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Thursday, June 30, 2016

DRM...

Sorry, nothing technical this time. Just whining of angry consumer.

DRM stands for Digital Rights Management, but let's take a look at which rights or, to be more precise, whose rights are being managed.

Not so long ago, probably a couple of months, I tried to watch a Blu-ray disc I brought from US (to make it clear - I bought it, payed for it), thinking it may be good for my son to listen to English a bit (he's not yet in the age of watching things). Well, the only English we got was the "Invalid region" message, which, to put it nicely, made me quite angry. "WTF?!" - I thought - "I payed  for the disc! I payed for the player! Why the heck can't I watch it?!"

I bet many of us are familiar with such situation. But let's take a closer look at the DRM mechanism behind this. At least at the developments of the last decade.

All protected Blu-ray discs come with AACS protection, which is intended to prevent illegal copying - the content is encrypted and decryption procedure is not that trivial, there's definitely a lot of thought in the mechanism. But let's imagine AACS as a courier delivering some goods to a customer (delivering media to consumers) and basic AACS protection is the box goods are placed into. The courier always follows the same path to the customer's home. He goes first time - all's good, second time - he gets his a** kicked and the goods, well, not stolen, but broken and duplicated by the bad guys, limiting customer's ability to use them, and the bag was broken. It is also important to mention, that the courier is only allowed to use certain type of bags (players) and the customer pays for that some additional fee.

OK, thinks the courier, what do I do the next time? He goes and buys some sort of a protective suit (BD+) and goes the same path again, gets his a** kicked, goods broken, bag broken. In addition, he discovers that the protective suit is not that protective and needs to be reworked. Additional fees apply to the goods price payed by the customer. However, the suit vendor only applies certain improvements to the suit in places that got hit.

Next time the courier goes the same path, gets his a** kicked, goods broken and discovers that he got hit in places that were not fixed by the suit vendor. He goes to the suit vendor... well, and the whole thing goes over again - goods broken, customer pays. Unfortunately, the goods the customer needs are only distributed by this courier and only in this form, so he pays.

Next time the courier gets himself a bullhorn (Cinavia)... He walks the same path, gets his a** kicked and the whole story over again, except that the bullhorn is stolen too. He hears it from time to time, but can't do much about it. Oh, and obviously, the customer pays.

Before going the same path again, the courier hires someone to check his equipment. This time the goods vendor pays, but it is included in the price the customer pays at the end. That someone checks the equipment and approves some, for the rest says "take mine, it is better" and... well, all over again. Ah, and the customer pays.

Next time the courier thinks, OK, they take the goods and duplicate them, let's fight the vendor of the duplication device, so they won't be able to duplicate. What happens next? Right, the courier gets his a** kicked, goods stolen/duplicated/broken and the customer pays.

Needless to say, that the customer gets his goods in worse condition each time, which limits the way he/she can use them, the goods vendor pays the courier and, most likely, includes this in the price which the customer pays.

What could the courier do? At least try to choose a different way to get to the customer, but he may be thinking "why should I? I get my a** kicked, right, but I seem to be payed quite well for this. Besides, it's just a** and after all these times it is not really feeling anything."

Of course, in reality things are much more complicated, but the idea is the same - why change anything as long as money streams in and as long as we can pretend there are losses due to piracy. The customer is screwed up, but who cares, he has no real choice anyway. Of course, there are losses caused by piracy, but I am quite sure - the customer pays.

It is not easy to be the customer - you pay for the goods and for your own rights being infringed.

Is there a way to change things? I do not know. I tried to make changes myself... but who am I in comparison to AACS and alike... I tried to contact AACS LA a few years ago with some ideas that, as it seemed to me, might change things at least a bit, but... It's not that I got "No" as an answer, I got no answer at all. Tried that via LinkedIn too, but my InMails are still "Awaiting response".

Bottom line - it's us, the consumers who are being robbed by pirates, not the MPAA or other cool acronyms with inflated ego out there and it is our rights being managed, not the copyright.