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The fuss over DRM

After years of delays Electronic Arts finally released Spore, a game that allows you to create your own life forms, starting at single cell entities and moving them up through intelligent life forms that can travel into space. The hype surrounding this game has been pretty big for years, mainly because of footage released a while back showing off the creature creator in very early stages.

The game appears to be selling well in it's initial run, though not without some strong controversy over the Digital Rights Management (DRM) used in the game. Just take a look at the reviews of the game on Amazon and you can see the incredible anger people have over the DRM that's included.

As a software developer myself I understand the reason a publisher wants to have a copy protection scheme in place. All too often software and copyrighted material is simply pirated without any regard to the people that created the product in the first place.

The Software Developer Perspective
Back in 1998 I released a Windows based application called WebSurveyor that was designed to help people create, publish and analyze surveys on the web. Back then I had the mindset that it would be a pure software license; you pay my company the $149 fee and I give you a license to use the product in perpetuity. Pretty simple stuff. This product was targeted at business users and was priced far below what other office productivity software sold for at the time.

I had a basic trial mode that the application shipped in by default (unregistered) and it would only allow you to see the first ten results of your survey. If a valid registration key was entered it would unlock the software and you could see all of the results you received. After a couple of months of testing I released the product, put it on as many download sites as I could find and tried to get people to check it out.

Within 2 days of launching the product—2 days!—someone had created a serial number generator for the application. Here I was, a little software company (basically me), I had just poured 10 months of my life into a product and some script kiddie somewhere decided to eliminate the only source of revenue I could get.

I did end up selling the product very well, slowly growing sales over time. The challenge was when I would get support e-mails from people asking for help in making the application work properly, only to learn that they were working with a pirated copy of my software. Not only were they not paying for it, they were taking up my time helping them troubleshoot their problems, which back then often involved resolving their corporate firewall issues. On the occasions I would confront people about it they would either stop sending me e-mails or confess that they had pirated it but assured me that they would buy it immediately.

None of them ever did.

The Frustrated Consumer Perspective
I recently sold one of my older laptops through Craigslist and before handing it over to the new owner I decided to wipe the machine clean, reformat it and reinstall Windows from scratch. I had a full license key (stamped on the laptop itself) and went through the very time consuming process.

Once installed and ready to go it told me that I had to activate Windows. The online server would not activate me and required that I call into Microsoft, a toll free call that was completely automated. I got to read off a series of long numbers, answer some questions (yes, this is only going to be used on a single machine) and then got to painstakingly record a long series of numbers that needed to be reentered into Windows to get it to work properly.

Here I had a genuine copy of the software in question (Windows), yet I had to jump through hoops in order to prove that I indeed had a legitimate copy. Adding this to the end of what was already a time consuming process that involved finding and installing all the drivers needed to make the laptop work made me happy I was getting rid of the machine.

My feeling is that people pirate software for any number of reasons:
  1. They think the software is too expensive for what it does.
  2. They want to have an extended trial of the product and if it works then they'll buy it.
  3. They can't afford to actually buy it.
  4. They only need the software for a brief period and don't want to pay for such a short usage.
  5. They think all software should be free.
  6. It's so easy to do that they don't even think about it.
Regardless of why, the fact that it happens so often has created a challenge for both the consumer that legally purchases software as well as the software developer trying to protect their intellectual property.

I've heard the argument several times that piracy is actually good for software; that having more people use and talk about your product is a good thing and exposes people to the product that otherwise may never hear about it. Given my experience with my own products I find that laughable. People that pirate software will tell people about a product but will just as quickly offer a copy to those same people as well.

What's your perspective? Is it okay to pirate software? What level of DRM is acceptable in order to help the software, music or video publisher ensure they get paid for their efforts?

35 comments:

Thomas said...

