They told us DRM would give us more for less, but they lied

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" They told us DRM would give us more for less, but they lied."

yes, yes they did.


I strongly dislike DRM. But – I can’t really imagine streaming services like Spotify, Netflix, etc. existing without DRM. Would it be good enough, in practice, to just offer DRM-free streams and trust that people wouldn’t save a copy of everything they stream to keep watching after they cancel their subscription? Maybe? Probably not sufficient to satisfy content owners…

At least with streaming services, nobody is under any illusion that they own the content. It’s an honest framing of what DRM’d content always was - a license to temporarily access the content.


Indeed. It’s a crazy thing to report, but I used to work for a company that made DRM. Their take was that DRM would ultimately make more content available, by giving content producers the peace of mind they need to release new content.

And indeed this is where we’ve ended up.

This doesn’t stop me from buying physical copies and ripping them (or, truth be told, pirating them, because it’s quicker to download most of the time than it is to rip).


As opposed to the status quo, where people can save a copy of everything they stream from their favorite colorful sailor’s harbor to keep watching after they… never had a subscription in the first place? … but it’s illegal (in some countries).

Sounds like a big hassle. I mean that’s a lot of hard disks, why not just pay a service to deal with that for you?

It would be pretty cool if this issue was ultimately settled via letters of marque, but for TV, though.


It’s not much of a lie if we knew they were lying from the start, no?


The problem is that DRM means greater cost. You subscribe to one company to license your access to it, then the copyright owner decides it’s worth more than that and pulls the license for a different vendor to exclusively license, then you’re paying more for the same content every month at a price where you could have previously purchased used copies of the content you want.

I’d be fine if there were a single perpetual copyright licensing bureau that recorded that I’ve already paid enough to access the content I want to in perpetuity. But the fact that studios can pull things from Netflix or raise the cost of them makes Netflix a temporary least worst option.


But the thing is, for maybe 90% of the video content I watch, I only care about watching it once. Maybe if I decide I really like it, I will buy a physical copy later so I can revisit it. But usually I’m looking to watch something new. Netflix and its kin offer a fairly broad selection of new (to me) content to explore for a low price.

For example, I’d had Evangelion on my watch list for a while, but until it came to Netflix the only way to (legally) watch it was to find a secondhand DVD, which was pretty expensive and way more effort than I will put into something which I’m not sure I will even enjoy, so I didn’t see it until Netflix bought the rights.

I use streaming to discover new media: Apple Music for music, and for video, a rotating selection of services - I subscribe to one that has a specific show I want to watch, then cancel immediately and use it for the remainder of the month, and repeat until I’m not using it anymore.

Then when I find an album or a film I really like, I buy the LP or the blu-ray.

That works for me. But, DRM still sucks, since I can’t play Apple Music on a Linux computer or download video from Netflix for offline viewing on my laptop (only my phone for some reason) or use my own playback software that doesn’t interrupt the goddamn credits with “next up” suggestions. I find that annoying, but tolerable, for stuff I’m just accessing temporarily on streaming services. I find it infuriating in the case of Blu-ray Discs I actually bought. I briefly had a setup for stripping the DRM from blu-rays and ripping them for storage on a NAS but the DRM made it hellish to maintain so I gave up and put up with the shitty experience of playing the discs on an Xbox…


The “free market” has turned against them, driving their customers back to piracy in response to these shitty practices. The rentier world of Spotify and MIcrosoft, a world that eventually fucks over its participants out of boundless avarice, is forcing people to own physical copies of things, again, from any source they can obtain them.

It’s their own damn fault. Reason and moderation have left the building.


Back when the original Farcry came out I played the demo off a Computer Magazine cover CD (My how things have chaged), and it worked fine on my machine. I purchased a copy of the full game, and the DRM on that disc not only wouldn’t let me play, it actually switched off my CD drive. Customer Service said that I’d just have to buy a more up to date Optical Drive, as the DRM didn’t support my one. In the end, I had to download a dodgy Russian “CD-Hack” copy of the game that I had purchased in order to play it. Capitalism, eh?

@philbin1 Indeed,a big part of the issue seems to be the (apparently legal) requirement in America for companies to maximise their Shareholders’ short term dividend; regardless of the long term effects.


If you want to see why DRM is stupid and unjust, try explaining to your Swiss children why the DVDs grandma sends from America don’t work. I did and they replied “that’s stupid! And not fair!”

