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DRM has "huge problems" according to Gates

Microsoft recently held a get together for a small group of high-profile bloggers ahead of the Mix Conference. The bloggers has full access to Microsoft chairman Bill Gates in an hour-long Q&A session and were able to fire off any question under the sun that they wanted to ask.

With Microsoft's 30GB Zune player having been recently released to go head-to-head with Apple's ever-dominant iPod, a topic of discussion pointed towards Digital Rights Management (DRM). Surprisingly, Gates was quite frank on the situation and expressed his disappointment in the overall situation with DRM.

According to Michael Arrington of TechCrunch, Gates noted that DRM "causes too much pain for legitimate buyers" and overall is not an effective solution. He went on to say that "DRM is not where it should be, but you won’t get me to say that there should be usage models and different payment models for usage. At the end of the day, incentive systems do make a difference, but we don’t have it right with incentives or interoperability."

There’s also an overall disillusionment with consumers in regards to DRM media files. Music files purchased on iTunes can't be used on Windows Media “PlaysForSure” devices like the SanDisk's Sansa players or Creative's Zen lineup. Even more shocking to the system is that PlaysForSure music files and services won't work with Microsoft's own Zune players. Instead, Zune users have to purchase their content from Zune Marketplace.

When it comes to music files, Bill Gates simply had this to say in summary; “People should just buy a CD and rip it. You are legal then.”

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smart guy
By msva124 on 12/15/2006 5:13:33 PM , Rating: 1
Too bad he's not at Microsoft anymore, otherwise Vista might have been respectable.

RE: smart guy
By Xenoid on 12/15/2006 5:22:59 PM , Rating: 2
I still nominate him for president.

RE: smart guy
By AlexWade on 12/15/2006 5:40:25 PM , Rating: 5
Bill Gates stock just took a huge leap in my book. Finally, someone with enough sense to know Sony shouldn't be allowed to install rootkits, and the RIAA and other labels to treat us like criminals.

RE: smart guy
By crystal clear on 12/16/2006 1:15:18 AM , Rating: 1
Start of something to come?
By crystal clear on 6/16/06, Rating: 2
By crystal clear on 6/16/2006 2:18:55 AM , Rating: 2

Sounds very wierd now -but I will not be surprised to hear in a 2 year time , a news item "Gates announces himself as
candidate for the next President"

Who knows whats in his mind?

RE: smart guy
By Schmeh on 12/16/2006 8:02:23 AM , Rating: 2
He was on The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch not to long ago, and Donny asked him if he had any interest in or ever considered running for political office and Bill said that he had absolutely no interest in public office.

Personally, I don't think he has the personality to run for President.

RE: smart guy
By TomZ on 12/17/2006 8:44:15 AM , Rating: 2
I agree; Gates seems too honest to become a politician.

RE: smart guy
By TomZ on 12/15/2006 5:26:26 PM , Rating: 2
What makes you think Gates is not with Microsoft any more? Or were you talking about Bono? :o)

RE: smart guy
By msva124 on 12/15/2006 5:29:53 PM , Rating: 5
Bono retired as chief systems programmer in 2001, duh!

Gates is still with Microsoft, but I don't think he does much work anymore. Vista was Ballmer's apprenticeship, where Gates just looked over his shoulder but didn't really dictate how things would work.

RE: smart guy
By TomZ on 12/15/2006 5:36:50 PM , Rating: 2
You're just speculating about Gates' involvement, since that is not public knowledge. But what is public knowledge is that Jim Allchin was in charge of the development of Vista, surely with input from Gates and Ballmer.

RE: smart guy
By msva124 on 12/15/2006 6:02:01 PM , Rating: 5
Either you follow Microsoft very closely (to the point of being creepy), or you work there.

RE: smart guy
By Pirks on 12/15/06, Rating: -1
RE: smart guy
By Hypernova on 12/15/2006 6:06:58 PM , Rating: 2
Point is he is retiring and will no longer have as much say on the company's future actions.

