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Kindle, Zune DRM Restrictions Coming Into Focus 311

It's not news that the media you buy for both Kindle and Zune are protected by DRM. Readers are sending in stories of some of the ramifications of that fact. First, Absentminded-Artist notes an account at Gear Diary recounting what an Amazon rep told one user about download limits on Kindle books. "One facet of the Kindle's DRM has reared an ugly head: download limitations. Upgraded your iPhone recently? Bought a new Kindle? You may not be able to reload your entire library. There's an unadvertised flag: 'You mean when you go to buy the book it doesn't say "this book can be downloaded this number of times" even though that limitation is there?' To which [the rep] replied, 'No, I'm very sorry it doesn't.'" Next, reader Rjak writes "DRM is a bad idea, poorly implemented. One of the many many valid reasons to drop Zune and its marketplace is the DRM validation error you see below. The vast majority of the music I had purchased last year is completely gone. There's no refund, the music doesn't exist on the service anymore, the files are just garbage now. Here's the error (screen capture): 'This item is no longer available at Zune Marketplace. Because of this, you can no longer play it or sync it with your Zune. There might be another iteration of it available in Zune Marketplace.'" Update: 06/23 00:28 GMT by KD : The Gear Diary blog has been updated with what may be more definitive information from Amazon on how the Kindle DRM behaves.
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Kindle, Zune DRM Restrictions Coming Into Focus

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  • DRM has not been implemented correctly to date. While you might hope that your iTunes or Kindle--being a popular product--will have flawless DRM that will not inhibit you, this is simply not the case. It's always just a time bomb waiting to go off in your face.

    If you gotta buy digital books or music, don't fall for any DRM scheme. Here's an example that even the biggest digital retailers can't get it right. I await a flawless DRM that will work on multiple pieces of hardware--hardware that I choose! I fear I will be waiting for quite some time ...

    And please, I'm sick of responses to my posts with some snide remark that you don't have DRM and yours is free with a link to the Pirate Bay. It's getting old. I want to support the content providers but I don't want to give up or inhibit my rights to access that content.
  • by nausea_malvarma ( 1544887 ) on Sunday June 21, 2009 @04:16PM (#28413179)
    Honestly, if you don't like it, nobody's forcing you to buy a zune or kindle. Boycotts are the only way these companies are gonna learn that customers won't tolerate DRM.
  • by Shadow of Eternity ( 795165 ) on Sunday June 21, 2009 @04:17PM (#28413185)

    DRM is a fundamentally broken concept. It relies on the argument that you're purchasing a service and not a product, but then you're treated as though you purchased a product and not a service. In effect what's happening is that the consumer expends money and then literally has no rights whatsoever and, thanks to TOS/EULAs, no recourse either.

  • by Shadow of Eternity ( 795165 ) on Sunday June 21, 2009 @04:18PM (#28413189)

    Buy it once, use the pirated copy thereafter. After all you're purchasing a "license" and a "service" not a product, so all that matters is the license.

  • Euphamism? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by causality ( 777677 ) on Sunday June 21, 2009 @04:24PM (#28413229)

    It's not news that the media you buy for both Kindle and Zune are protected by DRM.

    I hope it doesn't sound like too minor of a gripe, but I greatly prefer to call it encumbered by DRM.

  • by ( 245670 ) on Sunday June 21, 2009 @04:28PM (#28413277)

    The first thing I do when I download media with DRM these days is strip the DRM. If I can't figure out how to strip it before I lay down my money, I pass. DRM does nothing to enhance my experience and can only serve to detract from my experience.

    Back 7 or 8 years ago, when ebooks were making their first surge, I bought about $50 worth from various vendors and didn't strip the DRM. It was a bit of an experiment to see how it would turn out. One of the vendors shut down just weeks after I made my purchase. I hadn't even activated one of the titles yet so it was a total loss. The other one was only readable as long as that computer lived. Same happened with the rest of the titles eventually. So $50 worth of ebooks I purchased just a few years ago are gone forever. Meanwhile, paperbacks I purchased when I was a kid still work just as well as the day I bought them. Nevermind the hassle of keeping track of each vendor's authentication system and the crap-ton of different software packages I had to install to handle all of those methods.

    The funny thing is this isn't even the first time a major online music "seller" has screwed people by revoking access to purchased media. Wasn't it just a few years ago that some big seller shut down or changed their authentication system and the users got a big FU for all of their lost music?

  • by causality ( 777677 ) on Sunday June 21, 2009 @04:30PM (#28413293)

    Honestly, if you don't like it, nobody's forcing you to buy a zune or kindle. Boycotts are the only way these companies are gonna learn that customers won't tolerate DRM.

