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DRM And Vista

I’ve been watching a goodly chunk of the hype coming out of Microsoft, of late, over the next generation operating system called “Vista”.  Given the flea circus at the first couple of generations of betas generally are, I haven’t been watching all that closely.  I simply haven’t the time.

However, one discussion that’s come up has been with regards to digital rights management, and the implications for general usage of audio and video.  As you may know, I have an entire server dedicated to MP3 based music.  This is stuff that I have collected over the years, and converted to an 83, from both final, and CD.

The WindowsVistaBlog [1]:

Over the holidays, a paper was distributed that raised questions about the content protection features in Windows Vista.  The paper draws sharp conclusions about the implications of those features for our customers.  As one of the Lead Program Managers for the technologies in question, I would like to share our views on these questions.

Windows Vista includes content protection infrastructure specifically designed to help ensure that protected commercial audiovisual content, such as newly released HD-DVD or Blu-Ray discs, can be enjoyed on Windows Vista PCs.  In many cases this content has policies associated with its use that must be enforced by playback devices.  The policies associated with such content are applicable to all types of devices including Windows Vista PCs, computers running non-Windows operating systems, and standalone consumer electronics devices such as DVD players.  If the policies required protections that Windows Vista couldn’t support, then the content would not be able to play at all on Windows Vista PCs.  Clearly that isn’t a good scenario for consumers who are looking to enjoy great next generation content experiences on their PCs.

Associating usage policies with commercial content is not new to Windows Vista, or to the industry.

No, that’s true.. it is not new, anymore than the bugs associated with it, are.

It’s important to emphasize that while Windows Vista has the necessary infrastructure to support commercial content scenarios, this infrastructure is designed to minimize impact on other types of content and other activities on the same PC.  For example, if a user were viewing medical imagery concurrently with playback of video which required image constraint, only the commercial video would be constrained — not the medical image or other things on the user’s desktop.  Similarly, if someone was listening to commercial audio content while viewing medical imagery, none of the video protection mechanisms would be activated and the displayed images would again be unaffected.

Sony BR disk-FileGreat. So, what happens in the case of the hundreds of hours that I have put into converting and organizing the large audio and video collection that I have here?

The paper implies that Microsoft decides which protections should be active at any given time.  This is not the case.  The content protection infrastructure in Windows Vista provides a range of à la carte options that allows applications playing back protected content to properly enable the protections required by the policies established for such content by the content owner or service provider.  In this way, the PC functions the same as any other consumer electronics device.

Yes, well, that’s the issue, then, isn’t it? We all have horror stories of not being able to play backup copies of various media, because of some half-baked ‘protection’ or another. I am fully within my rights to have such media.  Indeed, it is standard operating practices around Casa de Bit to not directly play CD audio, or, for that matter, video on consumer grade machines.  Rather, the habit is, to upon arrival at home, make a working copy of said media, storing the original as a master copy.  In this way the working life of the disk gets extended to near permanency.

But the protection schemes that Microsoft is apparently signed onto, negate all of that.  In the Microsoft implementation, the quality of playback, even of original disks, is limited to 520k per frame, Which under no condition, can be considered high definition.

So, along comes this stuff.  And Microsoft patiently explains, that vista does not arbitrarily make decisions about what can and cannot be played on it.  Rather, we are led to believe, if indirectly, by implication, that such choices are being made by the RIAA. Gee, that’s a help.

The problem started with the content makers (such as RIAA) and their insistence on DRM… a system faulty and anti-consumer at it’s root… and it being adopted at the hardware level in the first place. That Microsoft sold out to the RIAA, strikes me as counterproductive for both organizations.  And, to me.  Given the automatic nature of Windows updates, and the idea that divers enabling such playback can be crippled at a whim by Redmond and the RIAA, that is exactly what we sign onto, when we install Windows Vista on a machine.  This is by definition anti-consumer.

I find that totally unacceptable.
It’s enough to make one consider moving to another operating system, or simply not bothering to upgrade to whatever Redmond says is the latest and greatest. As a matter of fact, such attitudes may explain why there is such a large population still running Windows 2000, today. And why the RIAA is about as popular as a guy in a headscarf yelling ‘Allah is great”. People know there’s going to be an explosion eventually, and want to be nowhere near it.
They each, (MS and RIAA) apparently, have trouble understanding the damage that they’re doing to their own industry.  Eventually, consumer anger is going to spill over.  And I suggest, that anger has thusfar been muted somewhat, and turned into a lack of sales.  Thusfar, anyway. But what it turns into later? Doesn’t take much to guess.
Ever heard of the Boston Tea Party?

Understand me clearly; my objection here is not to Microsoft’s implementation of this, but that it is being foisted off at all by such as the RIAA. Once that happened, Microsoft’s adoption of it, was inevitable, given the power of the lawsuit.  Inevitably the “protections”, are hurting the consumer.  Certainly, it has already cost Microsoft, given the development time involved. And of course, the consumer ends up paying for that, too.

At least those who continue to pay for this nonsense. For my part, I will not buy disks crippled with ‘protection’. If that means I don’t buy new music or video, so be it.