RE: smart guy
By TomZ on 12/15/2006 8:01:57 PM , Rating: 2
No, he is not retiring - he made that very clear - he is just letting Ballmer handle more of the day-to-day business. Gates is still involved quite a bit with the company, the strategy, and the overall vision and software architecture. He is still also the Chairman, on the Board of Directors, and is Microsoft's biggest shareholder AFAIK.

RE: smart guy
By Hypernova on 12/16/2006 1:22:52 AM , Rating: 2
But he said he's going to have a smaller role for the next 2 years and concentrate on donations. I think that's his way of retiring.

RE: smart guy
By Nekrik on 12/16/2006 6:45:03 AM , Rating: 2
As long as he has any role I would think those people still functioning in a controlling position will conduct business in a manner he will approve of, and in the case they do not he's reserved the capacity to regain control. Would you really think he hasn't taken the time to select individuals who will work towards his longterm goals. People seem to act as if he had no care in what happens in the company's future and has stepped aside from having any involvement in Microsoft activities.

RE: smart guy
By hondaman on 12/16/2006 6:38:48 AM , Rating: 5
He had the guts to say that because he wasnt in the presence of Steve Ballmer, and he was assured all the chairs were bolted to the floor.

The kettle calling the pot black?
By montgom on 12/15/2006 11:12:38 PM , Rating: 1
Let me see if I have this right. Gates thinks DRM is a problem for legitimate users?

What does he think WGA is to legit users?

He suggests you just buy the CD and rip the files so you can use your music on other devices?

Yet with XP/Vista you have the one copy one machine rule?

Hmmm, I know I am missing something.

BG says copy music CDs. But don't copy a Windows OS and use it as you please.


RE: The kettle calling the pot black?
By CSMR on 12/16/2006 12:22:05 AM , Rating: 5
Even though Windows Vista may look like a music CD it is in fact not music but a piece of software. That seems to be the mistake you are making.

By Pandamonium on 12/16/2006 12:29:03 AM , Rating: 2
There are far fewer consumers who use multiple PCs than there are businesses that use multiple PCs. To give the green light on "buy one copy per entity and install/use it as much as you want" is foolish.

By ZeroGuardian on 12/16/2006 12:37:06 AM , Rating: 4
What I find amusing is that Microsoft actually SUPPORTS the user in allowing them to make a backup of your CD. They were one of the big supporters for the bill in congress that allows a backup copy as long as the protections aren't worked around. This is why no Windows disc has copy protection on it. As well as the ability to transfer the OS to another PC, as long as its only on one pc at a time.

And this is similar to riping and using music if you think about it. You can make backups so you don't lose the music and you only listen to the music on one device at a time anyways.

And DRM is a problem....
1) Your paying more on a one song basis than you would buying them all at once on the cd.
2) Your typically downloading a 128-196kb rate file which isn't even close to CD quality.
3) You can only have it on so many devices at once.
4) And in some cases you can only have it on ONE device!

As for me CDs are my media of choice when it comes to music because I prefer the quality, convienence, and versatility of the CD version as opposed to the overpriced crap that is on iTunes and other music services.

RE: The kettle calling the pot black?
By Snuffalufagus on 12/16/2006 6:54:17 AM , Rating: 2
If you can propose a solution that will allow complete freedom to legitimate users and gauruntee compensation for sales while foiling all attempts at piracy for either type of media you should mention it to the perspective company. It'd really save all the legitimate users a lot of pain and most likely result in a financial freedom for you that others only dream about.

RE: The kettle calling the pot black?
By TomZ on 12/16/2006 11:26:53 AM , Rating: 2
There is no ideal solution in the way that you mention - there will be compromises that have to be made. And in the end, we may figure out that in general, that professional music production and distribution is something that consumers will no longer pay a premium for. Music may become a commodity that artists can produce on their own, distribute through their web sites, and we consumers can pay for and download directly from the artists, at a fraction of the cost of today's music. Who knows what the future will hold?

