Tag Archives: drm

Does DRM-free music on iTunes really matter?

At MacWorld ’09, one of Apple’s “big” announcements was that the iTunes music store would be completely DRM free by the end of 2009.

As long as there are no competing hardware innovations from other companies, DRM-free music doesn’t matter one bit.

The majority of people use iTunes because they love their iPod (or iPhone) and not the other way around.   The announcement for DRM-free music doesn’t do anything for the normal user, that has a one or two computers and an iPod/iPhone.   Amazon has had DRM-free music for quite some time, but Apple hasn’t been any closer to losing their death grip on the digital music industry.

As it currently stands, the player and music store business is a parallel to the wireless phone  industry.

Traditionally, wireless carriers  would lock you into their service in 4 ways — service contracts, wireless coverage, handset selection and most important, the inability to move your cell phone number to another service provider.  Switching carriers meant that you’d lose your phone number, so for years and years, we put up with each carrier’s BS because we didn’t want Mom inadvertantly calling some stranger because you switched to AT&T.

However, after wireless phone number portability came about, wireless carriers lost their biggest leverage over us.  With this, came lower prices, shorter contracts and an increasing equality in coverage as they all fought to keep our business.  Carriers quickly realized that handset selection could be a big differentiator and became the new reason why customers would stay begrudgingly loyal.  This is why AT&T’s exclusive deal with Apple for the iPhone was key to give AT&T Cingular AT&T a significant advantage over Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile.  Customeres from other services ran to AT&T not because of their customer service, superior prices, or even their coverage area.  It was because they had the iPhone.

Apple’s dominance with the  iTunes store is not due to lock in from DRM.  It’s because they made kickass elegant devices.  Even though it is an expectation today that buying and sync’ing music is easy, back when the iTunes store launched, it was considered icing on the perfect hardware cake.  This caused more and more people to flock to the holy temple of Steve Jobs for their music purchasing needs.

Until someone comes around and makes a phone or portable music player that is both better than the Apple products and has a music service that is at least on par in terms of selection and ease of use, DRM-free music is just a marketing bullet that Apple can use to show they’re “open“.

DVD Playback and Analog Copy protection on Vista solved

I wrote previously about how I couldn’t get a DVD to playback on Vista due to my video driver and card not being HDCP Compliant and throwing an analog copy error.

I found a dead simple work around — just don’t use Windows Media Player.  Instead, I installed VLC Player and it plays the DVDs without any problems.  Ugh, why is DRM such a pain in the butt?

DVD and Analog copy protection on Vista

I brought along my tiny Sony VGN-T160P on my trip with me to Charlotte as I didn’t want to lug around my Thinkpad T60p which is my normal workhorse.  On the Sony I have Vista installed along with IE8 Beta, Firefox 3 RC1 and the full Office 2007 suite.   Although Vista doesn’t scream on it, it’s completely usable for what I need it for and since it also has a built-in DVD drive it seemed to make it a great travel companion for this trip.

My plane takes off from Seatac and I fire up the notebook to do a  bit of work.  Powerpoint, Excel and Word perform flawlessly, so no surprises there.

After I finish my work, I pop in a DVD I brought with me to watch on the remainder of the flight.  The previews play as well as the top-level menu on the DVD. However, as soon as I start to play the main movie, Windows Media Player stops and throws up this error dialog that says:

“Windows Media Player cannot play this DVD because it is not possible to turn on analog copy protection on the output display.  Try installing an updated driver for your video card.”

Canot play this DVD because it is not possible to turn on analog copy protection on the output display.  Try installing an Updated driver for your video card

“copy protection on my analog display”? WTF?!  So looks like there is some copy protection vista requires to be built into the video driver in order for me to even play DVDs.  This is was a surprise to say the least since I have the latest drivers installed.  There doesn’t seem to be any workaround to this that I can find. Ugh.

So I was movie-less the rest of the flight and luckily had my Zune so I could rock out to the latest Ladytron and M83 albums on my Zune.

I got to my hotel room later in the day and did some digging and found that the error message is due to my graphics card (Intel 82852) and corresponding driver don’t comply with the HDCP standard.  I tried finding updated drivers for Vista on the Intel site with no luck.

I would’ve expected this type of DRM/copy protection to only apply with external display outputs and not my laptop’s LCD.  Anyone have a workaround?

Update (5/30/2008): I found a work around!