I was posting to TheGreenButton.com and thought I’d save myself typing the same thing again, since it’s good info, even if I am restating/repackaging existing opinion. The following is a response to people who thought for some reason that Rollup 2 was applying DRM to things that it did not before:
Rollup 2 did not substansively change the way that we determine whether something should be copy protected or not; what it did was change some of the infrastructure of the underlying protection scheme. Basically we revved the DRM version and refined some of the business rules that determine what level of DRM a piece of content gets.
Whether something is protected by DRM depends on whether the broadcaster sends us CGMS/A (Copy Generation Management System / Analog) flags on Line21 of the analog signal. This is *not* the (in)famous “broadcast flag”. If you want to know more about how CGMS/A works, there is plenty of material on the net. Another factor is Macrovision (software and/or hardware), or in Europe, the CP flag.
CGMS/A can set 4 different modes: CopyFreely (i.e. no protection), CopyOnce, CopyNoMore (i.e. it used to be CopyOnce, but you made a copy… so you don’t get to copy it again), and CopyNever (no copies at all). Since our whole business is built around timeshifting content, we don’t count the one stored version as a copy at all, though in CopyNever circumstances the license is generally good for only a limited time.
I’m not a big fan of DRM, but I do see the business need for it. Microsoft makes a big, inviting target for lawsuits if we even appear to be soft on protecting copy protected content. That doesn’t make me happy, since it attempts to restrict what I can do with “my” content, and no matter how much I am told (and cerebrally understand) that it’s not mine at all, but I’m just licensed to view it, I still persist in thinking of it as “mine”. After all, I paid for it! As a consumer, I want complete freedom in what I do with my content. As a stockholder in Microsoft, I want to both protect from lawsuits and grow the consumer market, which seem to be opposing goals.
So what we have is a compromise: DRM. We have encryption technology strong enough to make it not worth cracking (by the time you have cracked it, you’ve spent more than it would have cost to just go out and buy another copy of the content… probably many hundred/thousand/million times). With the technology also comes the ability for us to open up windows to use the content in limited ways… hopefully the ways that consumers really want to use it. Of course, you can’t just send copies around to everyone. But you CAN (or should, if it’s working right) put the content on a portable device. Or make a DVD backup.
There’s more to this than most people realize, though. Not only do companies like Microsoft and Apple have to guard against lawsuits, etc., but they have to make the studios and other content producers happy enough with the DRM solutions that they will go *farther* and give us more content in more flexible ways. Do you think that Comcast, DirecTV or EchoStar would agree to attach a digital tuner to a PC that can decode their signal without an ironclad guarantee that the content would not just end up on the net? They are terrified of that prospect… and with (arguably) good reason. DRM is what we need to open up PC-based solutions for all of our content. I don’t want to pirate my Comcast Digital Cable feed… but I *do* want to watch it! In high-definition and on my Media Center. If the DRM gets out of my way, and lets me burn a DVD for my collection (hard drives are finite, after all), then I’m game. I don’t care if I can’t just post a video of some HBO movie on the internet. I don’t really have the inclination anyhow.
I know there are a lot of folks out there who vociferously oppose DRM on principal. The “information should be free” crowd argues on the principal that you cannot own information, and content is just information. That isn’t reality, though, and the courts and laws agree that people who create content can sell it. I won’t pontificate further on that, but leave with a parting piece of information relating to the prior paragraph: if the “no DRM” crowd wins, we won’t have lots of content with no DRM suddenly… what we’ll have is broadcasters and content creators that won’t have any reason to share their content. Hollywood will release it’s next generation of DVD replacements, this time with something less laughable than CSS protection, and that’ll be it. No PC viewing of digital content, just analog. Depressing to me…
This is just my opinion… I’m not a policy setter, and not on any DRM or Copy Protection team. Fill in all the other disclaimers about my opinion not being my employer’s, and all that. 😉