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DRM Microsoft Piracy Your Rights Online

4 Microsoft Engineers Predicted DRM Would Fail 10 Years Ago 142

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-that-companies-have-listened-yet dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Ars is running an article about a paper written just over a decade ago by four engineers at Microsoft. In it, they talk about the darknet, and how it applies to distributing content online. They correctly predicted the uselessness of DRM: 'In the presence of an infinitely efficient darknet — which allows instantaneous transmission of objects to all interested users — even sophisticated DRM systems are inherently ineffective.' The paper's lead author, Peter Biddle, said he almost got fired over the paper at the time. 'Biddle tried to get buy-in from senior Microsoft executives prior to releasing the paper. But he says they didn't really understand the paper's implications — and particularly how it could strain relationships with content companies — until after it was released. Once the paper was released, Microsoft's got stuck in bureaucratic paralysis. Redmond neither repudiated Biddle's paper nor allowed him to publicly defend it.' The paper itself is available in .DOC format."
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4 Microsoft Engineers Predicted DRM Would Fail 10 Years Ago

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  • DRM is not useless (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 30, 2012 @06:11PM (#42148389)

    DRM hasn't failed and isn't useless. It's quite successful at pissing off honest customers and turning them towards piracy and circumvention.

  • 10 Years ago? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jabberwock (10206) on Friday November 30, 2012 @06:16PM (#42148483) Homepage
    ... except for the few people I knew who worked for companies that stood to benefit from the wide acceptance of DRM, pretty much everyone was predicting it was a disaster starting in about 1996.
  • by Microlith (54737) on Friday November 30, 2012 @06:37PM (#42148921)

    Not from what I can see. AACS was cracked within a year or so of the arrival of Blu-ray and HD-DVD, with BD+ falling not long after. The DRM on most ebook formats was stripped within weeks or less.

    The DMCA just makes sure that the tools to strip DRM are hosted outside the US.

  • by slew (2918) on Friday November 30, 2012 @06:39PM (#42148967)

    Basically, for these folks, the darknet paper was just writing the obituary for the Palladium (trusted computing) project they were working on for Microsoft. They knew that it wouldn't stop piracy, so might as well explain why that is the case and move on...

  • Re:alright, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Austerity Empowers (669817) on Friday November 30, 2012 @06:43PM (#42149021)

    The rest of their engineers.

    Basically they had 4 employees who realized what the rest of the free world already knew. This is why MS products are so lousy, only 4 people in the whole place figured this out!

  • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Friday November 30, 2012 @06:52PM (#42149157)

    CSS isn't just about stopping piracy. It also requires a license to impliment legally (Being both patented, and covered under the DMCA or your national equivilent). The terms for this license include a number of other conditions, including mandating that players respect the region code byte and that they not provide the ability to skip videos in a certain navigational area usually used for anti-piracy warnings and studio logos. As an anti-piracy measure it is useless today, but it still serves to keep consumer electronics manufacturers (Who cannot afford to go underground to avoid lawsuits) more-or-less in compliance with the region system.

  • by Penguinisto (415985) on Friday November 30, 2012 @06:53PM (#42149171) Journal

    ...hell, most of us knew that back when we were using nibblers on Commodore 64 boxes to copy stuff onto blank 720k floppies. ;)

  • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Friday November 30, 2012 @06:55PM (#42149205)

    They failed to understand then the true purpose of Palladium. That one day, a distant descendent of the project would be used to make computers that are not capable of booting any untrusted operating system, and that Windows alone would be recognised as trusted by most motherboard manufacturers and OEMs. Palladium was always half about DRM and half about lock-in, over Intel's objection. It got so much bad press it was eventually renamed to NGSCB, and then quietly dropped, but some aspects do still remain.

  • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Friday November 30, 2012 @08:24PM (#42150287) Journal

    Uhhh...everybody forget Bill Gates famous "If they pirate, I want them to pirate from us" line? Ballmer apparently has, as which two bombs in recent years had the nastiest DRM? why Vista and 8 of course. Win 7 was totally broken almost from RTM, look up "Win 7 all versions" on TPB and you'll see there is two DVDs, one for 32bit and one for 64bit, that covered every release from basic to ultimate, it even gives you a nice wallpaper based on who made the board!

    But one thing they got wrong i believe is that DRM is doomed, i point to netflix and Steam as examples of DRM done right. If you make the customer feel they are getting more value in their purchase and the DRM is unobtrusive and just rides along? Most won't care. look at how many had a fight over the Humble bundle and I was surprised to see how many agreed with me that it didn't matter because Steam gives value like chat, updates, matchmaking, etc and I know many pirates that once they got netflix haven't bothered, they have so many shows to watch now that frankly they could live in front of the set and never see it all, so why bother pirating more?