Children know things. Adults should listen to them.


I also used to think that the DRM was just a stepping stone to make the old industries to adopt the internet and eventually they would figure that people would pirate it anyway and the DRM would just eat a share of their new profits.

It looks like it worked for books at least, if you consider that Amazon’s DRM for books just look like a protection, but are nothing like that.
You can still find tons of books available and there are also several of them which would have never been published on paper.
The problem that remains is of some titles disappearing with time, which is easily solved with the DRM circumvention.

For audio and video the story is different, and the DRM is much stronger than for books.
I’m not sure if the fact that the former have more copyright complains and lawsuits and the latter a stronger second-hand market explains it, but it looks very convincing.

I had a similar problem with Civ 3 or 4 around 2005 or 2006. The game would play just fine on my laptop when I could get it started, but it wouldn’t start unless I was booting the laptop from a cold start. I think the drive got too hot and it couldn’t read one of the bits it was using to verify I had a legit disk (although I’m sure I have the details wrong).

Apparently this is a security threat and won’t work at all on Windows 10.

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In my mind there is a difference between an “all you can eat” service and purchasing digital one-offs. Purchasing a license to consume something you ‘own’ and have ‘collected’ is a weird useless hybrid of the two models.

I don’t want a collection anymore. I just want to listen to, watch and read stuff whenever I want and I’m ok with not having access to the service when I stop paying or switch.

I will say I’m waiting for books to catch up to video and music streaming. Kindle Ultimate is pretty limited in selection, which is what makes the service model worth it.

I do have some reservations for content creators in the service streaming model. The incremental royalties for smaller creators is so small as to be not a realistic living. I would be up for some payment model where the subscription cost an extra 5$/mo and that fee was guaranteed to go directly to artists without any going to the distributer. In that scenario Spotify would be distributing an extra 500 million every month directly to artists. Based on 100 million paid monthly subscribers.

I would be interested in an even split among the 1.6 million artists, but maybe a bracket system would be better. The Taylor Swifts of the world are doing just fine. Also I bet the number of paid subscribers would drop sadly with a 5$ increase even if it was for a good cause (the people who create the music they supposedly care about).

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DRM was just a fig leaf to tell paranoid content owners that their stuff wouldn’t just be pirated if they put it up for streaming. Of course it completely failed in that regard too because it only takes one guy making the copy to supply the pirate market.

So really DRM failed everybody except the DRM companies. Content owners still had their stuff pirated and people who actually paid for the material got stuck with all sorts of obnoxious and pointless restrictions. All so publishers could pretend that they were protected from piracy.

The worst part is that this is exactly what technologists said would happen, but nobody in power would listen. Instead they keep thinking that there must be some sort of even better DRM that can finally solve their piracy problem, even though it’s fundamentally impossible.


Software as a service. Enough said.

you need a region free player, my friend. (not sticking up for DRM - just saying there’s a hack for that)

On the flipside, there are probably people who will see the complete absence of obnoxious and pointless restrictions as an indication that they should be able to copy and distribute something as much as they want and to heck with the creators. (It seems some perpetuate the myth that if a given video game can’t be legally purchased from anywhere that it is somehow completely legal to download it for free.)

I’m still waiting for people to port the Doctrine of First Sale to the digital world. I think Microsoft gave this the good old college try with some of the Zune DRM, but it ended up being even more invasive and restrictive than existing DRM so the entire advantage was lost.

Once the MPAA got over its characterization of the technology as akin to a serial killer; my memory is that VHS rentals did quite well(both for providers of the service and in kicking revenue back to the makers of movies) indeed despite the copy protection being notably non-granular and so weak as to be practically irrelevant; with DVDs(still pretty much nuisance-level; best remembered for enforcing unskippable trailers) similarly serving with distinction until largely displaced by streaming.

The streaming services themselves aren’t exactly ironclad; and also compete (in no small part on convenience rather than compliance) with continued availability of pirated material; and mostly do quite well in markets where they don’t just cede the field to the pirates by pulling goofy stunts like simply not releasing something for 6 months.

It is possible that DRM is necessary in its capacity as a security blanket for purveyors of ‘premium content’(they certainly seem pretty neurotic about it); but the record suggests that people are, to an almost surprising degree, disinterested in hassling with piracy when the commercial offering doesn’t suck.

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