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The future and the MPAA

Adam Field:

Here’s what I think it boils down to - a simple choice. We, as a society, have to choose one of:

1) Copy protection.
2) General purpose open computing.

They are not compatible. Copy protection (and everything else that goes along with being able to perform copy protection) simply cannot be enforced in a world where the end user has control over their hardware and software. Everything else is a thin sugar layer on top of that, disguising the fact that we’re heading for one of two worlds - where all entertainment (and consequently, all other computing) is viewed with industry-mandated black boxes, or the content creation industry (movies, music, games, etc…) learns to live in a world where they can’t force people to pay for their product. Currently, it’s a weird mishmash, but eventually, It’s one or the other.

Fortunately, there’s still a looong way to go before general purpose computing is outlawed, and there’s not a long way to go before technology makes it possible to anonymously copy whatever you want. Two things work in favor of that outcome - 1) storage keeps getting cheaper, and 2) because everything’s digital, a distribution mechanism that works for one kind of media can be easily adapted to work for all kinds of media. Eventually, there will be enough storage out there that the entire music library of the human race will be able to fit on a card or disc that’s small enough and cheap enough that it will be practical to just hand them out with a cup of coffee. Then, eventually, the entire movie library. Then, without the cup of coffee. All radio. Recordings of every live performance. P2P is just a way station on the road to constant on-demand availability of all digital media. It may be over the wire, it may be on cheap storage, it’ll probably be a combination of the two. But how it happens doesn’t matter - it will happen. Eventually, it isn’t about “piracy” vs. “legitimate usage". It’s about facing a world where copying is not only widespread, it’s simply unavoidable.

In a later post, Adam Field links to a piece by Sander Sassen at Hardware Analysis, entitled DRM at its worst?:

… after trying to play the DVD back with Windows Media Player 9, I couldn't get it to work. For some reason I needed to install a 3rd party application, InterActual Player, that was required to play back the content. I was a bit surprised as to why I needed to install InterActual Player as it clearly says Windows Media Player 9 on the cover. Why can't I simply play the content back without having to install yet another application? But then it became quickly apparent that I did not only have to install and download an update for the InterActual Player over the internet in order to facilitate playback, but would also need to acquire a license. So obviously the WMV9 content on the DVD was protected by DRM and could only be unlocked after connecting to the license server to obtain a license, which it failed to do. I was surprised to find that it failed to give me a license as it had determined that my physical location was not in the US or Canada. Apparently the content was only to be played back in either one of these countries and nowhere else. After routing my IP address through an anonymous proxy server in the US I however managed to unlock the content just as well and was presented with a license agreement I had to agree to prior to being able to play the content back.

That agreement, amongst other things, stated that I could only play back the content for a period of five days, on the computer I installed the InterActual Player application onto, after which I had to re-acquire a license. To be honest that really pissed me off, I spent about an hour trying to play back a disc I legitimately bought and went as far as installing and updating a 3rd party application to my system that would allow me to do so, and now I'm only being given a temporary license, where's my rights as a consumer? If this is how future DRM protected content will be distributed I have strong objections to the use of DRM, as this is a prime example of how to quickly alienate any prospective consumers. If a license is given and the content decrypted isn't it clear that I'm the rightful owner? Can't I decide for myself when and where I want to play this content back on?