DRM is never OK because you are dependent on the server of the company that sold you the software/music/whatever.
Once they turn off their server (and they will, be it next year or in twenty years), I have no chance to play my music on a new computer ever again.
Is it okay to pirate software? Tough question. What's a fair price for software? If I go to a shop and steal something, there's a real damage to the company that made the thing. That's why most people don't do that.
If some kids used a copy of Adobe Photoshop, did Adobe loose money? Or will they buy the program once they are old enough to really need it and be able to pay for it?
What period of time is "I just need it for a short while"?
On the other hand, there is a huge amount of free software out there, so why not use that?

Robert said...

As a software developer and software consumer myself, I agree with everything you posted. I'd like to add some things from the consumer side about bad DRM.

Piggy-backing on your comments of frustration with Windows re-installation: I own legit licenses for EVERY piece of software my wife and I own -- yet I still use pirated versions of Windows. Why? For the reasons you said. If I change hardware or move a non-OEM copy to a new computer I'm allowed to do so, but M$ makes me jump through hours of hoops. Screw that. I will not be punished for doing nothing wrong. (Side rant: I feel punished for purchasing DVDs when I can't fast-forward past anti-piracy warnings that pirates themselves don't have to watch.)

Here's a sobering realization I had a while back: installation + registration is the user's REAL first impression of our software -- long before they see the product and features we've poured our heart into. How much have we failed if give them such a frustrating experience? We've failed the user, and we've failed ourselves by letting the important program get immediately overshadowed by frustrating registration.

DRM is a necessary evil, but don't cripple the good to stop the bad. This is how our system of government and general social beliefs run -- better to let guilty people free than to wrongly punish the innocent. Hyperbole? Of course, but not invalid. This is how most Americans think.

Hard to use DRM is going to be broken and the patches will show up on BitTorrent in a few days anyway. We can't stop it. So why punish our real loyal users? We think we're implementing a tough technical solution, but in actuality it's bad social solution which is breeding bad faith with the people from whom we most need good faith.

DRM = necessary

Draconian and/or hard to use DRM = awful

Welles said...

I believe most piracy is simply a desire which can’t be afforded. I consider all the advertising pressure stimulating those desires as culpable in the equation of software piracy = theft as comparative poverty. I would further suggest that much of the piracy comes from younger people who are often bright but have not developed marketable skills yielding the money necessary to satisfy their artificially stimulated desires. Also I would bet that almost none of the practitioners have ever been in a situation of producing an easily stolen commodity.

On top of those observations, I would note that we live in a world where the level of personal integrity is so low by many of those people who are ostensibly ‘on top’ that those on the bottom will act on their own behalf with a reflection of that implicit leadership. In my lifetime, I’ve noted that most people who strive to ‘win’ will do anything which has limited probability of discovery and consequence. Add to that a reaction to the trumpeted greed level of some of the ubiquitous software makers and you have a climate ripe for theft.

I think software piracy is a consummate contemporary challenge to personal integrity. When there is no consequence, what value do I place on honesty?

Anonymous said...

The simple fact is DRM doesn't stop pirates, and it annoys the hell out of legitimate customers, which makes it basically worthless. I own every piece of software on my computer except one, Photoshop, which I can't really afford. I do have a purchased copy of Pixelmator which I use for everything I can in lieu of Photoshop.

It was always a money issue for me, and now that I'm making wages, I pay for these things. I realize that for some who can afford these things they pay simply because it's there, but DRM doesn't affect that in the slightest. It's an ugly situation, and I understand the desire to prevent piracy, but DRM doesn't work.

Keleko said...

I like this statement about games and DRM from Stardock.

