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Macrovision Responds to Steve Jobs on DRM 221

Posted by Zonk
from the thinking-out-loud dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Macrovision Corporation, best known for its long history of DRM implementations, (everything from VCRs to software copy protection), has responded to Steve Jobs open letter regarding DRM. With ample experience and despite the obvious vested interests, it's great to hear their point of view. In the letter they acknowledge the 'difficult challenges' of implementing DRM that is truly 'interoperable and open'. At the same time they also feel that DRM 'will increase electronic distribution', if implemented properly, because 'DRM increases not decreases consumer value', such as by enabling people to rent content at a lower price than ownership, and lowering risks for content producers. While I'm impressed they responded, I can't say I'm impressed by lofty goals that might not be reached for years. The reality is, current DRM implementations often leave users with the bad end of the deal. What do you think? Should people give DRM manufacturers more time to overcome the challenges and get it right?"
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Macrovision Responds to Steve Jobs on DRM

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  • by mAIsE (548) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @05:27AM (#18049342) Homepage
    I would disagree that buying music that is flawed EG i can't use it with devices i desire, vs buying in DRM free for increases consumer value!!

    But what do I know I am just a consumer ;) ...
  • by bug1 (96678) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @05:39AM (#18049410)
    "such as by enabling people to rent content at a lower price than ownership"

    Consumers don't get the opportunity to "own" media, consumers get no ownership rights at all, we cant resell, get a refund etc like you can with a TV you buy.

    Consumers get usage rights as granted by the copyright holder, DRM makes it easier to restrict these usage rights which takes us further away from what they would call "ownership".

    Smells like fud to me.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 17, 2007 @05:40AM (#18049422)
    As far as I am concerned there is no value in a product you buy and can't use as you see fit. The one thing that doesn't want to be admitted here is that it isn't what a company sets the price and value at that has meaning. It what the customer is willing to pay for it that sets the value. You can make all the thousand dollar matches you want, if your customers won't buy them then you go broke waiting for the sale.

    While the example may be a good bit overextended, it makes the point no less applicable. Selling a nonphysical product at the price of a physical one and then limiting what can be done with it lowers the value that is already seen as near nil by the majority of the public.
  • by Lobais (743851) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @05:51AM (#18049452)
    At first sight their argument about letting people rent videos might sound reasonable,
    but then in real life, why rent videos to a lower prize, when it costs the same (or even less) for the content manufacturers to give a real copy?
  • Re:renting content (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DrSkwid (118965) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @05:55AM (#18049472) Homepage Journal
    There's a tiny store near us called 'blockbuster', I wonder if it will catch on?
  • by Noonian Soong (1016626) <soong&member,fsf,org> on Saturday February 17, 2007 @05:56AM (#18049484)
    I don't think DRM will ever develop to a good thing. Either it places restrictions on a user regarding OS, player, mobile device, etc. or it is available everywhere which will make the DRM system more vulnerable to cracks. Then it's a waste of money to develop such a system if it's unable to protect content. Was making analog copies of VHS tapes and DVDs really prevented by the Macrovision protection on there? No. So why develop it in the first place?
  • by DrSkwid (118965) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @05:57AM (#18049492) Homepage Journal
    then you're in the wrong business
  • Re:renting content (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dangitman (862676) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @06:05AM (#18049538)
    The wanker-in-chief Fred Amoroso says:

    Quite simply, if the owners of high-value video entertainment are asked to enter, or stay in a digital world that is free of DRM, without protection for their content, then there will be no reason for them to enter, or to stay if they've already entered. The risk will be too great.

    Quite simply, this is bullshit. Some of the greatest (sorry, "High value") music and film was produced in an era when there was no DRM. The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Charlie Chaplin, B.B King, Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, Martin Scorcese, Stanley Kubrick, even Steven Spielberg created their work in a pre-DRM era and somehow managed to sell their work.