RE: The kettle calling the pot black?
By Snuffalufagus on 12/16/2006 4:24:06 PM , Rating: 2
That was kinda the point, that there is no perfect solution.

On the software side it is unfortunate that some legitimate users have problems as a result of the different measures, but it is a necessary evil. I myself despise the idea of self validating software, not because it is sending information, but because, no matter how small, it's usually an additional process/service running, be it a timer or whatever.

RE: The kettle calling the pot black?
By adt6247 on 12/17/2006 2:00:29 AM , Rating: 2
Necessary evil, my ass!

This is why I use (and write) open source/free software. I will certainly not have someone dictate how I use software on my own hardware.

This is NO DIFFERENT from music. If I buy a CD, I expect that I can rip it and burn it to a CD to keep in my car, and compress it and bring it to work. I don't want to have to purchase it multiple times. I don't mind restrictions on distribution -- that's different entirely. Frankly, the better free software liscences all have restrictions on redistribution, but not use.

No different from how I'd want to use an OS -- if I buy a copy of Windows, I'd expect to be able to install it on my desktop, laptop, and secondary desktop. However, if I set up a torrent for someone else to download, that's clearly a violation of copyright law.

RE: The kettle calling the pot black?
By Fanon on 12/18/2006 9:52:16 AM , Rating: 2
Actually, software is completely different than music because of one thing: the EULA. If you use the software, you agree to the terms of the EULA. If you don't like the terms of the EULA, don't use the software.

Music CDs do not come with a EULA; instead, they fall under the fair use act.

By Snuffalufagus on 12/18/2006 5:10:48 PM , Rating: 2
That's great for you with your whole OS sofware bit, but that's a comletely different arena from this discussion. Different goals, different uses, different purpose, different market, different product.

By rushfan2006 on 12/19/2006 8:53:14 AM , Rating: 2
Actually the only really "perfect" solution would be some ultra high advanced "ethics scanner anti piracy intent" detector that maybe in 200 years will

The computer you install the software to can scan your honest intent -- if it detecs you are just another selfish cheap bastard who wants shit for doesn't enable the software...if it detects honesty and that you paid for it...the software is enabled.


By Christopher1 on 12/16/2006 6:55:39 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, there is a perfect solution. No DRM period, the music industry, game industry and software industry lower prices to a REASONABLE point, which they are not anywhere close to right now (CD's and DVD's are inflated in prices sometimes 100 times from what it costs to manufacture them, even including the costs of making the music, game, or software).

Then, there will be absolutely no reason for the average person to go out and pirate any of those three things, because they will actually be able to AFFORD them.
That is the main reason why most people pirate music, games and software. Sometimes, it is also because they do not want to take a chance on buying those things, and getting stuck with a sucky piece of music or a game that sucks.

The first reason is the main reason why I switched from Microsoft Works 8 to a free-ware solution, OpenOffice. Microsoft's price for it is WAAAAAAAAY to high right now for what you get.

RE: The kettle calling the pot black?
By INeedCache on 12/16/2006 12:58:30 PM , Rating: 2
You're comparing apples and oranges. Before you buy a CD, or before you open it up, you don't have to agree to any license agreement, do you? You aren't buying the actual software when you purchase most programs, you're buying a license. People are always cracking on Microsoft's licensing agreements, yet most other software comes with licensing agreements. If you think $70-80 for a one machine, one year license of a security suite is OK, but $200-$300 for a Windows OS that you can use on a machine for as long as you want is expensive, you're not thinking quite straight.

RE: The kettle calling the pot black?
By walk2k on 12/16/2006 1:17:22 PM , Rating: 2
Actually music is exactly like software. You aren't buying ownership of the music on the disc, only the RIGHTS to listen to it. In the end they are both a series of bits anyway.

By crimson117 on 12/18/2006 11:19:18 AM , Rating: 2
BG says copy music CDs. But don't copy a Windows OS and use it as you please.