The Gamer’s Bill of Rights:

1. Gamers shall have the right to return games that don’t work with their computers for a full refund.
2. Gamers shall have the right to demand that games be released in a finished state.
3. Gamers shall have the right to expect meaningful updates after a game’s release.
4. Gamers shall have the right to demand that download managers and updaters not force themselves to run or be forced to load in order to play a game.
5. Gamers shall have the right to expect that the minimum requirements for a game will mean that the game will play adequately on that computer.
6. Gamers shall have the right to expect that games won’t install hidden drivers or other potentially harmful software without their consent.
7. Gamers shall have the right to re-download the latest versions of the games they own at any time.
8. Gamers shall have the right to not be treated as potential criminals by developers or publishers.
9. Gamers shall have the right to demand that a single-player game not force them to be connected to the Internet every time they wish to play.
10. Gamers shall have the right that games which are installed to the hard drive shall not require a CD/DVD to remain in the drive to play.

Keleko said...

Here's the external link to the Gamers Bill of Rights.

http://www.stardock.com/about/newsitem.asp?id=1095

James Katt said...

DRM actually does stop pirates.

It stops every pirate except the few who find a way around it.

This means there are fewer pirates because of DRM. Therefore, DRM is worth it.

If I have to develop software for a living, I would do DRM. If you look at shareware developers, you find that very few people pay for the software they use. DRM will insure that a higher percentage pays.

Yes, you can pirate Photoshop. But even more people would pirate it if it was left out in the open to copy. DRM limits the actual number of people who do so.

You can't get rid of every pirate. But reducing the number makes DRM worthwhile.

jalada said...

I know people have already mentioned Stardock, but I'd like to quote them some more:

"Until a real solution presents itself, Stardock and Ironclad will continue to reward legit gamers and make the purchasing process are smooth as possible. The last thing we want to do is treat our customers like criminals."

This is it. There is no real solution to software piracy. Whatever companies do, someone will find a way around it, and now with BitTorrent and file sharing, once someone has found a way around it, everyone can 'benefit' from that.

I wrote about Spore's DRM versus Stardocks ideals on my blog: http://tumble.jalada.co.uk/2008/09/sins-of-a-solar-empire-versus-spore/

Redington said...

On the audio side, Native Instruments DRM is really obnoxious. I have never purchased their software because if it. Some musical partners of mine have had issues where they were left unable to use their legitimate copies of their software for several seeks because customer service would not return emails/phone calls regarding DRM blocking the legit install. The DRM left them without essential productivity tools which meant that their production was at a standstill.

I agree with Thomas - if the DRM is dependent on a company staying in business, keeping their servers running, and/or people returning communications, it is not acceptable. I do understand the need for some kind of DRM to keep honest people honest. On the audio side, the hardware dongle seemed reasonable to me (but not to most others bacause it took up a sometimes necessary port). On the flip side it does allow a single use license to be used on several machines, just not at the same time. I really hate the requirement of digging out the DVD occaisionally (Reason - I'm looking at you!).

David Alison said...

I think Welles raises what is at the core of this issue, one of personal integrity and the ethics of doing what is right when no one is looking. When I read what Thomas wrote above,

"If I go to a shop and steal something, there's a real damage to the company that made the thing. That's why most people don't do that."

Very true, because the theft involves hard goods that cost money. Labor also costs money though and the implication in your statement is that no one actually loses anything when they steal some software or music. This unfortunately is not true, as I said in my post, because many of the people that might otherwise pay for software don't because it's too easy to obtain freely.

Perhaps most of the problem is in the education of people on the real costs of software production and the impact it has on the authors that are trying to make a living doing what they do.

I personally am opposed to draconian DRM solutions and the 3 limit activation model that EA is using sounds horrendous. I do believe that it is possible to put basic anti-piracy measures in place to protect digital rights without compromising ease of use. Robert hits that nail on the head when he talks about recognizing that the primary goal is to make software that people can actually use and putting DRM in the way makes for a flawed product.

Ast A. Moore said...

I'm a recording musician (my name is clickable, if you're interested in my music), and just like David I know the business from both sides—the artist's and consumer's.