    Are we really to believe that people such as these would not pursue their art if there were not DRM? It doesn't even make sense from a hardcore businessperson's point-of-view. If someone stamps their feet and says "Fine, I'm not going to make my brilliant movie because I cannot use DRM," then there is no loss. Someone else with more sense will simply step up to the plate and make their movie instead, and profit from it. To think that one cannot make money on media without DRM is ridiculous. History has shown this. If there is money to made, somebody will do it.

    Some will argue that less profit would be made without DRM due to piracy. Even if this were true, less profit does not equal no profit. But various studies have shown that piracy does not affect sales much, and nobody has ever been able to demonstrate that DRM prevents piracy. In fact, it is more likely that DRM reduces profit, because companies have to pay a "DRM tax" to the ridiculolus companies who make crappy DRM, like Macrovision. It's basically an extra cost that doesn't even prevent piracy.

    We offer to assist Apple in the issues and problems with DRM that you state in your letter. Should you desire, we would also assume responsibility for FairPlay as a part of our evolving DRM offering and enable it to interoperate across other DRMs, thus increasing consumer choice and driving commonality across devices.

    Macrovision even think they can do a better job than Apple, and offered to "take responsibility" for Fairplay. This is hilarious. They are obviously jealous of Apple's success, and would love to be given access to Apple's products. Does anyone think that Macrovision could do a better job? Apple is one of the top software producers in the world. Macrovision is a bunch of hacks, a one-trick pony who has made a living from a stupid analog video hack. I doubt they are even competent to write software. We've all seen the kind of shit that bottom-feeding companies like this produce, and it ain't pretty. (think Sony rootkits)

  • by AC5398 (651967) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @06:12AM (#18049566)
    Nothing irritates me faster than being forced to watch that drivel BEFORE I get to watch the movie I PAID FOR!

  • by Walt Dismal (534799) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @06:52AM (#18049758)
    It seems to me that the DRM people are basically parasites. They do not create the original source material, they would have no function if the source material did not exist. Now I admit that if original works that are expensive to produce (movies) were heavily pirated, then no one could afford to make them and they would generally not come into being. (Although machinima is pointing to the future when maybe you won't need to spend $50 million to produce a movie, with a $10 million paycheck for some actor.) But I think that neither parasites nor pirates have an honorable role in society. Maybe we need new models for the arts that make both irrelevant. Look at the great animation that came from projects sponsored by the National Film Board of Canada. Then look at the latest Hollywood stinkbomb produced by the existing bloated system. Somewhere there's something wrong.

    And on a side note, if we have a system where DRM is needed to protect Kevin Federline or Britney, it begs the question of why lock up turds in a vault anyway.

  • by Legion303 (97901) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @06:55AM (#18049770) Homepage
    The really hilarious part here is that I've never seen those infomercials before movies, because I stopped paying for the movie theater "experience" (i.e., douchebags with cell phones, sticky floors, and 25 minutes of car commercials on the screen) long before the studios started adding them. So the people like me--who might actually feel a smidgen of guilt at seeing the infomercials--don't actually see them, while people who are doing the right thing by paying instead of stealing get to be annoyed by shit that doesn't apply to them in the first place.

    I guess I just defined irony.
  • Re:renting content (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jbuda123 (1022623) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @07:24AM (#18049876)

    The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Charlie Chaplin, B.B King, Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, Martin Scorcese, Stanley Kubrick, even Steven Spielberg created their work in a pre-DRM era and somehow managed to sell their work.
    DRM = Digital Rights Management. I don't think any of these people had to fear digital reproduction of their content when they made it. Or did your IBM 650 vacuum-tube machine have an LP duplicator?
  • Re:Facts (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pembo13 (770295) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @08:25AM (#18050162) Homepage
    10. The executives who think this DRM stuff up, go to bed every night with a big smile thinking of all the money their making despite having cheated on their tests all the way from high school to college, since they are now putting their training to good use.
  • Re:renting content (Score:2, Insightful)

    by chaoticgeek (874438) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @08:26AM (#18050168) Homepage Journal
    But if we are renting the license to use whatever we paid money for, movie or music than if we break the medium it came on or how we obtained it in the first place it should be replaced for us for free or for the cost of the medium. However if we bought the medium it came on such as a DVD/CD then we should have the right to do whatever we want. I don't think they can have it both ways. Either we buy the license to use it or we bought the entire thing that is ours, in which case we can do what ever we please with it.
  • Re:DRM solution... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pembo13 (770295) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @08:27AM (#18050182) Homepage
    How about....no DRM ? There are many other problems in the world looking for solutions, why create more problems?
  • by bukharin (344329) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @08:39AM (#18050226) Homepage
    I agree...

