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Consumers gain one step against digital rights management

Late last year while Microsoft promoted its Windows Media digital rights management (DRM) system to developers and content producers, a team of coders found a way to circumvent the WM DRM system. With a tool called FairUse4WM, users were able to strip DRM coding from media files, allowing playback of said media on any device. With a great deal of concern, Microsoft launched a formal lawsuit on "Viodentia," the creator of FairUse4WM after a fix was released but was quickly cracked again.

After several months of pursuing the whereabouts of "Viodentia," Microsoft has submitted a Notice of Dismissal, removing all claims against "Viodentia." The reason for the dismissal was due to the fact that Microsoft was unable to locate "Viodentia" for prosecution.

The software giant went after FairUse4WM and "Viodentia" claiming that the creator of the tool had infringed on copyright laws. According to the dimissal, Microsoft said:
Please take notice that plaintiff Microsoft Corporation ("Microsoft") respectfully dismisses all of its claims, without prejudice, against John Does 1-10 a/k/a "viodentia." Microsoft was unable to locate these defendants through discovery and therefore could not serve them with process.
Without the tool, users were locked to playing purchased media. Only Microsoft PlaysForSure devices were able to decode the protected media. Bill Gates stated publicly late last year that he was against DRM, and that removing DRM from media and devices ultimately benefits the consumer. Apple's CEO Steve Jobs also echoed Gates' statement, indicating that he too preferred a DRM-free industry.

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RE: Perhaps this...
By bhigh on 4/10/2007 6:05:51 PM , Rating: 2
If there was less demand for the stolen cars (or parts) then there would be fewer cars stolen.

Reducing the cost and complexity of legally obtaining music would reduce the amount of piracy.

RE: Perhaps this...
By TomZ on 4/10/2007 7:53:55 PM , Rating: 2
I just love the "thug mentality" you see here amongst some readers of this site. Like piracy is somehow justified because of the cost and complexity. I know that's not precisely what you said, but it is what you are implying.

RE: Perhaps this...
By Zurtex on 4/10/2007 9:06:24 PM , Rating: 3
I do know what you're getting at but it simply reduces down to this, DRM interferes with legitimate users, non-legitimate users will find a way around DRM no matter what. Therefore all DRM is going to do, is turn legitimate users in to non-legitimate users.

It's not a matter of justifying piracy, it's a matter of learning that the digital age of media is different from the physical media age of media. If you off people something easy and legitimate to use which doesn't make it difficult for the user, then you're going to have much better sales.

RE: Perhaps this...
By TomZ on 4/10/2007 11:17:48 PM , Rating: 1
But what about right and wrong? Doesn't anybody understand the difference any more? If DRM is inconvenient (an opinion I share. BTW), then the decision is to put up with it, or do something different. Breaking the law doesn't rationally follow from inconvenience.

Besides, if everyone who finds DRM inconvenient withholds their buying dollars, the sellers will get the message and fix the problem. On the other hand, if people continue to buy DRM content and then use crack software against it, the problem never really gets solved.

RE: Perhaps this...
By derwin on 4/11/2007 12:04:53 AM , Rating: 1
If you want to talk about right and wrong, wouldn't you agree atleast that DRM laws are not "right" laws? Anti-Piracy is one thing, but DRM is far beyond anti piracy, making things hard for legitimate users to use their property in ways they are legally allowed to do so. So, as it is the responsibiliy of and good citizen, it is not just a right, but a duty to break any law which is wrong. If this law is not right, it should be broken.

RE: Perhaps this...
By TomZ on 4/11/2007 12:36:37 AM , Rating: 2
No, that's not how it works. Content providers have every right to distribute their IP based on any model they choose. It is the consumer's decision whether to accept what they have offered.

Save civil disobediance for more serious matters like human rights. Being able to play iTunes music on my car CD player is hardly in the same category.

You and I may dislike DRM, RIAA, DCMA, etc., but breaking copyright laws doesn't solve anything. Withholding purchase - now that has the power to change the market.

RE: Perhaps this...
By AndreasM on 4/11/2007 5:41:06 AM , Rating: 1
You and I may dislike DRM, RIAA, DCMA, etc., but breaking copyright laws doesn't solve anything. Withholding purchase - now that has the power to change the market.