There's a very simple rule in the music market: people hear music, people like the music they hear, people buy the music they like. And that's it. They might not like the music and then they won't buy it, but they will never buy music they don't hear. If you think that people might buy your music, then listen to it, and then like it, you're wrong and you won't sell too many tunes, if any.
Selling music as digital downloads eliminates a very pesky problem that selling it on physical media has—you never run out of stock. What's more, the production costs are somewhat lower and stores don't have to decide whether you're popular enough for them to fill their shelves with your CDs. Your music is available to consumers 24/7 and in any quantity.

You want people to hear your music before they decide to buy it. You want people to be able to hear it without restrictions for free. You want them to grow to like your music and then they will want to give you their money. And no, 30-second previews are not enough.

Since there are no physical media, there's no such thing as a "lost sale." Every "lost sale" is, in fact, a gained listener.

How many free listens will result in the actual sale? I don't know. The ratio may be 100:1 or 10,000:1. But will someone buy my music if he hasn't listened to it first? Definitely not.

Now, I fully understand the frustration of artists or, programmers. It takes a great deal of effort and investment of time and money into producing a song or a piece of software. Musical instruments cost money. Recording gear costs money. Studio time costs money. A three-minute-long track may take months of hard work to produce. And you sell all that for . . . ninety-nine cents. How many songs does one have to sell to cover the above expenses? To pay the bills? To put food on the table? Then you start thinking about "bloody pirates" and you buy into the "lost sales" nonsense. Oh, if only I got 99 cent per each illegally downloaded song, I'd be rich, you think. Nonsense. A "lost sale" is free publicity. "Lost sales" expand your audience. Listen, like, buy. That's the rule.

I'm not sure how well it scales to software development, but I'm sure that people who use software without paying for it are not thieves. If they like the software they use, and are willing to pay for it, they will. If they like it but don't want to (or can't) buy it, they won't. But will definitely tell other people about it, and some of those people might like it so much that they will pay for it. But it's unreasonable to expect that someone will pay for software, then use it, and then grow to like it.

Anonymous said...

Look at Spore, the DRM was cracked and was uploaded to torrent servers over a week before it went on sale. So all EA is doing is pissing off paying customers and making them not want to buy their product.

Anonymous said...

David - great article. I think it's the best you've written.

While there are examples of egregious DRM abuses, I think what's out of whack is people's expectations. People expect to be able to freely move software without impediment. People expect no involvement from the software producer after purchase. These expectations are wrong. Gone are the days when a serial number would allow unlimited installs of Windows 98 burned on a CompUSA CDR. People need to change their expectations that when you have to move software from one machine to another, there may be work involved. That work may having to call the vendor and getting the high sign that everything's cool. Is this really a big deal? Software producers have a right to ensure that their product isn't being installed without verification.

I do believe a major cause of this uproar concerning Spore is the audience. Gamers are younger and more apt to complain about these issues. Reading the reviews about Spore on Amazon, am I to assume that gamers already installed Spore on three machines and ran into the install limit the first day they got it? Jeez, maybe I'm getting old and out of touch, but I go through a gaming machine every 2 years and I doubt I would be playing Spore in 6 years. In the corporate world, you don't even blink about these requirements from software producers. Some companies welcome them because they help remove the temptation of impropriety in the enterprise.

One company that has hit a DRM homerun is Valve with Steam. Steam not only facilitates game purchases, but manages my games and allows for a graceful transfer from one machine to the next. Recently, I upgraded to a MBP and I moved my games from Steam from my old gaming machine to my Bootcamp partition. This process was practically zero effort. I downloaded Steam, logged on and watched the games download. I had all my games and was able to play immediately. I think more companies should move to this type of model and people wouldn’t get hung up as much over this topic.

Anonymous said...

I've spent the better part of my IT career as a software developer, but I cannot rationalize the use of DRM. Nobody likes to have their commercial code used without receiving money for it. However, there are two basic facts we must realize.