    'DRM increases not decreases consumer value', such as by enabling people to rent content at a lower price than ownership

    This is such bullshit. The price differential between "renting" and "owning" is almost purely profit, and is specifically enabled by DRM. This decreases value, by allowing them to charge us more for something that costs them the same to provide. How stupid do they think we are?
  • Re:DRM solution... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mgiuca (1040724) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @08:53AM (#18050300)
    Let's see...

    It would really suck if my car got stolen. That's why I go to the effort of carrying a key with me everywhere I go to protect it.
    It would also really suck if my house got broken into. Or my bank account. These things are so important that it's worth carrying around a piece of metal or plastic just for that wherever I go.

    If someone copied my music off my iPod... well frankly that would be between them and the RIAA. In other words, I as a consumer have no interest in protecting my music from being stolen (especially when it's being protected from myself), therefore I have no interest in carrying a dongle to access my music.

    Furthermore, my car, my house and my bank account are probably the 3 most expensive things I own, so once again I go to such lengths to protect them. If I am forced to go to such lengths to protect something like my music, then why not have a dongle to activate my toaster, my chair or my shirt?

    As with all DRM, the issue here is that unlike other forms of security (where I go to as much or as little lengths as I wish to protect myself) this is about me being forced to go to exactly the lengths they tell me to go to to protect them. This is a hopeless solution, and I don't think consumers would even be stupid enough to go along with it unlike other forms of DRM.
  • Re:renting content (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tim C (15259) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @09:08AM (#18050400)
    The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Charlie Chaplin, B.B King, Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, Martin Scorcese, Stanley Kubrick, even Steven Spielberg created their work in a pre-DRM era and somehow managed to sell their work.

    They also created their work in a pre-Internet era, in which essentially zero cost distribution to potentially hundreds of millions of people simply wasn't possible.

    I'm no fan of DRM, but you're (intentionally?) ignoring the fact that copyright infringement is a lot easier and on scales orders of magnitude greater now than in the period you're talking about, even ignoring the (solved) problem of generational loss of quality.
  • by RalphBNumbers (655475) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @09:41AM (#18050570)
    Macrovision's CEO's argument with Jobs seems to rest on a faulty foundation. Jobs didn't call for the death of DRM, at least not directly, he called for the big 4 to license their music for sale online without DRM.

    If, like most people reading this, you consider DRM a negative for the consumer, then you'd naturally think DRM-free licensing would obviously lead to the death of DRM, at least for music. But if, like Macrovision's CEO, you claim that DRM actually adds value for the consumer, then you should have nothing to fear from competition with non-DRMed sales. If a consumer thinks it is a better value to rent music with DRM, then they will do so regardless of weather music available for sale elsewhere has DRM or not.

    The idea that DRMed music cannot be successfully sold when non-DRMed music is also available is only valid if you assume that DRM has a negative impact on the consumer large enough to overwhelm any positives it might offer (like the ability to facilitate online rentals). The fact that Macrovision's CEO equates allowing DRM-free sales opportunities to denying DRMed sales opportunities, while asserting that DRM is a positive for the consumer, would seem to indicate that he is either arguing dishonestly or hasn't really thought this out (or both).