Well... yeah. If you buy a legitimate copy of Windows, you can its data to your computer according to the license and copyright law - one PC, gotta validate, etc, and fair use might mean you can copy it to a backup directory or CD/DVD to preserve your original media. Last I checked there was no copy protection or DRM itself on the Windows XP install disc, except that you need a valid product key.

Similarly, if you buy a legitimate copy of a music CD, you can copy its data according to its license and copyright law (fair use and all that).

But if you buy a media file from iTunes or some other DRM'd music store, you get a much crappier license than if you just bought the CD yourself. It'll only work on certain media players, on certain computers, with certain abilities to share.

I'd much rather pay $3-5 more at Amazon to get a no-DRM, professional CD with artwork and true CD-quality audio than save a few bucks but get a severely DRM'd pre-compressed music file.

The problems with DRM
By copiedright on 12/15/2006 6:59:12 PM , Rating: 5
My view is that there are two main problems with DRM.

Firstly, DRM requires you, in most cases, to rebuy the digital medium several times, even though its use has not changed.

Secondly, DRM and other protection systems are actually making life tougher for honest people. When I originally bought Half-Life2 I could not play it for 12 hours!!! because of the amount of verification crap I had to go through and the slowness of Steam back in the day. And the chances of incompatibility are a lot higher!

So with current DRM I am required to rebuy media, which I already own, with the likelihood that it will be even more restrictive in how I use it!

RE: The problems with DRM
By TomZ on 12/15/2006 7:58:16 PM , Rating: 4
Firstly, DRM requires you, in most cases, to rebuy the digital medium several times, even though its use has not changed.

You are exactly right, and in my opinion, this is why the music industry is so interested in DRM, and just love services like iTunes that lock your purchase to a single brand of device. They just hate people like me who buy a CD once, and keep it for 5, 10, 15 years, and have the ability to play it on all kinds of devices past, present, and future. With DRM, they can sell the same music to a particular customer over and over again. In a way, this is the same model for subscription-based services, although those services obviously give you more value than that.

RE: The problems with DRM
By Ksyder on 12/15/2006 11:42:47 PM , Rating: 4
I was at a Best Buy recently and I overheard an employee talking about how their CD stock would be decreasing by a number (something like 40-50% or maybe even more!) because CD sales have dropped so much due to iPods, piracy, etc by 2008 I think he said. Considering how you could buy a CD and rip it to use in many more ways than the DRM'ed version, that probably would be a bad thing!

RE: The problems with DRM
By TomZ on 12/16/2006 11:23:09 AM , Rating: 2
That's fine with me - I never buy CDs at BB anyway - I can almost always get a better deal online, with free shipping, and no sales tax. Plus I don't have to waste a lot of time driving to/from the store.

But in the long-term, I do see CDs becoming obsolete probably. I think this will only happen once the DRM problem is solved once and for all in a way that consumers can tolerate.

RE: The problems with DRM
By CSMR on 12/16/2006 12:19:30 AM , Rating: 2
That is not right. You do not buy the media. You buy limited rights, perhaps several times. Limited rights are less valuable than the owning the media. Just as renting a house for a year is less valuable than owning in. You can't argue against renting that it's like having to buy the house over and over again.

RE: The problems with DRM
By TomZ on 12/16/2006 11:39:31 AM , Rating: 3
Well, here's the problem with your analogy. If I pay $12 for a CD, that has 12 songs, that is about $1/song. Now I can rip the songs and freely/easily transcode to any present or future format, so that it can be used by me freely on any present or future device.

If I buy songs for about $1/each off iTunes, then decide to buy another type or brand of device in the future, then I will have to pay the full $1/each again for songs on that device.

