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RIAA Says "Don't Expect DRMed Music To Work Forever" 749

Posted by timothy
from the just-ask-what-and-whether-you're-buying-or-renting dept.
Oracle Goddess writes "Buying DRMed content, then having that content stop working later, is fair, writes Steven Metalitz, the lawyer who represents the MPAA, RIAA in a letter to the top legal advisor at the Copyright Office. 'We reject the view that copyright owners and their licensees are required to provide consumers with perpetual access to creative works.' In other words, if it stops working, too bad. Not surprisingly, Metalitz also strongly opposes any exemption that would allow users to legally strip DRM from content if a store goes dark and takes down its authentication servers."
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RIAA Says "Don't Expect DRMed Music To Work Forever"

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  • Illegal (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @01:55PM (#28884953)

    So they're knowingly defrauding the buyer by intentionally selling something not fit for purpose?

    I assume our wise and courageous Justice Department will hand down indictments any minute!

  • Seriously? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by thisnamestoolong (1584383) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @01:57PM (#28885003)
    Record sales are slowing down, and you are trying to cash in on the digital economy. How do you go about it? Well, if you're the RIAA, you publicly come out and announce to everyone that you are going to sell them a product that can arbitrarily stop working. Ugh, I really hope that the RIAA is not long for this world. Oh, and if they start getting bailout money I am leaving the country, mark my words. They have undermined their own business and they deserve to fail.
  • From TFA:

    When GM went bankrupt they didn't come and take away everybody's car keys.

  • They are Goblins. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @01:59PM (#28885055) Journal
    Everyone knows that when a muggle or a wizard buys a goblin made object, it is not really sold. It is licensed to the user but eventually it should be returned to the maker.

    "You don't understand, Harry, nobody could understand unless they have lived with the goblins. To a goblin, the rightful and true master of any object is its maker, not the purchaser. All goblin-made objects are, in goblin eyes, rightfully theirs."

    "But if it was bought ---"

    "---then they would consider it rented by one who had paid the money. They have, however, great difficulty with the idea of goblin-made objects passing from wizard to wizard. [snip] I believe he thinks, as do the fiercest of his kind, that it [the Sword of Gryffindor] ought to have been returned to the goblins once the original purchaser died. They consider our habit of keeping goblin-made objects, passing them from wizard to wizard without further payment, little more than theft."

  • In Regards... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by whisper_jeff (680366) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @02:00PM (#28885067)
    Dear RIAA,

    In regards to your notice that you feel it is fair to arbitrarily remove something I have purchased from my possession (via disabling DRM'd music), I wish to inform you that you will never, ever, ever get another cent from me. I wish you good luck in maintaining your failing empire as it crumbles down around you for I am certain I am far from the only person who is disgusted at your activities and your outright contempt for me as a "customer." Thus I am certain others will also forgo purchasing your latest CD from Pop Star X and chose to instead invest that entertainment dollar in something - anything - that is of value. Your product no longer has value.

    Thank you and goodbye.
  • Warning/Disclaimer? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mr. Sketch (111112) <mister.sketch@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Thursday July 30, 2009 @02:07PM (#28885199)

    What if there was a warning/disclaimer before every purchase of DRM'd media (music, books, etc) that said something to the effect of:
    "This content contains digital protections to prevent copyright infringement. Part of these protections mean that if we decide to stop supporting this content or go out of business then you will never be able to legally access this content."

    Just so people know what they're getting into. After all, it would only be a fair full disclosure of what they're buying and it might make people think twice about buying DRM'd media, but then again, I doubt the warnings on cigarettes really make people think twice about smoking.

  • Re:That's funny (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lorenlal (164133) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @02:09PM (#28885249)

    But this is more like a case of the retailer showing up at your door and breaking the disc in half. In that case, you bet I better get a replacement from that retailer.

    If they're shutting down their DRM server, then they need to release non-DRMd copies of the music to the end user... Well... Actually, I guess that depends on the EULA. Someone care to check it?

  • Re:Seriously? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Mango Fett (1457557) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @02:12PM (#28885281)

    I echo your "Seriously?" sentimonies. I am constantly giving my girlfriend shit for infringing copyrights, but this is insane. I read it to be "Just because you buy something from us doesn't give you the right to listen to it x time from now". Bullshit indeed!

    While I have been sympathetic to their generic argument "You want to listen to this song, then you should buy it", I am starting to think they've taken a few hundred miles with the inch I gave them.

    Perchance this is how pirates are born?

  • Re:That's funny (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ukyoCE (106879) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @02:20PM (#28885421) Journal

    Mod parent up, absolutely right. The only people who should be surprised when their DRMed media stop working should be the people who have no clue the media has DRM on it in the first place. And we should be educating those people and warning them not to buy DRM encumbered media.