    That said, Macrovision's CEO's position actually suggests a compromise (if we assume that Macrovision's CEO is honest in his assertion that he believes DRM adds value for the consumer, and that decision makers at the big 4 agree with him, both of which are far from certain imho):
    If Apple were to license the RIAA (and it's international equivalents) the right to sub-license FairPlay DRM to anyone they liked, in return for the RIAA's members giving Apple license to sell all their music DRM-free under terms no worse than their current ~70% cut, then everybody wins (after a fashion).
    Apple gets to sell music DRM-free, the RIAA&co get to sell/rent DRMed music for the iPod under whatever terms they like, and the customer gets to have their choice.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 17, 2007 @10:04AM (#18050696)

    Can you own all of it? Can you afford all of it? People instinctively want to own all that media since there has never been a single central, *reliable*, *compatible* and *immediate* source where they can go to and rent their media.
    How exactly does a single centralised source fit in with the free market?

    Imagine being able to to rent a DRM-ed movie for 10-20 cents for specific 3 devices (example: three iPods, *or* your iPod, your PC, and your home cinema station), which expires in 3 days. And all movies produced worldwide instantly available in this central store, forever.
    Imagine perpetual copyrights and no public domain. While, at the same time, artists are forced to hand over their right to control what happens to their work.

    Basically, you're advocating artistic communism. Thanks, but I prefer an imperfect freedom to perfect captivity.
  • by devlynh (857521) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @10:26AM (#18050846)
    DRM is a method by which the distributors can keep charging consumers ad nauseum for access to what they already have paid for. Same goes for media format changes (LP, Cassette, CD, VHS, Beta, DVD, MP3, etc...) We are living an age where you don't purchase anything, you only rent it monthly or weekly.
    When you purchase a blender you own it. You can use it as you choose, where, when and how.
    Imagine if when you paid for a blender there was a EULA that stated that you actually did not purchase the blender but only a license to use it. Also by "opening this blender you agree to only blend drinks for 4 people or less" (you could purchase a license for a 4 to 8 person blender) and that you could not have any alcoholic product in the blender. And that if you violated any of the EULA that the licenser of the blender could turn off the blender remotely and you have no leave for appeal. That effectively is what the distributors of music want and DRM is the enforcement mechanism.
    We have become the ultimate in consumer society, we can now pay money for items we can never own. What's next on the restricted list, cars, shoes, clothing, food... (by purchasing this potato you agree that it will used for its nutritional content only and not for use in advertising or promotion, and built into it is a chip to sense camera lights and explode the potato to prevent such uses)
    We need to take back our rights as consumers, avoid DRM protected media, and challenge EULA's at every opportunity (most won't hold up in court anyway). Lets stop purchasing rights and start purchasing products.
  • Please, Apple... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by techmuse (160085) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @10:35AM (#18050904)
    "At Macrovision we are willing to lead this industry effort. We offer to assist Apple in the issues and problems with DRM that you state in your letter. Should you desire, we would also assume responsibility for FairPlay as a part of our evolving DRM offering and enable it to interoperate across other DRMs, thus increasing consumer choice and driving commonality across devices."

    ie. "Please, Apple. Give us the keys to your iPod and let us make money from your copy protection scheme while you abandon it" Huh?
  • by walterbyrd (182728) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @10:53AM (#18051028)
    I have not seen drm lowering prices. Maybe I'm missing something?
  • by smenor (905244) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @12:45PM (#18052038)
    What you say is true, but, aside from people who hang out here, it seems that an awful lot of people (myself included) place enough value in iTMS songs, music videos, TV shows, and movies that they're very happy to pay what Apple charges, despite the DRM.
  • by YetAnotherBob (988800) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @06:38PM (#18055010)
    That is all they established in thier letter.

    1. DRM is broader than just music. This one is true. Digital restictions are placed on more than just music. They cause problems for legal purchasers of movies and computer software as well. As Sony showed us a year or so ago, DRM doesn't mix well with other media either.

    2. DRM Increases Consumer Value. FALSE. This only shows that the author has no idea what value is. Value is increased by ability to use the product. DRM is all about limiting the ability to use the product. DRM is diametricly opposed to the value of the product. You do not increase by limiting. Limiting DECREASES. Jobs at least got this one right in his letter.

