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October 25, 2004
More on Me2Me: Market No Savior
Cory on why the market won't protect people from attacks on "me2me" freedoms:
Advocates of DRM talk about the ability of the market to find a balance between features and restrictions, because people whose freedom has been unduly restricted will make future purchase decisions that will put the overly draconian DRM systems out of business. But check out this cautionary tale of a guy who bought a home-media centre, started recording his favorite shows to DVD, and then:
Turns out that a couple of days ago, HBO started encrypting all of its programs with CGMS-A. They allow you to "copy" a program that you record from their signal once. The trouble is that they consider that one-time copy to be recording the program onto your hard drive, not taking it from the hard drive to a DVD. THAT SUCKS OUT LOUD and I am extremely angry, as you can imagine. The files are HUGE and, even though I have a 200 gb hard drive, I can't keep them there forever.
When he bought the media centre, it did the thing he wanted it to do with the shows he wanted to do it to: it's like buying a VCR to record the World Series, taking it home and satisfying yourself that it works. It worked.
Then, months later, it stopped working. He could no longer record his favorite shows. Why? Well, because the cablecaster decided to remove a right from him. And because Gateway, the company who sold him the equipment, decided to collaborate with the cablecaster in screwing him out of that right.
When this guy goes back to the store, what should he do to protect his next investment? Say he buys an HP device next, having concluded that Gateway won't look out for his interests. He takes it home and finds that it works fine for his purposes (maybe HP has a "better" deal with HBO that will let him burn more-restricted DVDs from his HP media-centre), then, a couple months later, the cablecaster switches on another flag and suddenly his video won't work.
Where's the market-force here? Should he stop being an HBO customer? A cable customer? A customer for only those PCs that he builds himself and installs a copy of GNU/Linux on?
What purchase-decision can he make or avoid in order to signal to the market that this kind of restrictiveness is unduly harsh and he won't pay for it any longer?
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