    Really, laws should have been passed several years back requiring much more explicit notification of restrictions. It's no OK to market DRM-encumbered music as a normal permanent copy of the media, when in fact it's being treated as a temporary single-device license.

  • Rejecting copyright (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ioldanach (88584) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @02:24PM (#28885503)
    "We reject the view, ... that copyright owners and their licensees are required to provide consumers with perpetual access to creative works. No other product or service providers are held to such lofty standards. No one expects computers or other electronics devices to work properly in perpetuity, and there is no reason that any particular mode of distributing copyrighted works should be required to do so."

    I reject the view that your works have been published in a medium where copyright is applicable if the medium is specifically designed to have its own safeguards against copying. Such safeguards are their own form of copy prevention and, if used, should be considered a replacement, not augmentation, of the copyright protections afforded by law.

  • by T Murphy (1054674) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @02:25PM (#28885527) Journal
    We like to use the term IP. Imaginary Property. If you go to submit a story there is no other tag in the dropdown menu when looking for IP.
  • Re:That's funny (Score:4, Interesting)

    by c0d3g33k (102699) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @02:26PM (#28885543)
    Bad example. First off, a little turtle wax will fix the small scratches, so unless the data layer itself is damaged, this is a fixable problem. Second, one's own neglect does not justify getting a replacement. If you don't take care of what you own, it's your own fault. Third (and most pertinent to your comment), it depends on whether the item was "sold" or "licensed". If the CD was sold to me, then it's my property and my responsibility. If the content was merely "licensed" to me and the CD was just the medium used to deliver the "content", then yes, I would expect to have access to my replacement content in perpetuity. Not necessarily in the same format - I would be satisfied with perpetual access to a digital copy that I can transfer to whichever medium I prefer. Or the right to obtain a replacement copy of the content from a source of my own choosing. The original but non-functional CD can serve as proof of purchase. To be honest, I would prefer the latter scenario and would be much more likely to act as a patron of "creative works", so that I could keep up with changes in technology, rather than being limited to a single medium that becomes obscolescent over time. In fact, I might even be willing to pay more for the privilege of owning access to the content in perpetuity.
  • by gnasher719 (869701) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @02:29PM (#28885601)

    iTunes music no longer has DRM, ...

    iTunes music that was bought with DRM still has DRM. I can pay to upgrade it to be DRM-free, but I am not willing to do that (right now) because everything I want to do with the music can be done with DRM.

    Fortunately you can easily remove DRM from iTunes music without any loss in quality (burn onto CD, then import back in a lossless format) at the cost of one CD and about 20 MB per song wasted. But since I can actually still play records that I got almost forty years ago, I find the thought that forty year old LP's might outlast music that I bought last year quite disturbing.

  • by ssintercept (843305) <> on Thursday July 30, 2009 @02:40PM (#28885773) Journal
    i think they do care and that it is their business model. my records (LPs/vinyl) didnt last forever (scratched/ broken/warped in the back seat of my car), so i bought them on tape(8track/cassette). tape player(s) ate those. i bought cd's versions of all my albums when that format came out. again they got scratched, ex girlfriend stole them or whatever. then, through the magic of PCs i could back them up. i could burn that disc over and over and over again. i could even burn a copy for that evil bitch GF who stale my wilco albums. i just cut those fuckers (read as- music industry) out of the loop and out of a huge source of income.
  • that quote is hilarious

    considering the formidable army of ip lawyers team jk rowling has assembled, and their frequent aggressive efforts at maintaining hegemony, jk rowling certainly is no stranger to intellectual property law. if this wasn't conscious parody on her part, then it had to be unconscious. because by the time a goblin appears in the harry potter books, she was firmly entrenched in cultural superstar status and all the ip lawyering that involves

  • by NotWithABang (1570431) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @02:41PM (#28885801)
    I keep thinking how these approaches would work when applied to books.
    Imagine buying a great book, a classic even, that you'd like to have a copy of to reread over the years and maybe introduce your kids to later on.

    Now imagine the ink disappearing or turning to gibberish after an allowable reading period (5 years? 1 year? 1 month?). I wonder what your average reader's reaction would be if they pulled their copy of their favourite novel off their bookshelf, opened it, and found it to be completely empty (actually, it would be amusing if the pages could just disintegrate in a puff of smoke!)

    And now imagine that you don't even know what this allowable reading period could be. Every time you open that novel, it could be for the last time.

    Honestly, I'm amazed we still have public libraries. I mean, they let people read FOR FREE for crying out loud. People are gaining knowledge, cultures are being distributed, ideas are being thought... and it's not being monetized?! This madness has to stop!

