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The Perils of DRM — When Content Providers Die 275

An anonymous reader writes "If you purchase music or movies online, what happens if the vendor goes out of business? Will you have trouble accessing your content? The question came up recently after HDGiants — provider of high-quality audio and video downloads — filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. A consumer says his content became locked inside his PC. Walmart customers suffered a similar fate last year when the retailer shut down its DRM servers (a decision they reversed after many complaints). And if Vudu dies? Your content may be locked in a proprietary box forever. Time to start buying discs again?"
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The Perils of DRM — When Content Providers Die

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  • by pecosdave ( 536896 ) * on Saturday June 06, 2009 @11:26AM (#28233319) Homepage Journal

    I never stopped! With a DVD I have "Digital Copy" on EVERY DVD without having to use the stupid number system and ask for permission, and it's legal. I don't have to rely on a content provider to stay in business, and I don't have some company somewhere with self interest telling me what devices I can and can't play back the content on. Well, I do, but I don't have to listen to them.

    • by sakdoctor ( 1087155 ) on Saturday June 06, 2009 @11:33AM (#28233423) Homepage

      DVD has copy and region protection. The only reason I have a large DVD collection today, is because the copy protection was utterly destroyed early on, ensuring my fair use indefinitely, of the discs I own.
      More modern protection schemes haven't been shredded to my satisfaction, so I won't be buying into them any time soon.

      Legally grey means nothing to me. If there is decoder library that works in linux, and region hacks for the physical drives, I'm in.

      • by Dan541 ( 1032000 ) on Saturday June 06, 2009 @11:46AM (#28233537) Homepage

        As consumers we should NOT have to put up with copy protection crap.

        Copy protection is old and would only have worked 15-20 years ago, these day only ONE person needs to bypass the copy protection and everybody can download it. I have never needed to break or circumvent copy protection because someone else does it for me, copy protection is an old model that only worked in the days before the internet back when every pirate had to circumvent the system before they could copy something, those days are gone.

        • by Mprx ( 82435 ) on Saturday June 06, 2009 @12:03PM (#28233715)
          It didn't work even back then. Cracked software spread almost as fast by sneakernet and BBSes as it does now by Internet.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 06, 2009 @12:06PM (#28233735)

          Are you too young to remember... or maybe too old to remember? ;-)

          Back "before the internet" we had these things called floppy disks which were quite capable of delivering a copied group of bytes to a buddy in another state by a process now known as "snailmail". The latency was pretty bad and you had to pay "per packet" but the connection was extremely reliable. And, if you were of a mind, you could pack up hundreds of floppies into a single "packet" and send them all in one go.

          I never had to break anyone's copy protection either.

        • by contrapunctus ( 907549 ) on Saturday June 06, 2009 @12:39PM (#28234043)

          As consumers we should NOT have to put up with copy protection crap.

          But dumb consumers will put up with it, and they are the majority and so will drive the market.

          Short of a rich company with a huge marketing/education campaign, I don't know what else can change (make aware) public perception of DRM.

        • "As consumers we should NOT have to put up with copy protection crap."

          Stop consuming it and you don't put up with it nor fund those who would foist it upon you.

          Just Say No, it's that easy.

          • Come again? (Score:3, Insightful)

            by siloko ( 1133863 )

            Just Say No, it's that easy.

            We live in a society where the value of man has been reduced to the products he owns and consumes. This is a mantra which has been instilled since childhood and thus we have all been buying consumer products as an extension of our personality since we had money to burn. This is NOT an easy habit to break.

      • Best option: (Score:5, Informative)

        by blind biker ( 1066130 ) on Saturday June 06, 2009 @12:35PM (#28234005) Journal is an example of how things should be done: you download the game installer and it's yours to keep. There's not DRM, no copy protection, you can have all the game installers on your hard drive or you can back them up on DVD, Blu-ray, another drive, a flash drive, whatever. if goes under, you can still install your games.

        This is even better than having a (copy-protected) media, even if such copy-protection has been cracked. I always found it a hassle to even think about how to back up those CDs and DVDs. With, I have the installer files and can do with them whatever the hell I please.

