving up control means that companies are given freedom to integrate all entertainment devices together and make them work more elegantly possibly offering something piracy might not be able to offer or has offered for a long time and legitimate sources just couldn't match it.

It's a interesting idea that companies are very uncomfortable in exploring even though a very similar idea lead to the creation of the internet.


> I'm quite curious what would happen if DRM got banned and everything had to be open.

While I personally support many copyright reforms, chief among them is that any work that is DRMed should be exempt from copyright protection.

They should be forced to choose which they want, and not be allowed both. When they DRM a work, they're stealing from the future public domain... this has already happened, and the problem will only grow bigger.

Right now, there exists media that cannot be recovered because of DRM. It's the Divx optical disc format from about 1999. Everything released on that format was released on others as well, so thankfully all of it is recoverable. But if there were works that could only be found on that (which is very plausible, considering that many older works exist only on some surviving piece of a single format)... then the crypto keys to recover them are already gone.

Since the entire point of copyright is that you only get this protection so that the work may eventually enter the public domain, and since DRM will someday serve to make that impossible, no work that employs it should enjoy copyright protection.


>Since the entire point of copyright is that you only get this protection so that the work may eventually enter the public domain

I've never heard that described as the purpose of copyright law. Why would it be? In the absence of copyright law, all works would effectively be in the public domain.

I believe you're thinking of patent law. To get a patent, you have to release the details of your invention, which you could keep private otherwise. There's nothing equivalent with copyright law.


I've never heard that described as the purpose of copyright law. Why would it be? In the absence of copyright law, all works would effectively be in the public domain.

It's funny, when they passed the Copyright Term Extension Act the opponents of the bill literally argued to congress that it was killing the American philosophy that the purpose of copyright is to encourage the creation of works that eventually fall into the public domain.

In the United States, Copyright and Patent law derive from the "Copyright Clause" of the Constitution:

    To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, 
    by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors
    the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and
    Discoveries.
This enables patent and copyright law. Patents do demand disclosure of details, but if you weren't worried someone would reverse engineer your product and get it to market before your patent expired, you'd just keep the details a trade secret. So I don't see how the disclosure aspect factors into duration.

If it wasn't already, the CTEA turned the length of copyright protection into a function of the American movie and music industries ability to lobby congress with sob stories. I'm not even trying to be snide towards congress with that remark, ask anyone in IP law what they think will happen next time Steamboat Willy is set to drop into the public domain.


> I've never heard that described as the purpose of copyright law. Why would it be?

That's because those who benefit from it don't want you to know the original purpose.

If that's not the purpose, why even have copyright at all? It's strictly a rent-seeking behavior.

> I believe you're thinking of patent law.

Copyrights were originally for a term of 14 years... the same as patents. I'm not confused about them.

> There's nothing equivalent with copyright law.

These are referenced in the US Constitution itself. And yet you're apparently ignorant of the purpose behind them. Why do you think copyright exists? So that random assholes can stake out some arbitrary permutation of ideaspace and collect tolls til the end of eternity?

They included it so that creative people would be encouraged to create works that would eventually enter the public domain.


>If that's not the purpose, why even have copyright at all?

To encourage creative works. This may or may not lead to expanding the public domain, but those are not equivalent.

>These are referenced in the US Constitution itself.

The constitution references encouraging creativity. It does not reference expanding the public domain.


Never heard of this do tell more how on earth can you loose the crypto key for an entire spec used by multiple companies to encode and distribute their content.


Losing the crypto is easy. You run a shitty company that partners with Circuit City (themselves a shitty company that just went out of business a few year ago), you go bankrupt, you tell everyone that their DRM-locked machines won't be able to play the discs past some cutoff date (despite them paying to have them unlocked forever)...

Then you shut down the servers. Where does the crypto key end up? Who the hell knows. The servers get traded around by whatever company takes possession of the assets, and servers have a short useful life. Probably sent for recycling.

The people who used to work for the company go on to other jobs. Whatever backups they made while working there get put in storage somewhere, to be forgotten, or to be thrown out and buried in a landfill.

And boom! DivX discs (not to be confused with the codec of the same name) are unplayable.

It's probably some half-ass design, and if anyone clever wanted to break it they probably could. But that is of course illegal according to the DMCA, and doesn't really rebut the argument that DRM locks up works that would eventually fall into the public domain otherwise.


So is it a fair précis to say DRM enables content owners to choose who (which distribution channel) is allowed to distribute their content to the vast majority of mainstream users who cannot be bothered to hunt down a DRM-free copy, and so through that choice extract rent.

A perfect uncrackBle DRM would still serve the same purpose.


Had CDs been encrypted, iPods would not have been able to read their content, because the content providers would have been able to use their DRM contracts as leverage to prevent it.

Moreover, the iPod most likely would have never been invented. How about that for killing innovation?


It's worth remembering that the music industry actually sued to prevent MP3 players as a technology.

http://itlaw.wikia.com/wiki/RIAA_v._Diamond_Multimedia


The likes of the iPod are innovation that rights holders don't want, so that would be a feature not a bug.


I don't think they're that stupid, i.e. they certainly are all for iPods today... But they are certainly very slow...


Ironically, iPod & iTunes were using DRM (FairPlay) on launch!

I don't think it's DRM itself killing innovation but the overuse of the actual "control over software and hardware providers".

