Of Boing Boing and DRM

Ok, I’m going to admit it. I don’t like DRM. Shocked? You shouldn’t be. But the reality is that without some forms of DRM, I wouldn’t be able to legitimately download a movie to watch on the plane during a business trip. Sure, there are other ways to get the goods, but the powers that be say DRM is necessary to give me a guarantee the 4 hours I spend downloading it off my $12.95/24 hr hotel cablemodem isn’t going to end up being a handi-cammed video shot at the local multiplex. I will personally never be a poster-child for DRM, but as long as the content providers keep coming to Microsoft (and Apple and Google) saying it’s a requirement, then someone has to deliver.

Second admission. I love BoingBoing.net – it’s irreverent, often informative, and Cory, Mark, Xeni, and the crew have some really interesting things to talk about. But sometimes, things appear to get misinterpreted. I wasn’t at the presentation in question, but based on what was said, there are a few common misconceptions about DRM I’ve heard over the years:

Claim #1: You have to be a “big roller” to license Microsoft’s DRM. Er, no. Big and small, hundreds of licensees and hundreds of devices have the platform. Take a stroll through the electronics districts in NY, Tokyo, or Hong Kong, look at the devices that support WMA and services and you’ll see what I mean. (Ok, or Dixons for Ian and my pals in the UK).

Claim #2: Windows Media DRM is only for Windows and isn’t available on competitive platforms. Not true. ANSI-C sources are available for porting to any platform and have been made available for quite a while. What’s more, they’ve been ported to many many platforms including <gasp!> platforms ending in letters at the end of the alphabet. You’d have to ask the vendors building the solutions more about that though.

Claim #3: Licensing terms for Windows Media DRM aren’t fair or accessible. Visit www.microsoft.com/windowsmedia See DRM on left, click Getting Started. Or here’s a direct link. Device porting kits are available and continually updated. Many DSP and SOC (System on a Chip) manufacturers offer support as well for anyone who wants to implement their chip into a device.

So that’s my read. No, I don’t speak officially for Microsoft or any pricing policies, but let’s give a little credit to Amir for willing to get up on-stage and take arrows on the topic. (He’s also by the way the only VP I know of who has such passion for his work that he frequents message boards to chat with other AV enthusiasts during his limited leisure time.) Charging a small royalty is a legitimate way to ensure interested parties are serious about building a business using the technology as a tool. I don’t like it either, but it’s the nature of the business as it stands today.

5 responses to “Of Boing Boing and DRM”

  1. That’s not quite the point – Microsoft has made the WMA and WMV standard fairly widly avalible, but they don’t make the same true for Janus, their DRM scheme. Microsoft has a pretty open policy of supporting any hardware manufacturer but only big name media when it comes to being a content provider – this is mostly because of pressure from the big name media.

    Microsoft’s bad business practice here is not pandering to small media. The future is NOT hollywood and the MPAA – it’s all about the creative commons and independant producers. People who are paid to do art usually suck at it, while people who are passionate about art usually make the best stuff!

  2. You might not need to be a "big roller" to license Microsoft’s DRM, but the licensing process is cumbersome to the point of being almost impossible. Like many Microsoft initiatives, DRM licensing is easier to do by going through a third party that previously jumped through all of Microsoft’s hoops to get licensing. If you doubt me on this, step through the process and see how far you get before throwing in the towel.

    Sparky: Creative Commons and independent producers aren’t generally used in the same sentence with "want to license DRM." If an independent producer needs DRM for a project, there are a number of great third party providers with affordable rates who can get the job done. In the clear WMA and WMV content works great on both Windows and Mac platforms, as well as many devices (iPod being the elephant). The key missing piece for small content creators on the Windows platform is an easy audio tool on par with GarageBand. Microsoft successfully told us that 60 seconds was all the audio recording we’d ever need for the entire life of Windows.

  3. I’ll pass the feedback over to the team that owns – thanks for sharing.
    Any specific recommendations on how to make it easier are appreciated.

  4. Thanks for providing some balance to Cory’s post.

    We (like many others) are producing a new CE product, and one option has been to use Microsoft DRM. You’re right. It’s pretty easy for a small vendor to license MS DRM if they want to. Even, as you’ve said, on non-Windows platforms (though there are few more hoops to go through). All technologies (MP3, for example) require licenses. MS is quite competitively priced. And, of course MS is naturally predatory with technology. I don’t know why anybody is surprised.

    The problem I have with MS, and the reason we aren’t that interested, is that I think DRM systems have to serve consumers, not content producers. Any product, especially one launched by a small new company, must create a positive consumer experience. When I ask myself "How will Microsoft DRM enhance our customer’s experiences?" the only sane answer is "It won’t", and more likely it will decrease the value of their experience. My advice to anybody is avoid DRM like the plague until things turn around and DRM serves, rather than punishes, the consumer.

  5. I am trying to buy into MS’s vision of DRM but I am very frustrated. I have MCE computer, extenders and mobile 5 phone. The latest purchase is the mobile 5 as DRM made playing songs I bought from MSN impossible on my old smart phone. Well I have just discovered that the newly bought 2GB mini-sd card does not recognize my PPC-6700. I chatted with MS and they said this is a known problem and they are working on it. The rep then suggested I burn and rip….. I can not imagine the average consumer dealing with these types of problems. Sorry do not mean to vent but just frustrated with DRM right now.