1. I've yet to see a form of DRM that is successful at preventing piracy. Whether it's a song or a software title, a cracked or DRM-free version is also available. Yes, it's a roadblock, but it's not a barrier for those determined to get what they want.

2. As others have mentioned, DRM only serves to punish your legitimate customers. I've made purchase decisions for competitive products based on DRM policies. Not because I planned to steal anything, but because I didn't want to deal with the hassles that are inherent with the use of DRM.

In my opinion, consumers need to start boycotting products with heavy use of DRM. We all understand the drive to protect intellectual property. But, legitimate customers should not be burdened in the process.

Scott Gammans said...

"Is it okay to pirate software? Tough question."

Actually, that's a very easy question to answer: No!

Hendrik said...

Wow, that's an impressive amount of negative reviews on Amazon.

I think Apple found the right balance with respect to DRM with the iPhone/iPod app store. They made it incredibly easy and painless for consumers to pay for applications. Sure, there might be ways to pirate iPhone applications (I don't even know) but it is pretty much insignificant, because it is just so easy to pay for them.

And in this case I am also not at all worried that I won't be able to use or transfer the applications before they stop being useful to me.
Although in general that is certainly a valid concern with DRM schemes.

David Alison said...

@Ast: I disagree with this statement:

"But it's unreasonable to expect that someone will pay for software, then use it, and then grow to like it."

This happens all the time. Most software comes with money back guarantees that are pretty clear and easily exercised, especially from the smaller providers. What happens more often is that a trial period of software is used and during that trial a piece of software can be vetted to determine if it's going to meet your needs.

I think it's important to note that while music distribution is similar in some ways to software distribution challenges, they differ dramatically once the transaction is complete. Software is generally expected to be maintained by the author, updated to deal with new OSs and browsers. Support needs to be provided to people in order to ensure that the product can be used properly on all the different hardware variations that are out there.

While my family and I each buy most of our music from iTunes, I also buy from places like CandyRat Records. When I buy from them I generally pay $9.95 for all the MP3s on an album and they have no DRM. They put most of their artists on YouTube so I can get a complete sample from there before I buy.

BTW - Got a link to more of your music? What you had on YouTube sounded great.

Christian said...

This is a terrible story for 2 parties - legitimate users who simply wanted to play Spore and couldn't because the activation servers went down and EA because Spore was cracked even before it was released.

Often developers walk a tightrope with the tradeoff between protection strength and the degree of impact on legitimate users but this was a failure on both dimensions! Is this really what the publisher wants to 'accomplish'? Why not use a solution which is friendly to honest users, has no impact on development time and the strongest available protection against crackers - see the whitepaper "Is Anti-Piracy/DRM the Cure or the Disease for PC Games?" which can be downloaded here www.byteshield.net/byteshield_whitepaper_0005.pdf.

Tom said...

@james katt

It takes one person to break DRM on a product to then allow anyone to pirate it. And thus far, I can't find a single DRM scheme that hasn't been broken. Spore was easily available to anyone who wanted to pirate it before the boxes even hit the shelves. So, no, DRM doesn't stop piracy. Want proof of this? Look at how many people knew how to use Napster, or Limewire to download music for free, including people who know very little about computers. The barrier to entry to pirate is easier then ever, and DRM is doing nothing to stop it.

All DRM does is inconvenience legitimate users and prevent fair use. If you have to call Microsoft, or EA, or whoever even just once, thats an inconvenience that a pirate didn't have to suffer. If a user has to remember to always have the disc with them to play a game, that is an inconvenience that the pirates don't suffer. If you have a movie on a DVD disc, and want to take it with you on a portable media device that didn't exist when DVDs were created, well, technically that DRM on the disc makes it illegal to do so. So not only does DRM inconvenience honest users, it also helps to make more people criminals when noone was harmed. It also locks down the content in a way that prevents it from having a long life span. A DRM free CD that I bought in 1990 still works today, and can still be played back or transcoded into another format easily. I don't have that same longevity guarantee with any DRM system, as nothing exists to guarantee the DRM services will continue to be maintained.