What makes products like the iPod or Netflix successful, despite their use of DRMs, is their simplicity and accessibility among other things. Netflix is trying hard to negotiate for more content, but I think content providers are killing innovation mainly by not allowing initiatives like Netflix to have all the content in one place. We need a Spotify (i.e. most of the content available) for movies...

Edit: elaborating...


The iPod and iTunes existed, and were wildly popular, for years before the iTunes Music Store existed, so no, they weren't using DRM on launch. It's only because there was so much DRM-free media around that the iPod could become popular enough that selling music on iTunes was a vaguely interesting proposition; without that built-in market, the iTMS probably would never have been worthwhile.


And, to engage in some historical guesswork, if the iPod never happened, what would have happened to the iPhone and iPad? It's not that smartphones and tablets in some form never would have happened without the iPod, but it's hard for me to see Apple having a role.


The smartphone market got into gear with Palm (and Handspring, then Palm bought Handspring...) merging their PDAs with a cellphone.

If you don't recall PalmOS, the major user interface was a resistive touch screen (160x160 mono ranging up to 320x320 16K color) and a stylus, with no keyboard on most models. The keyboard lack was countered by a handwriting recognition system that took a very low-CPU power approach: Graffiti has its own gesture alphabet, which takes an hour or two to learn. By specifying the way every letter had to be drawn, and specifying where on the screen it would be recognized, a Motorola 68K was acceptable, and a 300MHz low-end ARM felt snappy.

PalmOS had a database format which lives on to this day as part of the Mobi ebook file spec.


It's likely that smartphones would have never escaped the enterprise (Blackberry, Palm, WinPho 6, etc.) if the iPhone hadn't been released. Apple always put music front and center in their presentation of the iPhone, for good reason.


I don't think so. I was starting to see Palm and Windows smartphones in the hands of consumers without especially advanced tech backgrounds a decade ago as well as the occasional Sidekick. Android was in development at the time as well, and while early prototypes don't seem nearly as consumer-friendly as iPhones, many early production models were similarly unimpressive.

It may have taken a bit longer, but I think the mainstream popularity of smartphones was inevitable.


>I think the mainstream popularity of smartphones was inevitable

I don't. I'm not a fan of Apple, but they really transformed our conception of a smartphone and made them a desirable device for the mass market. As I'm sure you know, early versions of Android looked nothing like it did once the iPhone was revealed. Even relatively modern smartphone platforms like WebOS completely failed to resonate with the public.


You're forgetting that Nokia (and a few others) managed to sell a few hundred million iPhone-uninfluenced Symbian devices before that platform was flattened by Android. That's plenty of evidence that the mass market already wanted smarter devices iPhone or no iPhone.


I dunno, all video content is DRM-encumbered, and yet I can choose from a whole range of media players that support all the formats commonly used for cracked "illegal" copies.

Sure, none of them are made by the mainstream brands that the entertainment industry has a hold over, but that was the same for MP3 players before Apple made its move. (And a bold move it was, because everybody knew the only thin iPods were being used for is to play "illegally" obtained content.)

Also, DRM is merely a weapon. Copyright is the killer.


I don't agree with the "DRM is merely a weapon" bit in your last paragraph.

DRM allows rights holders to create and "monetize" new "rights" outside the legislative process. Copyright law (in the United States, at least) allows for "fair use", but the DMCA criminalization of "circumvention devices" creates a method to eliminate fair use rights via technology. Once DRM is legally protected rights holders can go wild using DRM to, effectively, make up new laws.


I don't think anyone else has mentioned it yet but for me a very important corollary of what you mention about elimination of fair use rights [where's the punishment against this?] is the failure of works to enter the Public Domain.

A work with DRM attached can't be Copyrighted. Copyright is a bargain between the demos and the creators of artistic works. In that bargain the creators get protection from the state for their monopolistic exploitation of a work on the proviso that the work then enters the public domain after a "limited" time.

Now distribution companies and purchasers of copyrights and employers of copyright creators have managed to erode the limitation of that period to a great extent but the limitation still holds. Ergo, works must enter the Public Domain when the term expires.

Works with DRM can not [properly] do this. Not in any way as might analogise that imagined by those creating copyright laws initially. The work must be free to be used in any way the public sees fit (except perhaps those that contravene moral rights, I'd personally extend some moral rights in perpetuity - eg right to be acknowledged as creator of a work).

Copyright law should punish those that forcibly rest fair use (or fair dealing as we get in the UK) from the public and no protection should be offered by the state for works that can't be guaranteed to enter the public domain (eg by deposition of non-DRM in an archive to which the rights holder that chooses DRM pays a fee for maintenance).

Copyright law is a deal that has been broken. Too much power has been ceded by politicians to the media conglomerates on the public's behalf and without proper warrant.


Nearly every sentence of this post is factually wrong. A wide variety of DRM free video exists on the internet, some of it is even paid material. Louis CK, Jim Gaffigan and Greg Proops have all done DRM-free work.

My iPhone can play any video encoded in the right formats using the Videos app. It can also run VLC. A wide variety of main stream BluRay players support DLNA and media via usb.

Copyright being a killer kind of overlooks why we have copyright to begin with. I make movie, I get some limited powers to determine who can and can not distribute my work and how it's used. If I make a movie, you don't have the right to make a buck off my work with out my say so. Do you have ANY idea why that's kind of inherently unfair?