        • Absolutely. I went and bought Fallout and Freespace 2 for six bucks each, packaged in a simple exe installer without DRM. If every game was like that, just with a higher price, I'm totally for it.

          And CD Projekt, the company behind, is making so much money off of The Witcher that I doubt they'll die anytime soon.
    • Back when Edison was offering music on wax cyllinders you could buy, I avoided going with George Westinghouse scheme to stream music. I wanted to own it! but now I can't find a player for them.

      But I learned my lesson. Now I buy the bands them selves, house them onsite, and have them play for me. But would you not know it? those ingrates have started dieing on me. Again I'm stuck with music containers I can play.

      Damn you RIAA!

  • ...Yeah! Disks again, whatever []...

  • by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Saturday June 06, 2009 @11:32AM (#28233403) Homepage

    ...if what you "bought" was shallow crap that you will have lost interest in in six months, who cares if the DRM servers shut down after a year? And that describes 99% of the market.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by melikamp ( 631205 )

      Six months? May be it's just me but that is a lot of interest in an album. I mostly loose interest in the middle of a title song.

      I am not a hoarder though. ATM, my music "library" has 13 artists for a grand total of 7 GB (half of it is King Crimson). After discovering torrents I quickly got out of the habit of saving stuff. My music is not backed up and will probably get trashed during the next HD upgrade. I find it kind of liberating, actually, to rebuild my collection every now and then by picking a fe

      • by BrokenHalo ( 565198 ) on Saturday June 06, 2009 @12:11PM (#28233793)
        Six months? May be it's just me but that is a lot of interest in an album... ATM, my music "library" has 13 artists for a grand total of 7 GB (half of it is King Crimson).

        Make up your mind! King Crimson has been active for something like 40 years, and Robert Fripp has been prolific outside the context of that band for years. If you are discerning enough to download their work, why throw it away? And if you like it, why not let them have some royalties for their work?

        I can just about understand not wanting to buy a CD if you only like one track, and I can even understand not wanting to pay for a single track if you're only half-enthusiastic about it.

        But if you like a band enough to download 7GB of their work, why begrudge them a modest return for their work?
        • Most of my KC I have from my friend's CD's. Regardless, I would have downloaded ProjeKcts, as they are awesome.

          And if you like it, why not let them have some royalties for their work?

          Because I did not commission the work. I have no agreement with KC to pay for their labor. I pay my own cash for making the copy. Copyright law used to be a contract between artists with the public, but that was before industry breached it by extending the term and extending its reach to non-commercial copying. I consider Fripp one of the greatest living composers, but for the life of me, I do not

          • by ivucica ( 1001089 ) on Saturday June 06, 2009 @02:01PM (#28234657) Homepage

            but for the life of me, I do not see why I need to bend over and take it from behind when I shop for records.

            I'm not a saint, but I don't fool myself: smaller[1] artists need every penny. There are those who are bathing in money, and there are those who could really use some of the money.

            Yes, DRM is wrong, and yes, CDs are way too expensive. It still doesn't mean torrenting is universally justifiable, especially if you like some artist and the artist isn't a bastard from hell. Copyright laws in most countries are silly, but they are laws. We simply need to better organize our lobbying to make copyright law reasonable, instead of saying it should be abolished and instead of saying "Fripp won't get a single cent from me because Sony[2] is taking $24.94." Cent by cent, y'know, and Fripp can make a living.

            Just an idea that crossed my mind right now: perhaps we should do torrenting and send money directly to artists, even though they don't request it. They'd be far happier that way, don't you think?

            [1] By smaller I mean any non-MTV, or national equivalent in particular country.

            [2] Or whoever.

            • I fully agree that reforming copyright laws is preferable to abolishing them. But I also believe that non-commercial copying is not against the spirit of copyright, even though it may get you in trouble within our less-than-perfect legal system.

              Private persons who share dozens[1] of digital copies with no intention of financial gain should not be expected to comply with the copyright law, if only because it takes thousands of dollars to establish copyright status of a single file and assemble proper docum

        • by jra ( 5600 )

          And Brian Eno composed The Windows Sound -- the boot 'music' for Windows 95 and 98.

          No, really: go find the WAV and check the properties. There was press coverage.

