Digital Rights Management should be considered actively harmful


As I'm writing this, Guardians of the Galaxy is pre-ordered on Amazon. When it comes out, I'll get the full movie on a physical Blu-Ray disc. When I stick that disc in my computer's Blu-Ray drive, open up my Blu-Ray player program, and hit play... I'm going to get nothing. The app is going to pop up a message saying that I need to pay more money to upgrade the app so it can get past the DRM on my movie.

That's right, a legitimate customer cannot watch the Blu-Ray he legitimately purchased.

DRM advocates say it exists in order to combat piracy. That's a complete lie.

Right now, before the Blu-Ray edition is even out, I can go and get full HD download of Guardians of the Galaxy. For free. When I double-click the downloaded file, it'll open right up and give me the full experience I would get with my Blu-Ray disc. Heck, it would be a better experience because it would skip all the annoying menus and logos that you usually have to sit through.

DRM does exactly nothing to prevent anyone with half a brain from pirating.

The only thing Blu-Ray DRM does is enrich the DRM technology license holders. The reason I have to pay to upgrade my Blu-Ray player app is because the creators of the app have to keep paying license fees. And the makers of my Blu-Ray drive were unable, or unwilling, to license the DRM technology and build it into the drive itself.

In other words, Blu-Ray DRM does nothing but fill the pockets of those who own the technology.

Now, you may think, just go buy a real Blu-Ray player for your tv. Problem solved.


First, when I bought my Blu-Ray drive, it was because I couldn't afford a Blu-Ray player and hdtv. All I had was my computer. And, frankly, that's all I should need.

Second, Blu-Ray players have to be updated as well. In other words, if I couldn't afford an internet connection, I'd have to figure out how to manually update my player before I could play movies using a DRM format my player couldn't decode, or buy a new player.

And that's just Blu-Ray DRM. If Amazon ever gets mad at me for some reason, they can remove my access to every video I've purchased via instant video. They could also stop me from reading any books I've purchased via Kindle. Heck, they've done this to others before. A few years back they pulled copies of 1984 off of the Kindle's of everyone who bought it.

Steam is similar. If they decide to block my account, or go under, I'll loose access to every single game I've purchased from them.

It's not an unknown story. Remember Google Video, from before the days of YouTube? Or there was Reflexive Arcade. They got bought and eventually shut down by Amazon. A bunch of people lost hundreds of dollars worth of games. I found out about that when I was about to finally buy a game from them...

I bought DRM'd books long time ago, a few years later I wanted to read them again and couldn't because they were not longer authenticated. I lost about $100 from that.

All of this combined means that I actively avoid paying full price for anything. I never buy any video games for full price. $60 is insane for a game I don't actually own. The only time I'll buy a video from an digital distributor is when I know that I can pirate what I purchase if they take it away from me. And I seldom actually do buy from anyone, it's simply not worth it. I try to purchase physical discs most of the time, and usually wait until they're under ten dollars.

Basically, DRM is causing the digital content industry to lose money from me. And it encourages me to consider pirating. It also has cost many legitimate customers thousands of dollars when their purchases stopped working.

And this is just my personal experience. Do some research. You'll find hundreds of similar stories and ways that DRM is harmful.

So, all that said, content owners/creators/publishers/sellers/etc have every right in the world to put DRM on their content if they desire. But they don't have the right to lie to us about it.

We should demand two things:

DRM'd content should always be considered rented. When I purchase a video on Amazon Instant Video, the button cannot say "buy". It should say something like "Lease" or "Indefinently Rented", and Amazon should be required to frequently remind us that the content we are purchasing is not actually ours, and can be taken from us for reasons buried in the Terms and Conditions we signed.

If they want to let us really buy content, then we must also have the right to sell that content. If I click a button that says "Buy", then I can sell whatever I bought to whomever I want. Whether it is digital content or not.

Those two actions would end the false advertising that is currently normal. Customers would know what they are really paying for, and sellers would no longer be lieing.

Submitted by david.reagan on