apple, business, iphone, ipod touch, mac, music, technology

Thoughts on "Stopping Piracy"

There is no way to stop people from stealing. Humans have been stealing since well before computers came around, and they’ll never stop (at least not in our lifetimes). It’s better to let go of the idea of stopping it and figure out ways to work around it.

Theft is an unstoppable force. If you see a car speeding towards you and you want to live, you don’t think of how to stop the car, you just get the hell out of the way.

boneheads, business, mac, technology

NBC Wants People to Stop Buying TV Shows

On the heels of iTunes getting rid of DRM in music NBC says they want more. NBC would also like to re-negotiate pricing and bundle shows. So far NBC has declined to renew its contract with Apple.

First issue: pricing. The pricing is fine. No one else really thinks it is too much or too little. Done.

Second issue: bundling. Users don’t want to be forced to buy a bundle and won’t like a change that removes a freedom of choice that they once had.

Third issue: DRM. Okay, more and more people are starting to agree that DRM is bad for consumers. Just look at Microsoft’s PlayForSure (which even the Zune doesn’t support) and Sony’s ATRAC (which has been dumped, leaving owners of those music file holding the bag). DRM limits how legitimate owners can use their purchased content and creates a situation in which it is likely that users will be locked out of different devices or just plain lock out of ever using the content again. The good thing is that many people just won’t purchase DRM burdened files. A user on one forum wrote a response to NBC’s demands:

Either I can buy a season of Scrubs and the Office when it starts again or I can find it in some other manner that will not benefit NBC at all.

Your call, NBC.

This exemplifies the main issue with DRM, that is that it agitates the problem it seeks to solve. By demanding an increased cost and adding DRM NBC simply pushes customers towards peer2peer sites and of course that will be far worse than unbundled slightly DRM’ed $1.99 TV episodes.

update: NBC and Apple are splitting ways. Apple has announced that they will not carry NBC shows because NBC wanted each episode to sell for $4.99 which is more than double what they cost now. We’ll see how NBC likes it when their own service fails and people turn to the peer2peer networks. It will be especially interesting to see how this effects the popularity of its shows, considering it was iTunes that saved the award winning show The Office from certain death.

music, technology

The New DRM Class-System

Originally it looked like Apple and EMI would get rid of DRM altogehter, but now the facts are out. You can get DRM free tracks for $1.29 or DRM-laden tracks for $0.99. So, what does this mean? It means you have to pay $0.30 per track to purchase back some of your rights as a consumer. Removing DRM from music is a step in the right direction, but the precedent of charging more is step in the wrong direction. It is anti-consumer, but it is also creating a class system for music.

File quality. We can ignore the fact that the DRM-free mp3’s are better quality. Why? Because it’s a red-herring, meant to trip people up, there is no added cost for EMI to offer better quality files and only a margin added cost for Apple. It has nothing to do with the increased cost. It is important to remember that you aren’t paying for the file itself, you’re paying for the rights to play the music. And that is part of the problem— intellectual property, and how its owners want to manage it.

Imagine a company selling t-shirts sold two versions of the same shirt one for $20 and another for $26. The company says you could only wear the $20 to the supermarket, but if you pay $6 more you can wear it wherever you’d like. What do you think of that company? What do you think of that business model? Isn’t intellectual property awesome?

But now let’s consider who it is that buys the different versions. The rich suburban kid buying the $26 shirt is the same one that is going to be able to buy the DRM free music, while the people in a less financially position will be forced to choose DRM burdened music. If you have the money you can listen to your music, which you bought, under your terms. However, if you are not so lucky then  you are forced to listen to music, which you bought just like wealthy people, under the arbitrary terms of record and software companies. Doesn’t being rich have enough perks, do we really need to create a class of products that controls how lower and middle class people use the things they buy?

If you pay for something than any personal use should be fair game. Companies don’t want you to believe that you have that right. People need to tell them what they want doesn’t matter. Just say “no” to DRM and “up yours” to paying more for the right to say no.


The Death of DRM

The big news is that Apple and EMI may be dropping Digital Rights Management. In case you are wondering DRM is the worst thing ever — it makes everything it touches crappy. If you are unlucky enough to have Windows Vista it is what a lot of your OS was designed to enhance. If you buy music on iTunes it is what forces you to authorize each computer that plays your music. If you do just about anything with a computer it is the thing that makes things either slightly (or pants-kickingly) difficult.

eliminate drmNot too long ago Steve Jobs wrote an open letter trash talking DRM (he’s a bit late to the party[1][2][3][4], but a welcome addition). Now Mac Rumors is reporting that it is very likely that EMI music will get rid of DRM. Personally, DRM-less music what would get me buying music from iTunes— and I am sure that I’m not alone here. It’s a bit early, but if this is a signal that folks are finally starting to understand the dangers of DRM then it’s time to break out the noise makers.


HD DVD Can Kiss DRM Goodbye

Well it’s official now HD DVD can be made clean. It was already defeated a while ago by some hacker in Canada named “Muslix64,” but now there is commercial software available that will allow folks to backup their HD DVD’s and make them playable on hardware that isn’t DRM-friendly. SlySoft has put out AnyDVD HD and they say it is only a matter of time before it supports BlueRay as well.