Also, if I don't want my work used to sell cigarettes or used to stump for some political candidate, then that should be my right.

That's not to say copyright reform isn't needed, or that copyright holders don't have disproportional bipartisan political influence or any number of things. However, as a leading issue of our time, it's somewhere near, "Are there too many Buicks on the road?" Fixing or repealing the DMCA is relatively easy. There are many issues that I can think of that just aren't.


> Sure, none of them are made by the mainstream brands that the entertainment industry has a hold over

Panasonic Viera E5 can play .MKV files used very commonly by pirates.


Wait, there was an iPod that could access content on CDs? I'm assuming that this is referring to iTunes ripping the CD?

Anyway, I recall that Sony had a brief attempt at CD DRM and it turned into a fiasco for them.


I was going to say, the purpose of DRM is to get you to pay for multiple licenses. It's the same reason why a lot of paid download software is now on a SAAS model. If you can buy 1 copy of something for $20 and use it on whatever devices you want, then the company has made $20. If you DRM that to be for just one device, and you have 5 devices, they make $100. If you are a SAAS operator, you are effectively doing the same thing.

Somehow people are more okay with paying an ongoing fee for software or some perceived notion of services, but that same does't yet apply to content in a larger way. The closest equivalent is probably the cable companies and they are taking their huge sums of money and are buying the media companies, so maybe eventually there will be just a flat $100/month fee for experiencing a company's content on whatever device/experience it's available on. Maybe even movie theaters.


It also prevents loaning, resale, inheritance, and any other kind of transfer. Which is particularly worrying when it comes to ebook collections.

In the next 10-20 years, as physical media grows less and less common, we will surely see legislation and/or judicial rulings that treat digital property as actual property. There's room for actual services like Spotify or Netflix, but being able to have your own copy of something is so important.


> we will surely see legislation and/or judicial rulings that treat digital property as actual property

"Surely"? Maybe if congress and judges held consumers' best interest at heart instead of the content holders..


Maybe those rulings or laws won't happen in the US, but in some major markets of the planet those rulings will happen – partially this discussion has already happened in the EU.


I think you should write "rights holders" instead of "content holders". They're two different things.


Yes, to me the real problem is indeed owning your stuff... The ability for right holders to revoke your licenses at any moment without a warning and with no control on your side is unsettling. I have worked on a VOD website where we sold so called "forever" access to a video for a specific price, today the website is down, people do not have access to their "property".


> Somehow people are more okay with paying an ongoing fee for software or some perceived notion of services, but that same does't yet apply to content in a larger way.

I think it's pretty simple to see why this is: Once created (digital) content is inert and doesn't really require any ongoing maintenance as such. Software always requires some sort of ongoing maintenance.


Digital software and content requires maintenance and upkeep or the copies and backups will be lost. Burned CDs are rated to last 10 years. Floppy disks less so. Pressed CDs and various backup mediums maybe 100 years. Hard drives have a finite life span too. Please help maintain historical data.

http://archiveteam.org/index.php?title=Main_Page


Some of the most amazing digital content is transformative, and supported by an ongoing community of people producing and transforming it. Any one individual work is "inert", but the value is in the body of work as a whole.

And none of that would be possible with DRM.


Oh, yes, remixing is a huge deal which DRM threatens to cripple. Still, given the analog hole and high-quality recording equipment I don't think that it'll necessarily die, it'll just be driven underground (even more than it already is).


example?


See any of the works by the artist Pogo:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pAwR6w2TgxY&list=TLIfADM1J0R...


And then notice what a tiny fraction of views his original content gets: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCn-K7GIs62ENvdQe6ZZk9-w

Conclusion: >90% of the value fot audiences lies in the original source material rather than his enjoyable remixes of same.


The inert-ness you're referring doesn't really apply in a world where all this digital content is streamed from servers in the cloud. The infrastructure to provide that steaming content must be maintained.


The distribution costs have nothing to do with maintaining the content itself, and given that pirates apparently manage to distribute content for free, the necessity of those costs becomes highly questionable.

Indeed, these costs are artificially imposed by the streaming model which is used, despite its inefficiency, to control consumption.


> given that pirates apparently manage to distribute content for free

Well, that's a strange statement. The computers and internet connections (and time) used for piracy are not free. And the costs of pirating/torrenting/peering this content are offset by the savings of the pirates/peers not paying for the content itself....


>The computers and internet connections (and time) used for piracy are not free.

Yes, but you still have to pay for those if you stream the content. It seems rather dubious to suggest the streaming infrastructure is "necessary", when apparently pirates can distribute fine without it.

Time used to be a factor, but with things like Popcorn Time starting to appear, piracy is approaching the usability of legal streaming services.


People are ok to pay. Netflix is a proof.

However, IMO it's still not good enough: Netflix is simple and very accessible, but not enough (recent) content. Because content providers are abusing DRM and it's purpose.


What DRM does is makes the 'pirate' goods, the 'hacked' players, the illegitimate rips, better, more usable, more flexible, and generally superior in every way to the officially released product.

Which I'm sure is not the intention.

