What Has Me Terrified Today?
Stop me if you’ve heard this one… I hope we have all, more-or-less, come to the conclusion that Digital Rights Management (DRM, naturally) is ineffectual and annoying. The people for whom DRM targets are MORE THAN CAPABLE of circumventing it in almost every, if not every, instance. People who are conducting themselves reasonably and honestly are instead punished and forced to play by the rules of the software company, Hollywood or the music labels.
To cite the example of iTunes, open standards worth rather fucking well. When iTunes first open it’s music store it had a marginally generous DRM scheme, you could play a track on an authorized device such as an iPod or computer and make up to 7 copies of a track. Great. The only defect was that this could be broken with iTunes itself, a person could simply burn the whole album on a CD, rip it back into iTunes and -boom- it was automagically DRM free. When iTunes eschewed DRM and simultaneously increased the quality of their tracks the world did not come to an abrupt end. Nor did iTunes stop making money thereby feeding the music labels and their artists (we all know that artists don’t make money off of album sales anyhow, they make it from CONCERTS).
Now, take the idea of DRM-less media and throw that into an erupting volcano.
Movies these days come in a variety of flavors: DVD, Bluray, iTunes, Amazon Video on Demand, Windows Media Plays for Sure, etc. Great. Personally, I have invested $50 to throw a Bluray drive into my computer so now I am trying to phase my movie collection over to that format. Most new movies come via “triple threat” where you get the DVD, Bluray and also a digital version. Because I’m an Apple fan I default to an iTunes version for simplicity sake. However, there seems to be a new game in town that has been heralded by the major movie studios which gives me cause for pause.
That being said, I am not arguing one format over the other. The war over the current physical format generation has been fought and the next war over digital formats has arrived and is about to vie for your dollars. Again, my reluctance does not indicate a format preference, instead it comes down to me trusting on a digital locker with a pantheon of studios and distribution partners telling me whether or not I can watch something for which I have paid.
Moreover, this illuminates the problems with digital distribution at large. Sure, I’ve got digital copies of movies but I don’t ever use them. Lets be serious, my huge TV is the primary place I watch shows and movies. The iTunes encoded copies don’t play nice with my Xbox so I can’t conveniently stream them. If I were to bypass that and just use my TV as a computer display, they aren’t in HD so they look terrible anyhow. Similarly, if I have a differently encoded show/movie that I can locally stream or throw on a thumb drive, storing HD copies of these things quickly becomes prohibitive. Do I really want a HD version of Walking Dead that occupies more than a GB an episode? How frequently do I plan on watching it? For the same reason I’m not attached to a physical copy of a movie, album or book, I’m not overly interested in storing a digital version of every single movie and TV episode I have.
My non-interest in maintaining my own collection of things that I watch once gives way to the other side of that problematic coin: streaming. If I don’t keep a local version of my entertainment, and I own a digital copy that I can stream internet-wise, how much of that burden will my internet provider care to shoulder? Outside of the U.S. ISP’s are settling on bandwidth caps so that overages, much like cell phone usage, can be itemized and billed. Even so, signs as well as PR departments are all indicating that U.S. providers like Comcast and Time Warner Cable are going that route in the near term.
A little service called Netflix already accounts for a huge percentage of peak hour internet traffic. Technology savvy youths are more likely to have HDTVs and stream multiple items to a single house (think a bunch of kids up to no good watching something on their TV, laptop and cellphone in the same domicile) eating up gigabytes an hour of bandwidth. Those who are not living “future-proofed” lifestyles and rocking a standard definition 15″ set and basic Roku box are still contributing and certainly add up in the aggregate.
Look, all I’m saying is this: Make it simple, make it obvious and don’t expect me to make all y’all work together. If a DRM method is to be used make it transparent and when people try to circumvent it, make THEM feel like the idiot. It should punish people doing wrong, not those who are doing right. In this case, illegally obtained copies of the game Arma II which uses the FADE DRM are treated to a delicious water effect on top of what they are trying to play. Good form, Bohemia Interactive!