    • Whose? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by arth1 ( 260657 ) on Saturday June 06, 2009 @12:14PM (#28233807) Homepage Journal

      ...if what you "bought" was shallow crap that you will have lost interest in in six months, who cares if the DRM servers shut down after a year? And that describes 99% of the market.

      Because that shallow crap is yours. It's the right that's at stake here, not the economical value or arts value.
      Is it OK if I go through your home and throw away the things I think are crap?

      One man's crap, another man's treasure. I don't know whether my daughter in the future would like to have a copy of Lipps Inc. "Funkytown" or Video Kids' "Woodpeckers from Space". But if she does, they're there. And playable -- not subject to whether a company has gone belly up or not.

    • ..if what you "bought" was shallow crap that you will have lost interest in in six months, who cares if the DRM servers shut down after a year?

      Who cares about the shallowness of the stuff. People have nostalgic moments. People have theme parties. Nobody should have to worry about accessing the music and videos they purchased just become some company goes out of business.
  • by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Saturday June 06, 2009 @11:33AM (#28233415)

    AFAIK no company that was not bankrupt got away with just cshutting down the servers. The options for viable companies seem to be

    1. Refound all purchases (and have a net loss)
    2. Remove the DRM (may be difficult/impossible, as content owners have to agree)
    3. Keep the servers running (and have continuous cost for that)

    It seems some companies have already realized that DRM is a losing game even for them, because of the additional cost and because it is a business they cannot simply back out of.

    Now on a bankrupcy, it becomes interesting. In the EU, it may actually be legal to hack the DRM then. But basically I think your stuff is lost. If this happens a few times, customers will catch on. Many already have. In the end, DRM will die for good when this problem has become common knowledge.

    • by flyingfsck ( 986395 ) on Saturday June 06, 2009 @11:48AM (#28233557)
      If the DRM servers shut down, it would be legal to repair the DRM everywhere in the world, not just the EU. You paid for the stuff, so it is yours to do with as you please. That is what Sale of Goods means. Copyright Acts are on very shaky ground (100 year old law) compared to Sale of Goods (thousands of years old Common, English, Roman and Greek law).
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Dan541 ( 1032000 )

      The companies should be required (by law) to keep their servers running indefinitely.

      That is after all the product they sell, if I buy a movie I expect it to play 20years later. Can't work the business model, don't do it.

    • This should get interesting when the bank auditors start to catch on to this. If judges force the continued operation of the servers in BK events to protect consumers maybe companies selling DRM'ed content will be unable to get loans!

      This is the case today. Now there are a number of players whose interest it serves to keep things this way which is why it does not change but the lack of private loans available to federal contractors is a know issue. In a BK satisfaction of contracts with the federal gover

    • I don't recall Major League Baseball refunding accounts for their subscribers when MLB left their subscribers out in the cold. Maybe they restarted their on-demand recorded baseball viewing service with another DRM provider, but I'm referring to the people who did not continue doing business with MLB. Did they get a prorated refund for the service they were not able to use? I'm guessing that DRM-riddled services nowadays include language in the contract that says when the service dies the customer agrees

    • AFAIK no company that was not bankrupt got away with just cshutting down the servers.

      Did Adobe Systems go bankrupt, then?
      Adobe started its own ebook shop to promote PDF as a format for ebooks. I was one of those who got suckered in, and bought one PDF ebook from them. It could be read only with Adobe Reader on Windows and had to be incorporated into the "bookshelf". It turned out to be so riddled with restrictions (print at most 10 pages per 30 days, etc.) that I did not buy any others. Remote authorization from an Adobe server was needed to transfer the reading rights to another PC, or ev

    • Until the CD, music pretty much did have a limited lifetime. All other mediums wore out. The CD, along with the disruptive effect of the personal computer, create what end of the music business as it then existed. This model was based upon first sales of original works as singles and albums, sales in multiple format for those who did not invest in equipment to format shift, sales of reissued greatest hits, sales of compilations, and sales of boxed sets. In effect, each track had the potential be resold
  • Maybe... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SilverHatHacker ( 1381259 ) on Saturday June 06, 2009 @11:34AM (#28233433)
    Maybe if the content providers would have used a sound business model that actually ATTRACTS customers instead of alienating them, they wouldn't have died in the first place?
    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      Maybe if the content providers would have used a sound business model that actually ATTRACTS customers instead of alienating them, they wouldn't have died in the first place?