Say I can't copy-and-paste a section from an eBook or run it through a speech reader? Tell me I can't skip the trailers before watching the DVD I have paid for? No. Fuck you. Bullshit like that is a red rag to a bull - you just created an army of people who'll bust off your "rights management" just to show you how wrong you are, and that YOU DO NOT GET TO DECIDE how people consume the things they own.

Sorry and all. But that's how it is.


Unfortunately, these companies are often quite subtle and make the initial product much better than predecessors. For example, my experience with the early DVDs was that they had no unskippable content. Then, years later after I had tossed my VCR every new DVD seemed to have all kinds of crap front loaded that I couldn't skip. So, DRM done right from the content owner's perspective makes the early experience quite better than what it displaces. Once everyone is locked into the format, then the DRM switches start to tighten and its too late for consumers to move on.

Of course there are counter examples, like you mention, but what scares me about DRM is how if it's done right, nobody will mind DRM at first because it's better than the old way of doing things. Then one day, we all wake up and realize that we've been tricked because we are locked in and can't change.

Today, we all love Netflix, but I wonder what the experience will be once disks have vanished and their growth slows. At that point will we experience FBI warnings, forced ads & trailers?


Summarised succinctly by this image: http://cdn.techpp.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/gxzev.jpg


You see this right now in the internet community around the Disney Movie Frozen.

Most people there own a BluRay of the movie, but we're still using the torrents or video streams for all kind of remixing or for watching them together because we don't have to care about the DRM this way.

Most people only buy the BluRay to give Disney further reason to produce a second movie – so more like you'd donate to an OpenSource project.


I was going to buy a Kobo to read technical documents, but then I saw they don't support non-DRM pdf. No sale.

The last e-reader I bought four years ago was cheap, with atrocious touch screen response, but it would display my PDFs. After it broke, I just went back to my laptop. If someone would like to recommend something, I'd appreciate it. Something with the physical traits of an e-ink Kindle without the 1984 ecosystem.


I know my Dad got the GCC manual on his Kindle, he never registered the thing. As he is not a big fan of DRM.

Although the tool he uses isn't the most usable thing.


I have a 2011 Kobo Touch, it works fine to display any epub or PDF I put on it, including PDFs I've made myself.

Is there some new restriction on the newer models?


Wait: Kobo won't present a PDF which doesn't contain DRM?


I own some DVDs, but I don't own any movies. If you want to own a movie, you pretty much have to make it yourself.


Truthfully, these days I actually find more value in most "self-made media" the anything that "the organised content industry" has to offer.


This is very true, but also preaching to the choir. Probably most of an audience like HN already knows this.

The real question is what we can do to fight DRM. The only real option is to push back against the companies that promote it. For EME, the current DRM in the news, the relevant companies are Google, Microsoft and Netflix.

It's all well and good to talk about how DRM is pointless. Of course it is pointless. But unless we actually push back against those companies, DRM will continue to win.


> The real question is what we can do to fight DRM.

The best way to hit them is to hit them in the wallet, which means pirating on principle. Don't buy DVDs or BluRays, cancel cable, Netflix etc., learn about alternatives like TPB and PopcornTime and teach others about them. Every cent you spend for Hollywood's products is used to sponsor DRM, and things like the DMCA on a political level, so make sure they don't get a single cent from you.

While this may sound like a David-against-Goliath effort, keep in mind that pirating content has an intrinsic value proposition (maximum usability, zero cost, no censorship) which can never be exceeded by DRM offerings. So it isn't difficult to convince anyone to pirate instead of buying, you just have to show them how ;)

What we must get rid of is the (content-industry sponsored) notion that piracy is somehow immoral. It isn't. Trying to take away the rights of users just because they don't go along well with a specific business model is.

(note: of course all this only applies to DRM content, and companies advocating it. Non-DRM offerings like gog.com, independent artists etc. are fine and should be paid for if used).


> The real question is what we can do to fight DRM.

> Of course all this only applies to DRM content, and companies advocating it. Non-DRM offerings like gog.com, independent artists etc. are fine and should be paid for if used

What else? The root of the problem seems to be that major media companies are demanding DRM. For most of media that most people want to consume, there are no DRM-free alternatives, except pirating, which does carry some risks. It's hard to recommend pirating as a solution to the average media consumer, since the legal consequences can be bankrupting, and avoiding those risks ("just set up an anonymous VPN for your torrents!") requires technical know-how that most don't have.

I think we need more thought about the following:

1. How can we convince the producers of popular media to release it without DRM? Many will say it can't happen without a serious change in the structure of the media business; but there might be some room for solutions here, like Mozilla's "watermarking" idea, that give these companies most of what they're looking for (more control over distribution and remedies for infringement) without making the copies of this media basically unusable from a consumer's perspective. Legal remedies were enough for these companies before the rise of digital media and the Internet; could publishers be convinced to abandon DRM if a better legal framework for distribution and infringement was available?

2. How can we get people to like, and pay for, media that is produced and released without DRM by independent publishers? As others have pointed out, these publishers generally already know that DRM is not in their interest. But they have two problems: it's hard for people to find their stuff, and they don't have the capital to compete with large media companies on production value. What can be done to lower the barriers here? New tools that make indexing and searching for DRM-free media easy for consumers? New tools that make producing and marketing high-quality media easy for publishers? What should those look like?


> The root of the problem seems to be that major media companies are demanding DRM.

