Tuesday, December 11, 2007

DRM was tried in 1923 - and failed!

[Original portuguese article here]

'Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.' -- George Santayana

Well, that's exactly what's going on with DRM (Digital Rights Management) right now.
No matter how good the concept may look on paper, getting it to work without causing a major headache to consumers is a whole different matter.
You've paid for it, you'd expect to use it as you see fit.

Just not very long ago, thousands of subscribers lost all their sports games they had paid for when the company changed it's DRM scheme to a different system - they were left with nothing, unable to play those old obsolete DRM video files in their players.

The same has happened time and time again with music on portable players. Want to transfer those songs you paid for to a new portable device? You're out of luck!
In the real world, those who "pirate" stuff end up using the files as everyone should - while those who pay for it get "screwed". This doesn't make sense!

I won't even delve into wondering how they justify spending millions (billions?) in copy protection and DRM schemes - like the infamous CSS on DVDs and the AACS on newer HD discs. Schemes that are quickly bypassed by "pirates", and offer nothing good to regular consumers - quite the opposite: the added complexity drives costs up, and it's you and me who are supposed to pay for it.

Take the latest MS operating system, Vista, that devotes more time encrypting and protecting its copyrighted files from possible misuse (wasting a lot of CPU power in the process) than to make your computer work as efficiently as possible.

But let's see how things were back in 1923...

Radio gets to Austrália [1923]

(Source [BlogCampaining])

When radio broadcasts arrived to Australia, obviously they were already worried about protecting consumers from themselves - sort of an "Analog Rights Management".

So, what did they come up with? Each radio was sold tuned to a specific preset frequency. Each radio station sold it's own unique and different radio, properly sealed so that no one would dare tampering with it. (No, I'm not joking!)

Can you imagine it? Want to listen to a different radio station? Buy another radio!

Obviously, the system was deemed a complete failure in less than two years.

Today, the formats and media have changed, but they keep wanting to do just the same exact thing. You buy a song or a movie, you can only play it in a specific device, and if they ever decide you can't play it anymore - you're stuck with it.

Why is it taking so long to see this is still a failure today?

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