      Nice! But history shows that most compapies need to die or come close to dying to reform themselves.

    • Re:Maybe... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by basementman ( 1475159 ) on Saturday June 06, 2009 @02:00PM (#28234653) Homepage

      I always thought just saying "your business model sucks" was kind of a cop out. Look if their business model makes them enough money to stay afloat more power to them. If it doesn't and they die, that's just tough luck. You can't blame the business model on everything.

      • (Turbo Meme warning!)

        In Soviet America:

        Their business model makes them enough money to buy power, which they then use to try to stay afloat. If it doesn't and they die, they claw you with them on the way down, and that's *your* tough luck. You can blame everything on their business model.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by nine-times ( 778537 )

        Look if their business model makes them enough money to stay afloat more power to them.

        Is that really what you want to say? If something makes money, more power to them? There are all sorts of business models that we make illegal, and for good reason: slave trading, hitman for hire, loan sharking, etc.

        Part of the problem is that all of these business models from record companies and movie studios are built on laws that we've put in place just to prop them up. And you know what? Fine. That's what society is about. We prop people up who are doing things we like. But let's not pretend th

  • XKCD (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 06, 2009 @11:36AM (#28233443)

  • Unlock content (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pmontra ( 738736 ) on Saturday June 06, 2009 @11:39AM (#28233479) Homepage

    There should be some legislation that either forces companies to unlock your DRM'd content or give you back the money.
    Walmart was not going out of business so both options were open to them. A company filing for Chapter 11 should just unlock content, that is swap the DRM'd files with unprotected ones. Labels/majors will probably say that unlocking content breaks the agreement in place with the distributor but the law should protect customers in the first place.

    Never buy DRM'd content until some legislation like that is in effect: chances are that you survive most of the companies in this business and/or the DRM technologies they use.

    • Re:Unlock content (Score:4, Insightful)

      by melikamp ( 631205 ) on Saturday June 06, 2009 @11:58AM (#28233667) Homepage Journal

      From the desk of Captain Obvious: they cannot give you back money if they are defunct.

    • Re:Unlock content (Score:5, Interesting)

      by nine-times ( 778537 ) <> on Saturday June 06, 2009 @12:11PM (#28233795) Homepage

      I agree. As consumer protection, anyone selling DRM-encumbered content should have to put the means to crack that DRM into some kind of escrow which becomes publicly available on the event that they can no longer provide support for that DRM to their customers.

      Anyone failing to abide by these terms should not be allowed to use the word "buy" in their storefront or marketing. If you don't get to keep it, you aren't "buying" it. It's false advertising.

      I know someone here will take an even more hard-line attitude and say DRM itself should be illegal, which is fine. I'm not going to argue with you.

    • Re:Unlock content (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Blue Stone ( 582566 ) on Saturday June 06, 2009 @01:30PM (#28234423) Homepage Journal

      >There should be some legislation that either forces companies to unlock your DRM'd content or give you back the money.

      better idea - 'buyer beware': you buy DRMed stuff, be aware you can get hosed.

      Result: nobody buys DRM stuff and it dies out. better to stamp it out than encourage it with 'rescue' legislation.

      Translation: Buy DRM and suffer the consequences.

  • As in "What You Shop Is What You Get".
  • Not that I agree with this, but these companies that go under could argue that almost nothing you buy lasts forever, so your right to listen to (or watch) what you download should not last forever. If you buy tires, they wear out and you have to stop using them. Monitors eventually die, televisions eventually die, etc. So they could argue that you shouldn't expect your music or movies to be usable forever, either. Reminds me of the self-destructing DVDs they were going to market: You rent a movie, the
    • by log0n ( 18224 ) on Saturday June 06, 2009 @11:56AM (#28233639)

      All of those things stop lasting because of your influence upon them or because of your actions. Things do have a limited lifespan, but not an artificial one. A DRM company going under isn't because of your influence - it's because of their action.