That, combined with the fact that users have not actually opposed DRM. On places like HN there is a strong anti-DRM sentiment, but the average person just doesn't care or isn't willing to make any sacrifices to fight it.

So the problem is a combination of the media companies requiring DRM, and consumers buying DRM'ed content and using DRM-enabled browsers. We can't directly influence the former, but we could certainly affect the latter.


Drm is primarily used in practice to do market segmentation. The rest of this comment is not available in your region.


I like our 10+ year old Pioneer DVD player that ignores the region. Unfortunately the the region-free devices have become a rarity these days.


Anyone got a torrent to the full comment?


Nothing makes me want to turn pirate quite like being forced to sit through unskippable anti-piracy ads preceding a movie I've paid for.


Or "Coming soon" segments for movies release a decade ago.


If you press stop a few times, then play. This normally skips directly to the menu (works for me).


Looks like you found a bug with your DVD player. Make sure NOT to report it.


Actually I learned about this from an askreddit thread a while back. I tried it, and it worked. Skipped to the menu when the menu button wouldn't.


"Sure, the DRM systems have all been broken [...]"

I have worked with MS PlayReady DRM (which is the "latest" one from Microsoft, the one used by Netflix) for some time and never stumbled upon any cracks. Not because it's impossible or even difficult but probably just because nobody cares about cracking Netflix (which brings PlayReady it's main source of "users")... Once you pay, you can watch as much as you like, why bother. Netflix made it extremely simple and accessible. (Yes some features like multicasting might be missing but it's still way better than Plesk or PopcornTime. For now at least... The main problem is clearly that the Film industry make it too difficult to have all content in one place). There is plenty of other "easier" sources (alternative VOD offerings with already cracked/worse protections, Blu-rays) to get the copyrighted material from for underground channels.

I am sure other DRM systems have a clear log for the same reason: No major incentive to crack them.


Previous discussion (421 days ago, 22 comments):

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5406733


Of course not. Reasons for demanding DRM can be different, but none of them are valid or good. As discussed here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7745009 common reasons are:

1. Monopolistic lock-in. DRM is more than often used to control the market. It happened with Apple in the past, and was one of the key reasons that music publishers realized that being DRM-free is actually better for them.

This reason also includes DRM derivatives like DMCA-1201 and the like. It's all about control (over the markets, over users and etc.).

2. Covering one's incompetence. DRM is used to justify failing sales (i.e. when execs are questioned about why the product performs poorly, they say "Pirates! But worry not - we put more DRM in place").

3. Ignorance and / or stupidity (many execs have no clue and might believe that DRM actually provides some benefit). This type can be called DRM Lysenkoism.


This rings quite true to me. I had protracted arguments about the limitations the BBC wanted to impose on TVs supporting Freeview HD in the UK (copy protection flags and only encrypted local streaming) despite the fact that the content itself was being broadcast at high power across the country completely unencrypted. What is it the CE companies need to license? The Huffman compression tables for the guide data which in the license agreement you have to warrant that they are trade secrets and that you won't reveal them. I did send the BBC a link to the MythTV source code which contains this trade secret. If you work out who I was working for during this discussion don't worry, the content arm of the company was (at least according to the BBC pressuring them the other way as a supplier).

And the end result? We caved for the shiny Freeview HD sticker.


I do not think there is any problem with DRM. It is pretty much right of the content providers to chose how they will distribute their content.

What really gets my gears grinding is when I see an open source browser like Firefox is forced against their wishes to implement it because DRM has somehow reached a standard.

The job of W3C standards is to protect the interests of ordinary web users and not content providers.


Interesting. I was unaware of this.

But if this is the case, why is there such a push to put DRM in HTML? Browsers aren't DVD players. Users are free to use software like ABP to circumvent any features like "unskippable ads" mentioned in the post. Pressure on browser makers seems much less valuable than pressure on device makers.


If DRM is implemented in HTML, then you WON'T be free to use software like ABP, since it will be a 'circumvention' method. Now, it will be harder to prevent software circumvention rather than hardware circumvention, but it will still be in the same legal situation.


For that exact reason -- browsers are the one "device" still open. They already have basically every other mainstream entertainment channel, if they can lock down browsers they'll have it all.


I don't think ABP and other extensions will have access to the DRM player. Isn't the whole point for the browser to just blindly embed the code provided by the media bosses?


If AdBlock becomes a big enough problem, publishers will create "unskippable" ads with current technology. HTML doesn't really change that. It's always been a cat and mouse with ad blockers.


It's possible to build a website that renders itself unusable if an ad fails to load, to prevent browsers with AdBlock enabled from viewing your content. The problem with this approach is that if a single ad fails to load for any reason, the entire website goes down. Do you trust your ad network to have 100% uptime?


There are ways to engineer around that, but it's always been a cat and mouse game. My point is that it's a side issue; ad blocking doesn't have much to do with having an "official" DRM spec. You can make ads harder to block without it, and you can probably still find a way to block ads with it.


Do you think that the likes of Disney and Sony care? If the ad network is down, they're not getting paid for that view, anyway.


Even if we assume that each page only loads a single ad, which either succeeds or fails, the perception of a site being unreliable hurts the company running it. Household names like Disney and Sony might be able to live with that, but they'll still do everything possible to avoid downtime.


But right now, it's a legal cat and mouse game for both sides. With DRM, it becomes illegal for the mouse to do anything but get eaten.