For your analogy, it would be like if I rented the house, but paid the full value of the house over and over again each month or year or whatever. According to your analogy, iTunes should cost some fraction of the cost to "own" an unencumbered file version of the song. But iTunes and other services are not priced this way.

iTunes and other similar DRM-limited services take value from the consumer relative to CDs by locking them into a particular fixed usage model, without compensating for that loss of functionality by reducing the cost. If, for example, I could download songs from iTunes for $0.25/song, then it might be something I would consider, since I would be trading savings for portability and future usage.

RE: The problems with DRM
By mindless1 on 12/17/2006 11:46:54 AM , Rating: 2
Actually you do buy the media. Don't believe me? Steal my CDs and then see what the judge has to say about it.

You can argue that a limited usage model is a restriction in far use, without a corresponding reduction in price.

If they want to restrict the content to one device, let it cost 10 cents a song. If they want a time reduction or continual license verification just to keep using same song on same device, the value drops even more, maybe 2 cents a song.

why "suprisingly"
By Octoparrot on 12/15/2006 5:23:50 PM , Rating: 1
"Surprisingly" Bill Gates was quite frank? Why can't we just have articles that report the news without odd editorializing? One could add as background to the piece, that there is nothing surprising about Mr. Gates's comments, given that both Microsoft & Apple, and the entire music hardware industry, do not like the DRM restrictions imposed on them by the music industry. Apple has at least as much clout as Microsoft given the commanding marketshare lead of the iPod & Jobs's connection with Pixar/Disney/ABC (Apple fought off demands by record companies for multiple price tiers on iTunes, for example), yet Apple still cannot sell songs on iTunes without any DRM at all. I'm sure Bill Gates & Steve Jobs would love to negotiate better contracts with the record companies for the songs you can buy for the Zune & iPod, but neither of them has that kind of power yet.

RE: why "suprisingly"
By msva124 on 12/15/2006 5:27:08 PM , Rating: 3
Yeah, Bill Gates is small-time. Maybe once his company gets bigger he will have some more clout.

RE: why "suprisingly"
By TomZ on 12/15/2006 5:27:45 PM , Rating: 5
It is surprising because you might expect the CEO of Microsoft to give you the corporate line that DRM is necessary because of ..., etc. Isn't this obvious?

RE: why "suprisingly"
By dagamer34 on 12/15/2006 5:40:14 PM , Rating: 2
What a company does and what it's CEO says personally are two completely different things. Bill Gates no longer had full control of the company once he got stockholders and has a duty to make them happy first, and take care of his own pride later.

RE: why "suprisingly"
By Pandamonium on 12/16/2006 12:24:20 AM , Rating: 3
His responsibility is to the shareholder majority. If what a previous commenter wrote about Gates being the majority shareholder is true, then this duty is to himself. I have no knowledge of MS's share distribution.

Actually, I'm not sure what you're getting at with your post - TomZ explained the rationale for "surprisingly".

As a high-profile CEO, Gates doesn't have much of a "personal" sphere. Anything he says will be associated with MS. I would have expected a scripted answer about DRM instead of the one he provided.

RE: why "suprisingly"
By borowki on 12/15/2006 5:45:59 PM , Rating: 1
I know. There are too many people in this world who're too intellectually lazy. Instead of analyzing a situation, they think along the lines of "Gates bad! Bono good!".

If Microsoft can offer music download with no DRM, they'd do it in a heartbeat.

RE: why "suprisingly"
By BladeVenom on 12/15/2006 8:01:43 PM , Rating: 2
If Microsoft can offer music download with no DRM, they'd do it in a heartbeat.

Really? eMusic is able to do it. Sure you don't get a lot of the top 40 pop music, but there's still plenty of good choices.

RE: why "suprisingly"
By TomZ on 12/15/2006 8:31:56 PM , Rating: 2
No, eMusic didn't do it, since they don't have mainstream artists and record companies on board. It will take a big player like Microsoft or Apple to make that happen.

Windows DRM
By Gooberslot on 12/16/2006 1:01:23 AM , Rating: 2
I'm sure he has no problems with Windows' own DRM (WPA).