    But, never fear, this can be easily solved by applying lessons we've learned from the music and movie industries. We can have reader licensing fees, or perhaps usage-based models where we can charge by the book or by the page. We can offer incentives to keep people reading too, pay for 10 pages, read the 11th free! (This offer not applicable where the current literary work ends in 10 or less pages. Page credits not applicable to other works.)

    ...I'm going to have to kick my own ass if the RIAA-equivalent in the book world sees this and takes these suggestions seriously.
  • by Abreu (173023) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @02:56PM (#28886035)

    Amazon doesn't sell music files outside of the four countries they currently support

    iTunes doesn't work in my computer.

    Back to ripping CDs I go...

  • Re:Forever? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 30, 2009 @02:59PM (#28886091)

    You are missing the point. This wouldn't be illegal if it was mentioned in the licensing agreement, but it is frequently not. Also, not doing business with a company is not recourse if they are a monopoly or just ridiculously and unavoidably large.

  • Re:Forever? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by blackraven14250 (902843) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @03:05PM (#28886179)

    This is basically the reason why Image Comics [] was formed. They (Todd McFarlane, Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld, and some others) decided they weren't gonna give up the rights to their own creations to Marvel, so they formed what is essentially only a publisher of comics, not the typical publisher-studio combo that DC and Marvel are. They then became one of the top 4 comic publishers in the US because they were only publishers.

    So, why doesn't someone try following their lead in the music industry?

  • Re:Forever? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Grishnakh (216268) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @03:09PM (#28886221)

    Also, not doing business with a company is not recourse if they are a monopoly or just ridiculously and unavoidably large.

    You would have a point here if we were talking about Microsoft, but we're not. DRMed music, despite the hysteria, seems to be on the way out. Last I heard, the songs on iTunes didn't have DRM any more (correct me if I'm wrong, I'm not an iTunes customer), and sells MP3s. On top of that, regular CDs are still available, usually cheaper than buying all the songs online.

    Who still buys DRMed music these days? Maybe the morons that bought Zunes and use the Zune music store, but that's not exactly a lot of people.

    Personally, I only buy CDs for myself and rip those to .ogg for my computer and iRiver MP3 player. I've bought a few MP3s from as well for my wife, and they worked just fine and were cheaper than songs on iTunes. Between Amazon, iTunes dumping DRM, and CDs, I'm not sure why DRM is even an issue with music any more.

  • Re:Forever? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dkleinsc (563838) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @03:14PM (#28886327) Homepage

    It may not be induce criminal liability, but I'd think it's grounds for a lawsuit (probably a class-action in this case): [] (probably fraudulent misrepresentation)

    The misrepresentation in this case is that the product is sold as the legal right to listen to the electronic recording of a piece of music along with a copy of said electronic recording, and failed to properly represent the clause "until we decide to take it away without notice of any kind". Alternate legal arguments for damages might be a violation of the implied warranty of merchantability (that is that the product is at least approximately what the seller said it was).

    Basically, the idea that party A can sell a widget to party B, and then take it away from party A at any time without notice either in the original purchase agreement or at the time of retaking, is pretty obviously something that should land you in legal hot water.

    NYCL or the EFF could probably have a field day with this sort of thing. I, on the other hand, am not a lawyer, and this does not constitute legal advice.

  • Moral Work Ethic (Score:5, Interesting)

    by copponex (13876) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @03:19PM (#28886371) Homepage

    This addresses a larger moral issue completely missing from modern discussion about the subject.

    In the past, charging interest rates above 5%, if at all, was considered immoral and known as usury. It was so frowned upon because people recognized that making money without working is immoral and unethical in and of itself. Likewise, Adam Smith recognized that a high interest rate would cause capital to flood out of every industry into finance, since you can't hope to build a factory and have the same return as you would simply lending the same money for 10%.

    The problem is that distribution of goods is now virtually free and worldwide compared to even a hundred years ago. Digital content even more so. It's understandable that patents and copyrights emerged as mechanisms to reward people for work, but the expiration of these rights is central to progress and promoting competition. Otherwise huge corporations will simply grow larger as they acquire the rights to human knowledge and creativity, and stifle any competition with their largesse and legal abuse.

  • Re:That's funny (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tuoqui (1091447) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @03:30PM (#28886537) Journal

    I would say a conditional 'No'.

    If the customer is allowed to make 'back up' copies legally on their own without the risk of going to jail for breaking something stupid like the DMCA then I'd say no. It's their responsibility to back their CD's up.

    If the customer is NOT allowed to make 'back up' copies legally then I would say that yes it is the Record Label's responsibility to provide them with free replacements in perpetuity because otherwise the customer would have made their own back up copies if they could have. (Assuming they mail the damaged disk back to them)

    Basically the RIAA is trying to have their cake and eat it too. Either people are allowed to make their own personal back-up copies and take responsibility themselves or they aren't and they become responsible for providing the back-up copies.