Maybe I'm just missing something, but I don't see why DRM being implemented in an HTML spec is any different from implementing it in Flash or Silverlight or Javascript. The DMCA doesn't care about specs.

I could "protect" the copyright on my site's content with a trivial bit of a javascript, and you would arguably be circumventing it with your ad blocker.

(To be clear: I think the DMCA anti-circumvention provisions are terrible policy.)


There is zero evidence of this claim in this article.

DRM is, in fact, to prevent unauthorized usage and copies. In fact, even some of the examples in this article are exactly that.

What is more important is that DRM doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to make unauthorized usage very inconvenient - enough that a few dollars is worth the cost for most people.


What's more important, DRM should never be used. Because it never makes pirating inconvenient to the 99.99...9% of the pirates. The 0.00...1% which go through the trouble of breaking that DRM redistribute DRM-free copy to all other pirates, who never deal with that DRM altogether.

What it makes inconvenient is the usage of that service / product for users who actually pay for it. It's a brain dead idea.


The article makes a distinction between different kinds of unauthorized usage (not all kinds are malicious or illegal). You don't seem to.


The issue is, is that DRM fails abysmally at this, all it takes is a couple minutes and someone with the right software, and -poof- your DRM is gone, and next thing you know, it's on the pirate bay, easier to acquire than legitimate means, and more convenient to use.


Pretty much this. The people who will pirate are going to pirate regardless, you could offer all your movies DRM free for $1 each and some people will still pirate them.

So the purpose of DRM is to make maximum revenue from those who won't pirate, for example by charging more for group viewings of the movie or viewing on multiple devices.


It's important to identify that the price of a piece of media is not the only cost associated with it.

If it takes me 30 minutes round trip to get to a store, 15 minutes in a store. Let's say an hour total. Blockbuster went bankrupt because that expense was too excessive for people. You could rent from Netflix for a monthly fee and the DVDs got delivered to you, then the movies got streamed to you instantly. When I can sit on my arse and take 30 seconds to put on a movie, there's a massive 'cost' difference between a $1 DVD rental and a $8 monthly subscription, and the monthly subscription is extremely cheap.

Our world has entire industries worth billions of dollars around convenience and it's getting bigger every day. DRM is purposefully inconvenient, which means it's constantly on a losing battle.

However the question we have to ask is, is this losing battle a necessary evil to ensure the production of content?

I'm a writer in my free time. I do it for fun, and I might make money from it. A $100mil budget movie isn't going to be made for fun and the chance of making some money from it.


I don't have much disposable income so rarely buy movies that aren't on DVD in the bargain bin at the supermarket. However, recently I wanted [an excerpt of] a specific Disney movie - so I assumed, it's the 21st Century and all - that I could go to the Disney website, pay and download the movie and watch it (as you can skip the first two steps and do the rest elsewhere).

It was a genuine surprise to find that wasn't possible. What was more of a surprise was that I couldn't find anywhere to buy it, not Amazon, not the supermarket websites, it was almost impossible to find referenced on a Disney site.

That movie was of course available online - just not somewhere that I could directly pay for it.

It's definitely not about serving the content creators when you get to this situation.


This could be a special case, since Disney has an official, named policy to make titles available for only limited periods of time, then they're put on moratorium for some years: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disney_Vault

They're also the content creator, so....


Specifically they put each movie on for a limited time every 7 years.


Disney employees are the content creators, no? You may find that point moot, I find it highly pertinent. People create artistic works. Copyright is supposedly - in it's base form - for those people (and the public) and not primarily intended to ensure shareholders get rich.


You don't just stick a bunch of creative people in a room and get a movie, any more than you put 100 people in a field and get a factory. Yes, it's a creative endeavor, but (speaking as someone who works in film)95% of the input consists of grunt work, spread across technical specialties from accounting to schlepping things into and out of trucks. Even the writing, acting, directing involves tons of grunt work. Indeed, the whole skill of film/TV work is to aggregate the work of hundreds or thousands of people so as to make present an illusion of a few people engaging in (mostly) effortless natural behavior.

Putting on my screenwriter hat (which is maybe 10% of my activity in this field), I very much want the option of selling my work to a producer for cash money. Money up front pays the bills. I have ownership interests in a few films too, but it isn't worth anything. since most films don't make any money this is sadly unexceptional. It's a brutal market, but also extremely egalitarian.


I'm not sure what your point is here.

Take a potter. His visual style, assuming it is distinct, bears copyright protection. Rightly so, then an upstart can't legally come in and reproduce his work and steal away his customers without having put in the work needed to create the design initially. But the copyright in that work doesn't, and shouldn't, bear any sense of protection towards the jobs of those that quarry the clay, or the steel-workers that make the steal used in the potter's tools.

An entire network rests on the potters creative work, but the copyright is there to protect only the creative portion. If the potter is producing work without a distinct style then there will be no effective copyright in it's visual appearance and still all the others will get paid if there is demand for the product.

So?


I'm not sure what your point is. You say the creativity resides with the employees who make the film, but my point is that the creation is only possible through their aggregated efforts and there is nothing wrong with pooling their collective effort on a for-hire basis and assigning the copyright for the result to a commercial entity with shareholders.

Your pottery analogy is broken because it doesn't reflect how a film is put together. Imagine, rather, a giant sculpture that requires the collective efforts of 100 potters.