      Imagine LG going out of business and taking all of our LCDs, TVs, cell phones, etc with them.

      • by arth1 ( 260657 )

        Imagine LG going out of business and taking all of our LCDs, TVs, cell phones, etc with them.

        Now, now. Don't give them any ideas.

        Anyhow, the phones already exist, as IP phones that have to authorize against a provider's server before it works. And provider-locked cell phones can't be news to you either.

        And I'm sure that before long, there WILL be TVs that require an authorization too. Sony, where are you?

    • by zotz ( 3951 )

      "Not that I agree with this, but these companies that go under could argue that almost nothing you buy lasts forever, so your right to listen to (or watch) what you download should not last forever."

      Cool, let the copyright expire when the ability to listen runs out... problem solved... (who wants this?)

      -- []

    • Of course, your analogy holds only for certain kinds of goods. I have a reasonable expectation that the art I have bought will last beyond my lifetime. Also, remember that the things that wear out don't do so because they were designed that way -- in fact, engineers have worked hard to make your tires last as long as they can.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by moranar ( 632206 )

      All those examples cite causes not artificially produced to end the use of your product. If the monitor dies after 5 years, it's (hopefully) not because a conscious decision from the maker. If your tires wear out, it's due to the use, not because Michelin decided to add a rot-fast compound to the rubber. The DRM is a completely different beast. Ask yourself if any of the examples you mentioned are the equivalent of a dead man's switch like DRM is.

    • by JayAEU ( 33022 )

      almost nothing you buy lasts forever, so your right to listen to (or watch) what you download should not last forever.

      Well, then it's time those companies took a long hard look at all the records, CDs and DVDs people bought before DRM was introduced, dating back some 50 years in not so rare cases. Those media were advertised to last at least 10 to 20 years, most of them do longer by far.

      If "nothing lasts forever" is the new tune the publishers are singing, that's fine, as long as prices drop considerably to reflect the newly degraded longevity of said media. You can't expect people to pay the same high prices and ask them

  • Analog hole (Score:5, Insightful)

    by davidwr ( 791652 ) on Saturday June 06, 2009 @11:50AM (#28233579) Homepage Journal

    The analog hole [] will always be there for audio and video. Yes, it's a pain to buy a DRM'd song then hook up ye olde tape recorder to your speaker output before the vendor files for chapter 11, but it does work.

    I'm more worried about games and other content that are different each time you use them.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      It might not be: They haven't (yet) been successful; but Team Content are well aware of the analog hole, and they sure would like to do something about it.

      The proposal would be to make watermark detection a mandatory feature of all ADCs. See here. []
      • Team Content are well aware of the analog hole, and they sure would like to do something about it.

        Not especially. The MPAA has recommended use of the analog hole [] as an argument against a DMCA exemption.

  • Would it be a DMCA violation to crack the DRM after the provider is unable to provide unlocking for legally purchased material? What if the company emerges from Chapter 11, or the IP is purchased by a third party? Could you then be sued/charged under the DMCA? What if you provide software/service (ala DeCSS?) to help other people unlock their stuff (assuming there is no official channel to do so)?
  • Well, those aren't exempt either if the industries get their way.

  • by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Saturday June 06, 2009 @12:08PM (#28233757)

    its also about your motherboard going away.

    think 'tivo'.

    twice I've had a tivo die on me. and twice, you are not legally allowed to get your (possibly unseen, definitely paid for!) movies seen or copied over.

    when my final tivo died, I gave some thought to fixing it and trying to hack the drives. I also thought about continuing my directv sub but thought about NOT wanting to repeat this all over again, so I cancelled my pay tv sub. I no longer have a sat tv feed (or cable) anymore.

    DRM is bad and when it works, its somewhat acceptable; but when it stops working, you're screwed.

    lesson learned. no more proprietary tivo boxes for me. not anymore.

    no more pay tv? so be it. I can live without out!

    • by jra ( 5600 )

      Yeah, that's what MythTV is for.

      Try as they might, they don't seem to quite ever be able to keep us from recording the content we wanna record, if we're willing to pay enough for the privilege... though cumulatively, it's probaby less expensive than the DRM fees...