    The reason DRM has gotten a bad rap is because like many ideas handed to PHBs with little foresight naturally it can be misused, look at Starfuck breaking DVD burners, or SecuROM slowing down systems, or how most of those won't play nice with each other or even newer versions of itself so you end up with a dozen of the damned things running in the background. Compare this to steam, when its off? its off. No kernel level crap sucking resources and getting buggier by the day, no hassles, its all just "click to buy game" and even gifting something like the humble bundle takes just a couple of clicks. its cheap, easy, and hassle free and most people will NOT care as long as you meet those requirements.

    Hell even with MSFT they used to have common sense, like Windows activation...do i care? No. Why? because after changing every. single. part. on this desktop i had to re-activate exactly ONCE, and that was when I swapped boards. it took less than 10 seconds online, and that was it, done. Compare this to Vista and its black screen of death or even worse WMV/WMA DRM as examples of DRM done poorly. It was glitchy, often screwed up, and ALWAYS defaulted to "Ur a pirate!" so you ended up just wanting the shit far away from you.

    So just like VB or Java or Flash or any other thing out there DRM can be done right, or it can be done poorly. Personally I'd rather have a couple of services like Steam and netflix as "one stop shops" where I can buy anything I want cheaply an easily than see our rights stripped away with ever more draconian laws and customer screwing policies like 6 strikes, wouldn't you?

  • by ackthpt (218170) on Friday November 30, 2012 @08:43PM (#42150507) Homepage Journal

    DRM hasn't failed and isn't useless. It's quite successful at pissing off honest customers and turning them towards piracy and circumvention.

    Not just DRM, but all the preview sh*t when I put a DVD in the player. I don't give a damn about all these other things, why do I have to sit there hammering the skip forward button and/or menu button? It's a great motivator toward ripping the content off the DVD, burning it on a blank and then watching it whenever I want to see the movie.

    Disney one of the worst offenders.

  • by 0111 1110 (518466) on Friday November 30, 2012 @09:04PM (#42150731)

    i point to netflix and Steam as examples of DRM done right. If you make the customer feel they are getting more value in their purchase and the DRM is unobtrusive and just rides along? Most won't care. look at how many had a fight over the Humble bundle and I was surprised to see how many agreed with me that it didn't matter because Steam gives value like chat, updates, matchmaking, etc and I know many pirates that once they got netflix haven't bothered, they have so many shows to watch now that frankly they could live in front of the set and never see it all, so why bother pirating more?

    I think you are missing the point of DRM. The point of DRM is to stop unauthorized people from using or copying or distributing your software. That is its purpose. It was never intended as some kind of additional feature to get more people to buy your software as people like you claim Steam has done.

    In terms of stopping pirates from using software DRM has been an almost complete failure. There is the rare exception where the developers themselves devoted a large percentage of their development time to weaving DRM into thousands of different places to intentionally make things difficult/tedious for crackers, but those are rare exceptions. For the most part DRM has been an utter failure.

    When I want to buy a game that is only available on Steam I download it from TPB or KAT instead. The torrent version has an additional feature other than its lower cost: it allows me to install it without an internet connection. That's the kind of feature that I don't need all that often, but when I need it I really need it. So I rationally choose the version which offers me the most value: the DRM free version.

    There will always be a significant percentage of sheeple who don't care about DRM, no matter how draconian it is. Even the must-always-be-connected-to-server DRM sells many copies. Obviously less intrusive forms of DRM like steam will have fewer people objecting to it, but that doesn't mean the publisher isn't losing a significant number of sales from people who refuse to pay for DRM or who don't have reliable (or any) internet connections. Obviously such publishers just don't care about those people. They are willing to lose some number of customers in order to have that warm fuzzy feeling that delaying the release of their software on TPB for an extra 12 hours seems to give them. If I were a stockholder I would not be happy with that decision.

  • by quax (19371) on Friday November 30, 2012 @09:11PM (#42150787)

    Another case in point, that speaking truth to power is usually costly for the Kassandras of the world.

    Encouraging though that they did speak up.

  • by Jiro (131519) on Friday November 30, 2012 @10:50PM (#42151527)

    The point of DRM is to stop unauthorized people from using or copying or distributing your software.

    The *stated* point of DRM is to keep people from pirating your software. The actual purpose of DRM is to maintain control over the user, thus using it to prevent used games sales, format shifting, playing on unauthorized devices, etc.

  • by Jiro (131519) on Friday November 30, 2012 @11:00PM (#42151591)

    Its far, far, easier to design a better weapon than it is to design a better piece of armor. It doesn't matter what new type of DRM you come up with, somebody will come up with a way to break it.

    Cool, tell me how to run unsigned code on my PS3 without having obsolete firmware or a hardware flasher.

    (Hint: the hacks that "completely" cracked the PS3 didn't.)

  • The precioooous ! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ElRabbit (2624627) on Saturday December 01, 2012 @01:57AM (#42152515)
    I have been hanging around with TV executives for 10 years, always trying to make them understand that all the protection they were trying (lamely) to put in place will only block legitimate customers while increasing product cost. But those guys behave like Gollum in Lord of the Ring: their content is sooooo precioooousss. They are beyond any reasonable argument.

To be a kind of moral Unix, he touched the hem of Nature's shift. -- Shelley

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