Most of the inconvenience around DRM is because implementations can be buggy and it's often built into sub-par software but I don't think it's necessarily by design. Services like Steam and Netflix are doing well by providing more convenient implementations.

The endgame for DRM could well be that it becomes totally transparent, you consume whatever media you want on whatever device you want whenever you want and you get a bill every month based on some complicated price matrix and people will just pay it the same way they do their phone bill.


DRM is necessarily inconvenient by design. It exists to prevent customers from doing what they want to with the product. Perfectly reasonable actions become impossible or illegal due to DRM. I'm not sure how that's convenient in any way.


The idea would be to allow the end user to do anything they wanted with the product but to price discriminate between different users and different use cases. So it wouldn't be less convenient , simple more expensive in some cases but perhaps cheaper in others.


This end user always wants to be free to make copies of his products, use them without an internet connection, share them with family members, and use them on any platform of my choosing, even converting them to a different format if necessary.

No DRM system will allow me to do that, because that fundamentally challenges their control over the product. I'm happy to pay more for a product without DRM, but they're usually not available.


From a legal perspective you were never free to make additional copies for others without the permission of the copyright holder. Even format shifting was controversial in some jurisdictions.

The idea of DRM would be to allow you to do these things, but have a mechanism to bill you for them. The problem at the moment is that the ecosystem for this is incomplete.


It is absolutely legal to make a backup copy of a copyrighted work. [0] It is also legal to lend your purchased work to anyone you choose (making a copy). DRM prevents you from exercising your rights under the law.

[0] http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-digital.html


DRM doesn't inherently prevent you from doing either of those things.


Rick Falkvinge presents a history of the "Copyright Wars" since the invention of the printing press in 1453 ("But how will the monks get paid?"). I think a look at the 500 years of the history of this topic is relevant here.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPEO-u_c0t0#t=3m02s


at some price point you cross the convenience threshold.

that's how steam won.

content providers are not competing against the pirate bay, they're competing against the clients that facilitate their consumption: popcorn tv, etc.

I think the real change will happen when the old guard of advertising finally dies off -- the only thing keeping these old fashioned advertisement distribution networks (TV networks) afloat.

The Nail in the Coffin will be when TV stops being a cost effective form of advertisement, and the decision makers behind those dollars realize that fact.


Speaking of controlling distribution channels, does anyone know how I can share this post outside of Google+, or add it to Pocket so that I can reread in more detail later?


There's no DRM on that page, it's just a Web page. Just copy and paste the content. "Save as HTML". Print to PDF. Whatever floats your boat. :-)


Ye olde copy and paste, methinks.


The purpose of DRM is to give content providers leverage against creators of playback devices.

One thing that's always seemed odd to me is that the DRM use case is presented as a battle with "content providers" on one side and everyone else on the other, but aren't these content providers also users? Do they also consume DRM'd content, and if so, are they perfectly fine with the restrictions? Do those who devise DRM schemes not realise that they may also be the ones who will have these schemes imposed on them?


Why isn't screen capture software more widely used? It seems like a dead simple screen capture suite could make all these DRM worries go away.


For pirating DRMed material? Probably because every major DRM scheme has been compromised, so it's easier to just grab the original stream.

If you're talking about in relation to the article, how would screen capture software let you skip ads? I could see it used for multiplexing, but playback on multiple devices would be tricky unless you ripped the content first.


I think it's used widely enough: God is it ugly... You are screwing up with FPS and then you have to re-encode on top of your already encoded (i.e. not raw), captured thing , eww... Plenty of cleaner ways, like DVD or Blu-Rays which protections are cracked and with which you get the untampered original.


It's actually incredibly simple to do this.

Open Boardcaster is free and does this well.


That's why they want DRM control all the way down to the hardware.


>Without DRM, you take the DVD and stick it into a DVD player that ignores "unskippable" labels, and jump straight to the movie.

>With DRM, there is no licensed player that can do this

So, enforcing some rules (via DRM) to the player manufacturing, content provider makes my experience worse as a consumer.

Again, I am a consumer, what is the advantages of DRM for me? So manufacturer must enforce me watching ads?


The argument would be that it is necessary to keep people paying for legit copies (ones that pay the original producer). Same as having a branch of the tax office dedicated to finding fraud, it has absolutely no direct benefit to a good taxpayer and only downsides. It's there because it's argued to be necessary to keep tax revenue at the point it should be.

The first part is what's being argued about, I don't think anyone is arguing it has a direct benefit to consumers.


I have come to find the whole circular debate about DRM particularly boring. So much so, that I won't bother to read the whole article or comments here.

Yes, DRM is always broken - eventually, but yes it does work - sort of. It is a technology and legal arms race in a constantly changing landscape.

> DRM's purpose is to give content providers control over software and hardware providers, and it is satisfying that purpose well.

No not really. DRM's purpose is to give content providers a return on their investment, everything else is just a consequence of trying to achieve this.

DRM isn't going to go away as along as people want to be paid for creating content, and other people want to get that content without paying for it.

Sadly it is probably true that it is always the biggest players that get the biggest slice of the pie. Irritatingly the open source community refuse to engage in this battle and support the small player. As a consequence the smaller content providers have no choice but to hook up with the big commercial channels who decide how big a cut they want.