RE: Windows DRM
By Snuffalufagus on 12/16/2006 4:29:28 PM , Rating: 2
I'm sure he'd prefer no to have to waste dev time and money implementing it, or paying for the resources needed when it generates support issues (or the bad press, etc...).

RE: Windows DRM
By Gooberslot on 12/16/2006 11:30:16 PM , Rating: 2
Then why invent it in the first place.

Bill Gates is a >>>>Hypocrite<<<<
By dl0711 on 12/18/2006 12:55:28 AM , Rating: 2
to me it seems right now Bill Gates is being a hypocrite. Its NOT ok for DRM but its OK for WPA/WGA? eh! Bill?

Quote -
Gates noted that DRM "causes too much pain for legitimate buyers" and overall is not an effective solution.
This is ALSO the SAME for WPA/WGA..

DL0711 noted that WPA/WGA "causes too much pain for legitimate buyers" and overall is not an effective solution.

what the what??
By walk2k on 12/16/06, Rating: 0
Distorted his brain
By viperpa on 12/15/06, Rating: -1
By spindoc on 12/15/06, Rating: -1
RE: Legal
By hubajube on 12/15/06, Rating: 0
RE: Legal
By TomZ on 12/15/2006 7:50:49 PM , Rating: 5
I buy all my CDs online, look for good prices, get free shipping, and pay no sales tax. I typically pay an average of $10/CD shipped, and then when I receive them, I rip them and add the files to my collection, and the CD goes into a drawer. No DRM for me - I like it that way.

RE: Legal
By crystal clear on 12/16/2006 12:54:51 AM , Rating: 2
Read this-

Suw Charman, of the Open Rights Group, said it was a "bit rich of Bill Gates to make his comments given how much DRM is stuffed into Windows Vista", the new operating system from Microsoft.

"The problem with DRM is that it is very anti-consumer," she said.

"It is bully-boy tactics by the media industry," she added.

But backers of DRM argue it gives artists an assurance that their work is being protected.

Ms Charman called for more information for consumers when they buy digital files and CDs.

"Often consumers do not know what restrictions have been imposed on CDs or digital music until after they have bought them," she said.

She added: "Apple have been known to change the rules after people have bought tracks."




*To raise awareness in the media of digital rights abuses

*To provide a media clearinghouse, connecting journalists with experts and activists

*To preserve and extend traditional civil liberties in the digital world

*To collaborate with other digital rights and related organisations

*To nurture a community of campaigning volunteers, from grassroots activists to technical and legal experts

RE: Legal
By walk2k on 12/16/2006 1:12:54 PM , Rating: 2
You're supposed to pay sales tax on your state return.

I know.... nobody does, since they aren't enforcing those laws yet. But still, there is not statute of limitations on tax fraud... they have all your /etc records, they could come after you 20 years from now!

RE: Legal
By bldckstark on 12/21/2006 12:19:35 PM , Rating: 2
I pay an arbitrary amount on my state returns every year to be sure that my return is not flagged for showing $0 in that box. It would be an easy way to get people in for an audit.

RE: Legal
By piroroadkill on 12/20/2006 10:22:52 PM , Rating: 2
Who the fuck drives to a store to buy CDs?

I buy them online, and yes, I still sometimes buy CDs.

I will have nothing to do with DRM.

CLUELESS in Seattle
By cornfedone on 12/15/06, Rating: -1
RE: CLUELESS in Seattle
By TomZ on 12/15/2006 5:37:33 PM , Rating: 3
^--- clueless on the Internet, and then some.

RE: CLUELESS in Seattle
By msva124 on 12/15/2006 6:01:13 PM , Rating: 3
Internets, pal. It's a series of tubes.

"Intel is investing heavily (think gazillions of dollars and bazillions of engineering man hours) in resources to create an Intel host controllers spec in order to speed time to market of the USB 3.0 technology." -- Intel blogger Nick Knupffer
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