Yes, I agree software developers should get paid for the work they do, but not at the expense of causing any grief to their customers paying them.

mbmcavoy said...

My opinion is that there is poor DRM, bad DRM, and then outright malicious DRM.

Malicious DRM is that of the Sony Rootkit variety that basically damages your computer in order to stop otherwise normal things from working.

Bad DRM, which is the most common, requires the user to perform specific actions which may be inconvenient or impossible to do at the moment of use. Inserting the original CD or connecting via the internet aren't always possible, especially when travelling. And taking a lie-detector test over the phone is a great way to make friends...

At least some forms of DRM are only poor. Steam and iTunes are about as good as it gets, especially as the products are easy to buy and use. In my mind, they still fail on several counts:
1) You can't give your used product away, or even just lend them. I believe that either scenario is perfectly legal and ethical.
2) There is no long term guarantee of function. What happens if the company goes out of business, or decides to stop supporting that form of DRM? We have already seen this happen...
3) What happens when the copyright expires? Will the company happily strip away the DRM for everyone?

While I don't agree with all the "rights" posted by keleko, consumers *do* have rights. Any DRM that infringes on otherwise legal consumer rights is a failure.

I will occasionally buy a game (2-4 a year), so I make my choices carefully; DRM is now a major factor in my decisions. I almost bought Bioshock, but turned it down after hearing about the problems. I will not be buying Spore.

William said...

You touched on one reason to pirate: to avoid reinstall problems. Techdirt.com is always covering topics like pirating and copyrights and has some interesting insights in to these issues

Anonymous said...

mbmcavoy - "1) You can't give your used product away, or even just lend them. I believe that either scenario is perfectly legal and ethical."

all eula's explicitly state that you cannot lend/give licenses away. when you purchase a license, it is a license for you only. therefore, as long as you agree to the eula, either scenario would be deemed illegal.

Anonymous said...

william - "You touched on one reason to pirate: to avoid reinstall problems. Techdirt.com is always covering topics like pirating and copyrights and has some interesting insights in to these issues"

pirating to avoid reinstall problems is lazy and illegal. if you lived next to a farmer, would you steal his crops because it is easier than going to to grocery store?

a software's drm must be factored into a software purchase.

Anonymous said...

My first computer was an Apple II+ back in 1979 so I recall the various forms of DRM from back on cassette tapes for the Apple II to various forms on disks to dongles to CD's to serial numbers to "call-home" via the internet plus whatever else that I've forgotten about.

**ALL** forms of DRM is a PITA from the honest persons point of view, as it stops you from easily using something. Whether something is convenient to use or not, including how well it works, makes or breaks the desire to use that something.

To dishonest people or those who are cheap and won't buy something if they don't have to, the simplicity of stealing something digital is too compelling. Why spend actual money when you can download it or copy it from a friend? Just because you don't have the smarts to actually create it yourself doesn't mean you don't have the smarts to steal it.

As was stated earlier by WELLES, if there are no consequences for your actions, what does it mean to have integrity? All one has to do is watch someone who has been found guilty of a crime to cry out how sorry they are. They are only sorry that they got caught and have been humiliated by being shown they have no integrity.

I would venture that MOST people have stolen intellectual property in their lifetime. Sometimes it is borrowing a copy of a program, maybe it is walking in to see another movie for free in a multiplex movie theatre.

It didn't feel like you took anything, it was a tiny bit of a rush and feeling of a win over "the man", whomever the man happens to be and whether it is justified or not. Software was crappy anyway, so you got a preview and decided not to buy it. Last movie was such a dog you felt the movies owed you one. Whatever.

How many people bought videos from Google and now Google is shutting down their servers? Or Yahoo songs? Or however many other services that sold something that later didn't have enough demand to sustain the service.

