Friday, May 16, 2008

NBC-Vista copy-protection snafu reminds us why DRM stinks:

It seems the flag only triggered copy protection measures in Vista, as one of our staffers with a DirecTV HD DVR recorded Gladiators as usual, and a TiVo spokesperson told CNet that the company had not received any complaints. Spokespersons from Microsoft and NBC also told CNet that the issue was being looked into, indicating that the broadcast flag was likely switched on by accident.

The serves as a unsettling reminder that broadcasters can give instructions to the software built into DVRs, although they almost never do. Many DVRs and other, similar devices appear to be aware of the content-restriction flags set by broadcasters, even if they're not programmed to "obey" them by default. Still, broadcasters would love to have the power to stop users from recording their shows, watching them later, and most importantly, skipping commercials when they do it.

Remember: DRM isn't about fighting piracy. It's about the ability to strictly control how we consume content. Users who are interested in pirating TV shows and movies aren't going to do so with a DVR or buy them through PPV. They've already skipped the middle-man and gone straight to BitTorrent with its decent-quality, commercial-less, and DRM-free offerings. Boneheaded mistakes like the one apparently made by NBC and Microsoft Monday night will only serve to make alternative means of obtaining content more attractive.

12:03 PM