  • Re:Forever? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by neoform (551705) <> on Thursday July 30, 2009 @03:34PM (#28886601) Homepage
    It is illegal to knowingly sell someone a defective product under the guise of it being functional, it's called fraud.
  • Re:That's funny (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DinDaddy (1168147) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @03:34PM (#28886629)

    It's interesting. When I first bought CDs back in the '80s, they had actual copy on the cardboard package that said something very close to "this compact disk will, with proper care, last for a lifetime of listening pleasure". I think a couple of my earliest CDs also have the same text in the little paper insert pamphlet.

    I am sure they would love to see one of those brought up as evidence in a court case to refute the quote in this summary.

  • by harvey the nerd (582806) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @03:39PM (#28886701)
    Depends on whether you see this as inherently defective mechandise as well as a violation of the long time US principle of legal preference for "in fee simple sales".

    The song copy that I buy is *my* property. I am constrained by copyright to not infringe it by creating and redistributing more copies. Berne copyright, EULAs and DCMA are all corrupt, monopolistic doctrines that should ignored, fought if necessary.
  • Re:Forever? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 30, 2009 @03:40PM (#28886717)

    I though it was illegal to change the terms of a contract without both parties agreeing and signing the modified contract. In fact, I wouldn't call an ever changing agreement a contract at all.

  • Re:Forever? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 30, 2009 @03:44PM (#28886763)

    Actually, it IS illegal. You must declare all terms (including the not guaranteed to be usable forever) in explicit language and in a manner that draws attention to the same. If not, you don't have a license deal, but rather an item sale.

  • Re:Forever? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Toonol (1057698) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @03:48PM (#28886847)
    That might not be the best argument, because Image did more to ruin comics than any other publisher. They're one of the main reasons that comics are marketing and hype driven, focused on an insular community of fanboys, and have basically ceded the vast majority of the market to manga.
  • Re:Forever? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by calmofthestorm (1344385) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @04:00PM (#28887053)

    If you don't like it, your recourse is not to do business with them, and convince as many as you can to not do business with them

    Yohoho and a bottle of rum!

    But mandatory piracy reference aside, I've been quite happy with the Amazon store (and iTunes now that it's DRM free, as it's higher quality, though it requires a windows VM). You just click, pay, and download an mp3. No DRM, properly tagged, no hassle.

    I will buy a product over pirating it if the price is reasonable and it's equal quality (IE, no DRM). After all, most of the online deliveries I've found lately sport no DRM and can charge & download before I can fire up bittorrent.

    Maybe DRM did spur innovation after all, if not the kind these cronies are bleating about.

  • Failed company (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Firethorn (177587) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @04:26PM (#28887495) Homepage Journal

    But a class action lawsuit isn't going to do you much good if the company itself is going out of business, which would be one of the prime reasons for an authentication server to go out of business.

    Personally, businesses pushing so much for this stuff tends to piss me off and start making rules like 'If you put DRM in it, and the DRM fails for whatever reason for a legitimate user, the user is entitled to a full refund'. And 'If the DRM requires a central server, and you shut it down, you have to provide a version that works without the server or refund everyone's money'.

  • by sycorob (180615) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @07:13PM (#28890053)

    I think what will happen is that Disney will someday not be able to push it any more, and Mickey et. al. will fall into the public domain, and then we can set the copyright length back to something reasonable. 25 years or life of author, whichever comes first. You can transfer it to a 3rd party, but the 25 year clock is in effect. If you make a derivative work, that new work is newly copyrighted, but the old work will still expire after its original 25 years.

    Serious question - does anybody besides us nerds and some media people care about copyright? I never hear anybody talking about it outside of Slashdot.

  • Re:Forever? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Friday July 31, 2009 @02:09AM (#28892853)

    Talk about your own country.

    In mine it is illegal to sell someone something under wrong assumptions. It is reasonable to expect a DVD player to play DVDs. If it does not, it is defective and I may return it. No matter whether the seller claims that it's only called a DVD player and I should have read the contract. Consumer protection goes a long way here.

    If they are upfront with you and tell you (or rather, make it public knowledge) that DRM crippled content will not work for longer than a year, five or another arbitrary period, and DRMified content is clearly marked as such, it's no problem. Currently, though, the general assumption about content is that you will be able to play it at least as long as the medium containing it works. Thus you may assume that it does and if it does not, the content is defective.

    Our legal system takes "common knowledge" into account. Yes, that's a quite tricky definition and yes, that makes the whole system very dependent on judges. Fortunately, our judges tend to smack down with glee on people and companies that try to BS others.

Someone is unenthusiastic about your work.