Those who pirate aren't buying so it has the same effect as not purchasing. Also, right and wrong have nothing to do with law, they are just moral concepts. It seems to me that the majority is of the opinion that piracy is not wrong, and if the world was more democratic the laws would reflect this.

RE: Perhaps this...
By TSS on 4/11/2007 6:07:39 AM , Rating: 2
i think the difference is mainly is the fact that it's not physical stuff your "stealing". you cant even steal it. to use the car thief example, a car thief jumps in a car, drives away thus taking that car from you as his own. now, if this thief was a software pirate, he would have jumped in the car, driven off, the car would have cloned itself on the fly and after a time the "thief" drives off in the car, leaving the exact same car in the exact same spot. he just didn't pay money to the previous owner of the car, which isn't him since he owns a duplicate but would be ford if he stole a ford and so on.

that is where the problem lies, we have no moral ethics on cloning something that wasn't even solid in the first place. it isn't stealing, as you aren't taking anything away, you're duplicating something. would i steal if i could walk into a store, take anything i want then walk out with that stuff, while it has never left the shelf? probably not since its still taking something physical (and you can get caught easyer), but it would eliminate a whole scale of ethical problems which cause that "probably" to be there in the first place. guess it all depends how much you think something you cannot toutch and hardly influence is worth.

RE: Perhaps this...
By TomZ on 4/11/2007 10:26:26 AM , Rating: 2
right and wrong have nothing to do with law, they are just moral concepts

I agree, they are technically two different things, however, they are also highly correlated, as they have to be in order to make sense.

RE: Perhaps this...
By mindless1 on 4/12/2007 10:21:14 AM , Rating: 2

They don't have the right to oppress the entire market which is clearly what is happening.

RIGHT would be seizing all their assets and giving all customers a partial refund, then of course the rest has to go to the lawyers as is traditional.

RE: Perhaps this...
By BMFPitt on 4/10/2007 11:07:23 PM , Rating: 2
Think of it this way. There is a legal music store, and a guy in the alley behind it giving away free bootlegs. When you walk into the legal store, they yell and scream at you to never talk to that guy in the alley. A guy wearing a Nazi uniform follows you around and stares at you. He gets very irate when you don't buy everything you look at. Every once in a while the manager goes out back and beats up whoever is in the alley, but mostly he stays in the store and harasses paying customers.

Some people go to the legal store because they feel it is right. Some people go to the alley because they want it for free no matter what. Many people go to the alley because they don't want to deal with the Nazi in the store.

RE: Perhaps this...
By TomZ on 4/10/2007 11:22:07 PM , Rating: 2
Your analogy assumes that there are two choices - DRM and theft. That is hardly accurate. Other alternatives include buying CDs, buying non-DRM downloads, and - gasp - not buying music at all. None of these alternatives to theft are hard to live with.

RE: Perhaps this...
By BMFPitt on 4/11/2007 7:45:19 AM , Rating: 2
How are any of those options relevant to the argument at hand? People keep stating that DRM prevents piracy, and it doesn't. Nobody who wants to pirate is being prevented from doing so because of DRM. People who would like to download the songs the want legally have only these two options in most cases, and at least a portion of them choose to pirate because of DRM.

That doesn't mean it's right, that means it happens. EMI has decided to give up on attacking their own customer base and releasing non-DRM music, and I expect that they will be greatly rewarded for this move by a lot of people who pirated starting buying legally. Exactly zero people will pirate now that didn't before because of this.

RE: Perhaps this...
By TomZ on 4/11/2007 10:37:29 AM , Rating: 2
DRM clearly prevents casual-copy pirating. The vast majority of consumers buying DRM-protected content are not going to seek out DRM-unlocking software; instead, they are simply living with the restrictions placed upon them. So in that sense, DRM is effective in reducing piracy.

But, and what you're getting at, DRM is not going to stop people dedicated to breaking it and sharing/selling the content anyway. Just like a lock on a door isn't going to stop a dedicated thief.

Casual-copy "pirating" will increase with non-DRM music, that is a fact. But EMI and others are betting that overall sales will also increase enough due to the virtues of non-DRM content, to offset the losses due to casual-copy pirating.