So I read the page, but find the argument VERY unconvincing. If that really was the goal of DRM, then you wouldn't need the really complicated schemes used. You just come up with a simple scheme that legally requires licensing and always use that. No need to keep switching schemes, adding more safeguards, and so forth.

The content creators still get the same leverage over the legal distribution channels because they can still be forced to follow the rules outlined in the examples. That and it lowers your R&D costs on making complicated DRM. If the article is true, what have I missed?


While everything that is said in the article is true, the end result is that the control that the distributers want to have is circumvented by pirating. Therefore, by continuing to try and control the content more, what is actually being done is increasing the demand for pirated content. I know of many people who buy content legally and then in addition acquire the pirated version to use as they please. Therefore, as that process becomes easier (lookup popcorn time to see how easy it can be), the purpose of the control becomes more meaningless.


Can someone explain to me how businesses can provide a subscription model without DRM?

I refuse to purchase anything with DRM, but I don't give a shit if it's a rental or subscription service.


If one wants a parallel to social-politial battles around the means of production in recent centuries, it's an attempt by licensing companies to abolish ownership of reproductions of works of art -- and to establish a monopoly on the means of distribution.

My perception is that few people understand or care -- and the US political elite mostly acquiesces because it has been (or wants to be) bought by those aspiring monopolists.


Eh, at the end of the day, there are thousands of ways to go around it, so why implement it in the first place?

People pay for things that are good, easy to pay for, are appropriately priced, and not a burden or expense more than they see it worth (has to deal with pricing and roadblocks). DRM, and poor delivery services are usually those roadblocks.


> Had CDs been encrypted, iPods would not have been able to read their content, because the content providers would have been able to use their DRM contracts as leverage to prevent it.

What? Why? Nothing would have prevented people from recording the playback of an encrypted CD and putting that on their iPod.


Sure it would. Apple would have not been keen to develop a technology that relied on illegal copying to start with.

Copying music CD's was a grey area, but it's a grey area that you can do in a semi-legal capacity. There was no reason legally that Apple couldn't create a CD ripping process in iTunes. It's the user's responsibility to not use it illegally.

However, if CDs were encrypted, Apple would get in trouble if they broke that encryption to let you copy CDs to your iPad. You could find some more shady 3rd party tools that would work around it, but Apple's whole model is that it's easy to use and that it just works. Having to download an illegal 3rd party tool to rip your CDs and put them on your iPod isn't something they would do.

Similarly, iPods have had video playback for ages now, but there is no method to copy DVD video to your iPod through Apple's tools. You can pop in a CD and it asks you if you want to import it into your library. You pop in a DVD and it just asks if you want to play, no option to import. If they let you import it, they would be breaking laws. The brand is established, and was established by the simple copying of music, so it's not important that it can't copy video as easily. But if it couldn't copy music easily, would it have even been a thing?


Further to your point, it has historically been hard to find any commercial software that converts a DVD to a digital file (so it's not just Apple).

The reason for this is that under US law (DMCA I believe) it is illegal to circumvent DRM, a DVD has a very basic DRM scheme. So, commercial companies avoided this area. While any programmers that saw a market opportunity and built something soon wound up removing the key DVD ripping feature of their software, likely a result from receiving a kind letter from a MPAA lawyer.


And that's why we have other companies around the world have software for that; that's why we have other types of legislations too: to circunvent DRM schemes.


Remember that the advertising tagline was "rip, mix, burn." Not "find a cable, connect your headphone jack to your microphone jack, painstakingly copy each track in real-time, trim and organize the audio files, encode to mp3, mix, burn."


Actually, SDMI was supposed to foil that scenario; fortunately it didn't work. Also, the analog hole is so cumbersome that it would have made "5,000 songs in your pocket" pointless.


How well did that work for minidisc players?


This argument is completely ridiculous.

Control of how a person consumes content that they legally own is incidental. If a company can force you to buy content rather than pirating, they will make a lot more money. Controlling the exact manner in which you consume that content is the icing on the cake.


Controlling the exact manner in which you consume that content is the icing on the cake.

I'd rather put that as "attempting to control the exact manner in which you consume that content is how you lose valuable business".

But that's just me.


Steam would have been a great example for his article. Steam does nothing to prevent you from copying games. In fact, some games on steam can be bought without DRM from other sources. Steam just forces you to use Steam or buy your games again.


TL;DR

"DRM's purpose is to give content providers control over software and hardware providers, and it is satisfying that purpose well."


dammit, reading G+ on a small 720p laptop screen is absolute hell.


Anyone who commits double speak is not worthy of trust.


Yes and David Sterling is clearly not a racist.


Good thing it's easier than ever DIY.


Needs a [2013] label in the title.


Good catch. Done.


and that makes perfect sense!


I can still make "unauthorized" copies of DRM'ed media and play those back on non-drm devices. E.g. record sound from a locked-down music player using a microphone, convert that to MP3 and listen to it using a normal MP3 player. So it's not 100% bulletproof.


I'm going to guess you didn't read the post


I'm going to guess you didn't understand my point.

Being able to create drm-free copies weakens the power content producers hope to achieve. If I can create a drm-free copy of a movie, I can stream it to any device I want, at no extra charge. I'll be able to watch the movie on my tv, phone, tablet, whatever, and they won't make a dime from it.




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