Once you've been burned by someone selling something with DRM, I think most people will do things to subvert the DRM on the next thing they buy, and once they've done it once, they will do it again. Whether they actually buy the item they got for "free", who knows.

Don't have a solution for you for DRM or how people will pay for things that others create. Part of it depends on whose ox is being gored. Those who feel everyone is a thief are the ones creating something that is easily stolen. Those who feel justified in stealing don't see any consequences for what they do and may not really see it as stealing anything, since they didn't take anything except for some digital bits.

Reginald W

Ast A. Moore said...

@David: I understand what you mean about the differences between music and software distribution.

"What happens more often is that a trial period of software is used and during that trial a piece of software can be vetted to determine if it's going to meet your needs."

A trial period is great when it's long enough and is not limited, like most demos. The Frustrated Consumer Perspective is still in effect after the trial period is over. If it's easier to buy the software than it is to look for, register, and download a kracked version off a warez web site, then most people will buy it. I think the power of iTunes (both music and app store) is that it's literally a one-click buy.

Got a link to more of your music? What you had on YouTube sounded great.

Thank you! You can listen to more on my SoundClick and MySpace pages. I'm also going to be make my songs available on iTunes and other online music stores soon (takes a long time to get your music there).

P.S. I've seen several CandyRat artists on YouTube. I think it's a great idea.

Anonymous said...

Piracy only costs the developer when someone who would have bought a copy uses a pirated copy. If the user would not have paid even if s/he couldn't get it free, it isn't a lost sale, but it is free advertising.

Requiring verification of purchase for support seems reasonable, and not too hard on either side.

Joe (software developer)

Thomas said...

David,

"the implication in your statement is that no one actually loses anything when they steal some software or music"

That's not what I meant. It's just not that obvious to people that somebody is loosing his work as in simple shoplifting.
Although as in my Photoshop example it is sometimes hard to say if a company is loosing money or gaining a future customer.
I guess loosing money occurs way more often than gaining customers.

RASTERMAN said...

It's all about personal integrity.

I find it very troublesome that so many folks today don't recognize that using something without paying for it IS stealing.

It doesn't matter how much it costs to produce, or how easy it is to duplicate, if you're not willing to pay for it, have the integrity to walk away.

Can't afford PhotoShop? Charge your customers more for your services so that you can. Using it for personal projects, find a friend that will let you use their PC & their legitimate copy. Don't have a friend? I'm sorry, life can be so unfair!

You can rationalize your theft of another's work any way you want, but if you're going to ride in the taxi, you'd better have the fare.

Most DRM is a pain in the ass, but so are the door locks on your home or vehicle, PINs on your ATM, or even a password on your email.

So why do we use keys, PINs and Passwords? We don't want strangers stealing our stuff. Well, guess what, neither do software developers or other creative folks.

Whatever happened to feeling good about doing the right thing?

If you don't like the price of something, or the policies/practices of a particular company, do the right thing and walk away.

/soapbox

Cheers!

---RASTER

robotank said...

DRM simply doesn't work--the pirates always find a way around it. In the end, all it does is create headaches for paying customers who want the right to use their software or media as they please. As for pirating software, I strongly disagree with pirating programs made by independent developers and small companies. Generally, shareware is reasonably priced and you can always try it before you pay. On the other hand, I can't see as equivalent pirating software from a company like Microsoft, which seems to make a point of releasing bloated, over-priced crap. For example, my fiancée recently purchased a student copy of Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac. After installing and updating it, none of the programs would launch, but would just repeatedly launch the Setup Assistant. I found out with a quick web search that there were two preference files that had to be deleted to solve this problem. Not a big deal for me, but if my fiancée (or another non-technical user who doesn't even know what a preference file is, much less where to locate it) had been on her own, there's no way she would have been able to fix this issue without a call to technical support. Until Microsoft (and other giants) deal with issues like this, I don't feel particularly bad about their losses due to piracy.

mbmcavoy said...