Thank goodness. I am sure the MPAA is crying into their collective cereal, but this is great for consumers. It gives us back the power to use the things we pay for. What does getting the power back mean? Well SlySoft names a few things, you can:

watch movies over a digital display connection, without HDCP compliant graphics card and HDCP compliant display. No need to buy an expensive monitor. Sweet!

Playback your discs on your PC with PowerDVD Ultra, which otherwise do not run

Sure it can be misused, but so can a most things. Online piracy shouldn’t be too big of concern for a while yet though. Apparently a few HD DVD’s have shown up on bittorrents, but they are gigantic, weighing in at around 19 gigabytes per movie.

technology, whatnot

Choose Your Company Wisely: Microsoft, Apple, and DRM

Years ago as the glory ride of Napster was slowly grinding to a halt I read an article that asked which band was for me. The choices were Metallica or The Grateful Dead and the difference was how the bands treated their fans, the consumers. The main difference was that Metallica sued everyone for everything to protect their “interests.” Meanwhile The Grateful Dead allowed anyone to make T-Shirts, bootlegs, and a lot more. One knew that the fans were what was important, the other thought the fans were a means to an end (money), one was Anti-Consumer, the other Pro-Consumer.

I thought back to that article as I read Steve Jobs’ Thoughts on Music. Napster is gone (practically), but the two camps live on fighting an eternal war. This time the battle between the Pro and Anti Consumer groups is happening over DRM.

Most people know that Vista is filled with DRM unfriendliness, but what a lot of people don’t realize is that this isn’t how it has to be. Apple has DRM in iTunes, true, but an important difference is how it uses it and whether it wants to.

It is clear that when making Vista companies bent on controlling consumers had Microsoft’s ear much more than the consumers. Microsoft isn’t interested in the consumer, they only ask that folks pay at the door and ignore the aches and pains the new DRM measures create.

Apple on the other hand said that removing DRM from music “is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat.” Add to that the fact that the Mac OS doesn’t include a gazillion sorts of “content protection” that cripple their operating system which the users that paid them for. Yes, the music has DRM, but Apple is just a middleman and while they are accountable in someways they aren’t the Kingpin in this case. It’s important to remember too that Apple is more than just iTunes, they have all sorts of programs that let you get things done and don’t stop to ask if “content creators” like how you are doing them.

Microsoft has incorporated DRM everywhere it can, defiantly calling it a “new feature” for users, which is an insult to everyone’s intelligence. Peter Gutmann wrote up a cost analysis a while back and Microsoft responded, but the real story is in the comments below their response. Consumers are angry that their computers wont be able to do what they’d expect, and they are angry that Microsoft doesn’t care, and they are angry that DRM is being portrayed as a “feature” they should want. Who can blame them for being upset? I’d be angry too if my exspenisve new computer’s resources were being swallowed by “features” that negatively affect my user experience.

This isn’t to say that Apple is perfect, they do want your money. And to be fair some people correctly point out that not all labels demand DRM on their music. Speculation on logic aside, the point remains that Apple has come out for the consumer in far more ways than Microsoft has come out against the consumer. With Jobs’ Thoughts on Music a bold statement has been made about the relationship between Apple and DRM.

So, which company is for you? Would you rather be in the company of Metallica’s and Microsoft’s lawyers or be allowed to get things done in the company of The Grateful Dead and Apple?


The MPAA Might Need a Better Public Image

Recently a satirical news story had some people up in arms. The idea of the story was that the MPAA wanted to start charging each person that watched movies at home. The idea being that the MPAA though everyone who watched a movie ought to own it or at least pay for it. Outrageous, yes, but not outrageous enough to be put beyond the realm of possibilities. Lots of people thought this was the real deal. The question is why?

Could it be that people think the MPAA is greedy? Looking at the news we can see that just recently movie studios came out saying that they want to impose heavier limits on iTunes store movies (there are already some pretty crappy restrictions), people have a good reason to think they are greedy.

mpaaThe interesting thing is that they keep saying they don’t want to have the problems that record companies have had with downloading music. They say that, the question is whether they have considered that part of the reason record companies have done so poorly (aside from releasing terrible music) is because they were unable to adapt to new consumers.

Consider yourself that a movie ticket in Seattle costs $9.50, then you’ll have to watch five to minutes of commercials, and most of the movies out at these huge theaters are, at best, mediocre. Does this have anything to do with people not going to the theaters anymore? A family of five has to spend money on gas, probably some crappy over priced food and then there’s the tickets and maybe even parking. We are talking well over $60 for them to see a movie. Or they could watch one of the movies they just got from netflix for $17 a month. Best of all there are no commercials, annoying people in the audience (unless your family and friends are annoying), and if the movie sucks you just send it back— you’ve barely lost any money on the deal, certainly no where near $60-$70 dollars.

But that isn’t the reason movie studios are doing poorly. It’s clearly pirates, lurking in the filthy darkness where they grow rich off the sweat of the sweet hard working movie execs who just want people to play fair.