RE: Perhaps this...
By BMFPitt on 4/11/2007 10:45:46 AM , Rating: 2
Why the need for DRM breaking software when it's so easy to get anything off of P2P?

DRM is like the 2000 yard border fence in Texas.

RE: Perhaps this...
By PrinceGaz on 4/11/2007 3:28:22 PM , Rating: 2
Casual-copy "pirating" will increase with non-DRM music, that is a fact.

I personally very much doubt that will happen. For non-DRM music to increase casual-copy pirating, the people involved would have to belong to all three of the following groups:

(a) they download music over the internet
(b) they wish to share that music with other people, either online or offline
(c) they are unaware of P2P/file-sharing software and that a very large selection of music is available and freely exchanged using them

It is highly unlikely that people who fall into categories (a) and (b) they download music and want to share it with other people, also belong to (c) being unaware of file-sharing software and that music can be found with most of them.

Granted, there may be a few people who actually do fall into all three categories and the only reason they don't pirate their music is because of the DRM-protection on most legal downloads, but there are far more people who download pirated music because they want to avoid the DRM on legal downloads.

RE: Perhaps this...
By TomZ on 4/11/2007 4:13:03 PM , Rating: 2
Why? I think there are a lot of people who are in (a) and (b), and who would share non-DRM downloads, whereas with DRM downloads, they would not be able to.

The fundamental problem is that most people think that if it is possible to copy a file, then it is legal. Therefore, when they purchase DRM-free content, they will be inclined to share it. Record companies know this and plan this into their marketing strategies and cost decisions.

RE: Perhaps this...
By PrinceGaz on 4/11/2007 7:06:43 PM , Rating: 2
Your argument that people who used their own money to buy legal DRM-free music will share/pirate it to anyone because they might think it can be legally freely exchanged (despite the fact that they had to pay to receive it) is, quite frankly, ridiculous. Quite apart from the fact that they paid to download it, it is made quite clear to users of non-DRM paid for music downloads that it is illegal to give a copy of the file to other people. The only people inclined to share them would be those who knowingly break the law already, and they are already downloading files using P2P networks.

You might want to concede defeat on this one, TomZ, because your stance is fundamentally flawed.

DRM serves no purpose in preventing casual-copying because almost everyone who wants to casually copy is already doing so over P2P networks, but deters people from legally paying to download music because of the restrictions the DRM imposes.

RE: Perhaps this...
By TomZ on 4/11/2007 9:44:15 PM , Rating: 2
So you think that a person will differentiate between the legality of sharing MP3's they paid for versus those they got though Napster a few years back? I don't think so.

RE: Perhaps this...
By PrinceGaz on 4/13/2007 2:03:16 PM , Rating: 2
People who shared MP3s a few years ago with Napster did not have the option then to download them legally. They do now, or at least will have when legal paid-for MP3 services are readily available.

That means that although they may have originally obtained many of their MP3 files through Napster and other copyright-infringing P2P networks, those who switch to buying their MP3s legally will most likely have decided to stop using P2P software for sharing music altogether. Because of this, non-DRM legal music downloads could actually directly reduce piracy because many people will give up using P2P software when they can obtain the music in unprotected MP3 format legally.

There will still be plenty of people sharing MP3s on P2P networks, however they will be people who are never going to buy them from legal services anyway. But by offering legal DRM-free downloads, you give people who want the freedom of music in MP3 format the option to switch away from P2P networks.

RE: Perhaps this...
By treesloth on 4/11/2007 1:57:52 PM , Rating: 2
No, that's not what bhigh implied. There was nothing in the post about justification. It was a simple statement of economics:

Reducing the cost and complexity of legally obtaining music would reduce the amount of piracy.

There is nothing there that attempts to justify piracy. It's a simple fact that when a desired commodity is offered at higher cost (cost in terms of money or other qualifiers, such as DRM), grey- and black-market access of that commodity increases. Study the Prohibition for a view on how that happens.

RE: Perhaps this...
By TomZ on 4/11/2007 2:25:30 PM , Rating: 2
Sorry, I disagree. The implication is that complexity of DRM is the cause of piracy. The cause of piracy is people not wanting to pay for content.

"Well, there may be a reason why they call them 'Mac' trucks! Windows machines will not be trucks." -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer
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