@anonymous - "all eula's explicitly state that you cannot lend/give licenses away. when you purchase a license, it is a license for you only. therefore, as long as you agree to the eula, either scenario would be deemed illegal."

Yes, when I do purchase media that has DRM/EULAs, I am agreeing to those restrictions. Yet, no one advertises "Buy a personal-use license for Spore!", they say "Buy Spore!". Except they don't actually sell it. How does that make sense?

This is coming from the same place that the DRM is (copyright holders) and not rooted in copyright law. Why do you think the these companies lobbied so hard to make it illegal to circumvent DRM? Forcing a contract upon the buyer is another part of the strategy to effectively extend copyright forever. When everyone thinks it's normal, it will be normal.

If I buy copyrighted media of any sort, unencumbered with heavy DRM or "agreements", there is no legal or ethical problem with reselling or lending that media to anyone, or in the case of electronic media, moving it from one device to another, or format-shifting. Fair use, and the principle of first sale grant me those rights. DRM and EULAs serve to remove those rights, in the interest of more money. Not because of some inherent legalities, or ethics. It's all about mo' money.

The copyright holder holds the right to COPY. They do not hold the right to prevent me from selling, lending, or gifting the copy that I legally obtained, or to use it in any way that I see fit.

The whole issue over Spore is a consumer protest, a way of telling the publishers that we want our rights back!

Tom said...

@rasterman:

The problem with your analogy to door locks, ATM PIN and such is that those protections offer a tangible benefit to the owner. As the owner of my checking account, I am willing to deal with such an inconvenience for the security it grants my money. I'm willing to deal with the keys for my house for the security I gain there as well. These protections also don't inconvenience others.

Where as DRM is something that limits what I can do with no notable gain. DRM on music affects its longevity and flexibility, DRM on software can do the same as well. It would be as if you could buy a car with an extra feature that calls home to Ford every time it is started to verify the owner of the car is the person starting it. This feature is mandatory, and cannot be changed, so you can never sell the car to anyone else or even loan them it. IE, no valet parking, no letting your kids borrow the car, and no ability to take it to a car wash. And you have no guarantee that Ford will continue to support the call home service after 5 years. (Yeah, I know, it's a car analogy, but I think a good one in this case).

sd said...

Very high level article and comments, for an issue that could have feed a lot of trolls!
I particularly agree with 2 sentences "The simple fact is DRM doesn't stop pirates, and it annoys the hell out of legitimate customers, which makes it basically worthless" and "I feel punished for purchasing DVDs when I can't fast-forward past anti-piracy warnings that pirates themselves don't have to watch".

Orson Scott Card (famous Sci-Fi author) wrote 5 years ago a very good article about MP3 and copyrights.

Sonia said...

There is one and only one reason why people pirate: Because they CAN.

-Sonia ;)

Anonymous said...

One justification that's often made for pirating software is that it's too expensive to buy. For example, Jack pirates Photoshop since he can't afford it and justifies his actions because Adobe isn't losing any money since he wouldn't have paid for it anyway.

Sounds like a great argument since apparently no-one loses and Jack wins--that is, until you look at the larger picture. The market is filled with all kinds of software ranging from free or inexpensive to the very expensive. If Jack pirates and uses Photoshop then there is no need for him to use any other software which might perform the same function; software which might suit his budget and which he could afford. Essentially, pirating Photoshop in this case doesn't harm Adobe but harms software developers in the same market with different products.

If we could duplicate cars like we do software then Jack would justify stealing a Ferrari because he can't afford it. Toyota would suffer because they have potentially lost a sale.

"I can't afford it anyway" is not a real justification.

battery said...

Here's a sobering realization I had a while back: installation + registration is the user's REAL first impression of our software -- long before they see the product and features we've poured our heart into. How much have we failed if give them such a frustrating experience? We've failed the user, and we've failed ourselves by letting the important program get immediately overshadowed by frustrating registration.