Repeat after me: DRM is bad for the customer

DRM, or digital rights management is the fancy term that movie and record companies use to mean copy protection. Basically they use some sort of technical lock-in technique so you can only play your media on a particular device, or it prevents you from making back up copies.

I don’t know about you, but for music, I want to play it a lot of places. iPhones and iPods, Sonos, streaming to Xbox or PS3, on my Mac, on Windows, etc. etc. My solution? Anything I buy is in MP3 format from Amazon or ripped to MP3 from a music CD. That way, I can play it everywhere.

Now when it comes to movies and DVD’s, I’ve never been a really big ‘ripper.’ I am an audiophile when it comes to movies. I want my 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound for my movie. Ripping a movie and streaming it across the network usually loses the surround sound and reduces it to stereo. That really limits my enjoyment. Add to that the fact that ripping a movie is questionably legal.

Nowadays, both of my daughters have iPod touches. As such, when we go on long trips, they can bring a movie or two along with them. The movie company’s compromise has been what is called ‘digital copy.’ So you can buy a Blu-Ray or DVD with a Digital Copy included. The DVD/Blu-Ray set with digital copy generally costs more, but you get a portable version of the movie that you can take with you. Every movie I’ve gotten with a digital copy up to this point works as follows:

  • You get an extra disc
  • You pop that disc in your Mac or Windows machine
  • iTunes pops up
  • You have to enter a DRM code that came with the movie
  • The movie downloads off the disc and into iTunes

So first of all, you have this movie that can only be played in the iTunes ecosystem. iPods, iPhones, iPads and AppleTV. It’s annoying, but that’s largely what we have in our house, so for the girls to take their movies with them, it’s a compromise.

Well yesterday we bought the movie ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.’ It was really funny movie and it comes highly recommended. BUT. It was a DVD/Blu-Ray/Digital Copy combo. We paid extra for the digital copy. Well yesterday I realize that the digital copy is only for Playstation 3 and the Playstation Portable. The big text on the front simply said Digital Copy, so I assumed it was the same digital copy as I always could get (a la iTunes.) Looking at the back of the box, I later found the tiny print saying it was for the PS3 and PSP, but the giant bold lettering on the front didn’t tell me that.

So needless to say, I paid extra for a digital copy that I’ll never use. I’m savvy to this stuff, and I still bought the wrong thing. How many other people is this happening to? It’s not good for the consumer in any case. If they are going to include a digital copy, it should be something open standards that can be played pretty much anywhere.

Yesterday, the movie companies turned me into a ‘ripper’ of movies. I’ll have no qualms ripping my own copy for portable enjoyment from now on. I’m not going to pirate anything, I’m simply never paying EXTRA to get LESS. I’ll take the DVD and make my own copy, and watch it anywhere.

Somewhere Volker nods approvingly