    • Cable Internet (Score:3, Interesting)

      by tepples ( 727027 )

      no more pay tv? so be it. I can live without out!

      But how easily can you live without high-speed Internet access if the only provider of home high-speed Internet access ties its high-speed Internet access service to a pay TV service?

  • to the lawmakers.. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by kylant ( 527449 )
    This is a perfect opportunity for the lawmakers to step in:
    Every provider of digital content should be required to offer one of two options:
    1. DRM-free content only - it is up to the consumer to keep backups of his contents or
    2. a life-long guarantee for DRM-protected content. This has to be protected through third-party agreements in case the original provider goes out of business.

    Yes, option 2 is costly but nobody has to use DRM in the first place.

  • How about a deal? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nightfire-unique ( 253895 ) on Saturday June 06, 2009 @12:12PM (#28233803)

    If you release your content in an encrypted/restricted format, you lose copyright protection. You're taking matters into your own hands. You're not benefiting society.

    If you release your content in native format, you are afforded copyright protection. Your works will enter the public domain (some day), and you are benefiting society.

    Sounds fair to me.

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      Indeed a fair way to do it. Hiwever not good for commerce (read: screwing over the customers), so its chances are small. Maybe in the far future when it has become obvious to the last commercial nilwit that digital content dristribution is not a viable business model anymore.

    • by JayAEU ( 33022 )

      That's the best proposal I've heard in a long time!

  • My brother used to work for them!
    He would always tell me how great they were, but he was just believing what the marketing team told him.
    I always knew they wouldn't survive.

  • by proton ( 56759 )

    Today there is no incentive to get rid of DRM (if you listen to RIAA/MPAA).

    If you go bankrupt there is no incentive to incur extra costs to disable the DRM on media that your former customers purchased.

    And there is no legal ramification for not doing it either.

    With time being infinite, the chance of a company going bankrupt is also infinite. Thus the chance of your DRM media paper-weight'ing over time is infinite.

    Good luck.

  • by petrus4 ( 213815 ) on Saturday June 06, 2009 @01:25PM (#28234393) Homepage Journal

    a) Buy it digitally again, but if you can, make sure it is a copy that is
    clean in DRM terms.

    b) Buy a hard copy. For anything I buy, this is always my approach. A
    physical copy of something has a much higher chance of lasting years, or more
    or less indefinitely if I keep it and am able to back it up. I don't do the
    micropayment for digital downloads thing, and most likely never will. I'm not
    paying tangible funds for something that could get lost in a power surge.
    Hard copies are a little more durable, especially if, as I said, they're
    backed up.

    c) If you want to go the digital route, and a) isn't possible, pirate it.
    Although I don't have huge moral problems with piracy, (as I generally feel
    that, on balance, most content producers will generally at least break even on
    any given pirated work, and usually make a large profit, even with piracy) my
    general policy is that if I like something enough to really seek it out, I
    will generally like it enough to buy a physical copy from Amazon and give the
    artist something for their trouble. If it is an artist who I like a lot, and
    who I'd conceivably buy from often, (such as Shpongle, if I had more money)
    I'd possibly even write to the artist and ask them if they could make their
    wares available from their own site, so that I could be sure that the lion's
    share of my money was going directly to them, where I intend it to go.

    In some cases (old/obscure stuff) piracy is going to be your only option, as
    you may not be able to find the work via retail channels; however again, if
    the work in question is something you really value, use piracy as a last
    resort. If a creative person produces something which enriches your life,
    then in my opinion they deserve to be paid for it.

  • by thetoadwarrior ( 1268702 ) on Saturday June 06, 2009 @02:28PM (#28234829) Homepage
    Governments need to pass a law that states anyone selling DRM based media should have a plan in place so, if they go out of business, people who bought something from them won't lose their purchases.
  • by MarkvW ( 1037596 ) on Saturday June 06, 2009 @04:01PM (#28235833)

    A lien is one legal answer that I can think of. The lien would need to attach at the time of the software purchase. It couldn't attach when the company goes insolvent, because those kinds of laws are invalidated by the Bankruptcy Code. It couldn't attach when the service shuts down, because the service would probably shut down while the provider was in bankruptcy and the automatic stay would keep the lien from attaching while the bankruptcy is going on. A lien is super good. It gives every creditor the best seat at the bankruptcy table.