    3. DRM will increase electronic distribution. FALSE. Electronic distribution was at it's peak with Napster (the origional, not the current imitator). Record companies never saw thier sales as high as they were when Napster was operating. When it was shut down, sales plummeted. Only with the rise of the P2P services have sales recovered. Somewhat. Experience shows that consumers are not the fools this group hopes they are. Limiting the ability of purchasers to use the product will result in sales declining. (That is after what DRM does. It is all it does.) Electronic distribution is only one more avenue for sales. Choking the users of the product will not result in increased sales. Non DRM media will outsell restricted media in every market where it is available.

    4. DRM needs to be interoperable and open. this is just his pitch to be the new monopoly in this space. It won't happen. Microsoft and Apple both have thier eyes set on that little plum, as whoever controls the most used format will have the Hollywood billionaires by the throat. They would both love to be in that position. Both Jobs and Gates would rather see nobody in control, than the other guy in control. That's why they are both making minor moves in an open direction.

    The end result should be that the producers realize that giving your business to somebody else is not a good move. The past efforts at 'DRM' have done nothing to deter mass pilfering of movies or music. The latest attempts (Blue-Ray and HD-DVD) were broken less than a week after going on sale. the professional copiers in organized crime were already selling bootlegs on the street by then.

    I wish that this whole ugly assault on purchasers by a power mad industry would just go away. But, I don't think they are that smart. Or that honest.
  • by mikeydb (880405) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @08:10PM (#18055700)
    If the downloaded music in question is 'hurting your ears' then maybe (in the UK at least) there's a trade descriptions act problem, should music hurt your ears? Even at 0.99c/ 50p a track? Also, how do you define low quality, an AAC file encoded at 128kbps, is that low quality? Or is Mp3 at 192kbps low quality? How does it compare with casette or vinyl? I had the pleasure of listening to a casette album on a relatively good quality casette deck, and was surprised at how good it sounded, bearing in mind I listen mostly to music encoded with either Mp3 (typically 192kbps) or AAC (usually 128kbps on the few files bought from the itunes music store) via the pc or ipod. I have to add I have no desire to return to the days of casette and unpicking chewed up tape from the car casette drive..
  • by im_thatoneguy (819432) on Sunday February 18, 2007 @11:36PM (#18064002)
    I strongly disagree with that position. This is the same kind of bullshit that has been propagated for decades. "Artists should starve for their work." Why? Why shouldn't they be entitled to get payed for their talents like everybody else.

    I am one of those "nonexistant artists who can't punch in" I don't punch in, but if I work 8 hours, I get payed for 8 hours. I also do speculative work, but I don't think my economic security should be put entirely in jeopardy just because what I create is something people find entertaining. You hate your job? I'm sorry, sounds like you made a bad career choice. Making films is a very very difficult business and it's hard enough finding enough work that to suggest when you do find work you should have to eat the risk on every project you work on is lunacy. Most of the people working on films aren't even doing anything "creative", they're craftsman, they're highly skilled and they are good at what they do. Should carpenters build houses speculatively? Should workers in an oil field operating drilling equipment pray to god they hit oil, because if they don't, they won't be able to eat that month? No! Sure you need someone at the top who is willing to take a risk, sure there will be those crazy drillers who will find a venture capital firm willing to sponsor a well or two. There will always be those who want to take the big risk to get the big reward and sometimes they do make it big. Google comes to mind. But that should be limited to a very small number of people as it is today, otherwise until *YOU* start the next google, you have to work at Red Robin serving drinks waiting for a chance to program the next big killer app.

    You can be creative, and you can create art on the clock just as easily as a programmer can create code. Once you've proven yourself as a capable and productive, profitable content producer, I see no reason why you shouldn't be insulated from waiting tables and payed a decent wage to produce future products. Some products might succeed some might fail.

    What next? Cancer researchers should all be independent? Let's have them raise the money on their own to buy the lab equipment and out of their sterile garages produce the next big cure! No! So why should the entertainment industry be any different? If you want to try creating the next big cure... go for it, this is america/canada/britain/france/[insert just about any first world country] go out and do it, if you hit it big, you'll be the next rodriguez.

Your good nature will bring you unbounded happiness.