    The lien I'm thinking of would be a first priority lien in all the software and documentation used to administer the DRM system. Every customer would get the right to foreclose on this lien when the DRM unlock service is dropped by the provider.

    This kind of thing would resonate with the legislature because it would REALLY resonate with the general public. This is a problem EVERYBODY can understand. Legislators have kids with IPODS too!

    Another option would be a statutorily-mandated escrow system that puts the DRM in trust.

    Presentation of these kinds of ideas would get the ball rolling. Maybe a better idea would be found, or a worse one. Anything is better than the current system.

    This is a battle big media cannot fight, because they can't be seen to be claiming the right to fuck you out of your expensively-purchased media libraries so they can resell the same stuff to you later.

    This is the kind of problem that gets fixed in a republic like ours. If you care, you should go for it.

  • by davecb ( 6526 ) * <> on Saturday June 06, 2009 @04:38PM (#28236201) Homepage Journal
    Back in 2005, the U.K. parliament had a publ;ic consultation on DRM, specifically asking about this kind of DRM end-of-life. My reply of 22 December 2005 follows:

    To the All Party Parliamentary Internet Group,
    re Digital Rights Management


    I am an author in a Commonwealth country, with recent experience in the trade-offs in copyright law and the relevance of digital rights management to publishing and can comment usefully on the subject.

    I was the coauthor of a technical book, "Using Samba", published in the United States and Canada by O'Reilly and associates. Despite being made available electronically for no cost, the book was the outstanding seller in its class, and made me substantial royalties.

    The History of "Using Samba"
    This book was published without any form of explicit DRM, in a format suitable for printing from personal computers, with no limitations on distribution of personal printing, and with a license reserving only commercial printing rights to the publisher.

    There was an implicit form of rights management, in that only commercial printers have equipment capable of printing and binding on sufficiently thin paper to make a manageable book: if printed on conventional photocopier paper, the book is over three inches thick. Printing small sections for reference on photocopier paper is perfectly practical, but large-scale printing is not.

    This effectively reinforced the reservations in the license: printing for profit is both illegal and impractical, but personal printing, excerpting and copying is unrestricted.

    The net result is that the book was widely used as a reference, and the on-line readers bought the physical book for its more convenient form in great numbers. O'Reilly has since published a non-trivial number of other books in this manner.

    This experience allows me to speak to the questions the inquiry is interested in:

    1. Whether DRM distorts traditional trade-offs in copyright law

    An explicit DRM scheme affecting the electronic copies of the book would have negative value. It would in fact restrict the easy distribution of the book, making it less popular and discouraging persons from depending on it. This would lead directly to lessened sales of the printed book, and a reduction in my and my publisher's income.

    Copying of the electronic form is encouraged by myself and the publisher, and the printing, use and wide distribution of extracts is desirable, as it causes sales of the entire work.

    The author's rights management of ordinary commercial copyright law protects my publisher and I in countries which honor copyright. In those where copyright does not exist or is ignored, the cost of publication and shipping are such as to mitigate any counterfeiting printing attempts: the counterfeiters cannot profit by shipping them outside of the country, and so are limited in the damage they can do.

    2. Whether new types of content sharing license (such as Creative Commons or Copyleft) need legislation changes to be effective

    Using Samba was successfully published under a free content license, under the copyright regimes of the United States and Canada, without any required or desired change in that law. I do not see a need for changes.

    3. How copyright deposit libraries should deal with DRM issues

    Copyright and other deposit libraries, such as the National Libraries of the U.K., Canada and the United States should seek and retain unrestricted copies, offering suitable statutory protection to the authors or publishers.

    4. How consumers should be protected when DRM systems are discontinued

    Upon the expiry of the copyright, the deposit libraries should make the originals available for a nominal fee.

    Upon the failure or discontinuance of a DRM scheme, the publishers should retain the option of republishing under a different scheme under ordinary copyright law. On cessation of publication, the co

1 Angstrom: measure of computer anxiety = 1000 nail-bytes