    The possibility that concerns me is the other way that companies could handle that realization. They could design a DRM system that is generous on all counts, such that the average person has no pragmatic or material objection to its restrictions. This would make its adoption by customers much more widespread and would present the very convincing illusion of nullifying the arguments against DRM. Certainly it would nullify the reasons against it which are not rooted in principle. Effectively, that would cause people to willingly cede control to those companies so long as those companies put a smiling face on this process that is convincing enough, and that's a shame. In this way does our addiction to convenience and our superficial appreciation of only the most immediate concerns render us weak and able to be manipulated by those who claim to serve their customers.

  • by Sirusjr ( 1006183 ) on Sunday June 21, 2009 @04:39PM (#28413353)
    This is the same reason why I buy all my music in CD format and all my games in Disc format. I am already into some Niche genres as it is (Movie scores, euro-style power metal, heavy metal, Japanese-Pop; and on the game side JRPGS) so what is to stop these companies from removing the Niche stuff from their services because they don't think very many consumers are going to miss them? Sadly one of my cds I picked up used was one of those old DRM'd cds from Sony that I can't rip, but at least I can listen to it as much as I want. The point of all this is that in the end the physical media is the better bargain regardless of the online options.
  • by ( 245670 ) on Sunday June 21, 2009 @04:43PM (#28413369)

    There are tons of DVD rippers and 1.5tb drives are regularly on sale for $120. Sometimes even $110. Dual layer burners are $20-25.

  • by causality ( 777677 ) on Sunday June 21, 2009 @04:44PM (#28413385)

    If you gotta buy digital books or music, don't fall for any DRM scheme. Here's an example that even the biggest digital retailers can't get it right. I await a flawless DRM that will work on multiple pieces of hardware--hardware that I choose! I fear I will be waiting for quite some time ...

    Collectively, we generally don't appreciate and value what you describe there. The minority who does is probably small enough to be marginalized, though it does appear to be growing. That's the reason why (at least in the USA) it's so difficult to use any cellphone with any carrier's network, or why the most widely-used office software doesn't actively try to produce documents in a format that any other office software can use. There are many other examples.

    And please, I'm sick of responses to my posts with some snide remark that you don't have DRM and yours is free with a link to the Pirate Bay. It's getting old. I want to support the content providers but I don't want to give up or inhibit my rights to access that content.

    Just as you have your frustrations with that, the phenomenon itself is born of a frustration with the media companies and their refusal to work with us instead of against us. That refusal is why the very interoperability you describe is not the norm. I will neither defend nor condemn piracy, but I will say that it sums up to a "fuck them then" sort of reaction that, from the perspective of human nature, is rather understandable or at least predictable. The media companies seriously believe that they can view their customers as a resource that they may take for granted, like so much lumber or iron ore.

    They believe they can do so with impunity, and if not for piracy, they would mostly be correct. Again I am not going to say whether it's right or wrong, only that the very companies which complain about piracy have done much to set the stage for it and to create the ill will that makes people feel justified when they infringe these copyrights. No one does anything unless they believe, verily or falsely, that it is the right thing to do, or at least that it is wrong but either justifiable or serves some kind of greater good. Those snide remarks you mention come from this sense of feeling justified, though of course there are better expressions of the same sentiment.

  • Re:Surprised... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Sirusjr ( 1006183 ) on Sunday June 21, 2009 @04:45PM (#28413387)
    I prefer the zune to the IPOD because I never was a fan of the clickwheel and the way the IPOD tends to organize your music. I've had my 30gb zune for years now and it still works great. I'm hoping that it will live long enough so that the ZUNEHD comces out and I can get the 120gb zune for cheap. Plus the zune has a better quality audio jack when it comes to the output you get to regular headphones. Now if only they would come out with a 300gb version that supports FLAC and cue sheets.
  • by Bob_Who ( 926234 ) on Sunday June 21, 2009 @04:51PM (#28413455) Homepage Journal
    I guess a crappy DRM ripoff is a better deal than $80,000.00 per download with no DRM.....but not much better. You would think that Microsoft was capable of real innovation, but no.... Once you've got lots of shareholders its all about squeezing every dollar out of a weary market, even if its not a very good experience for anyone. I see DRM as the result of greed mixed with technology and music. Too bad they can't just sell us blank tapes like 20 years ago when copyright infringement was a charge placed against someone who mas produced and SOLD the material, not customers who copied a CD for their car stereo. Hopefully this nonsense will find a balance...once the beast has been adequately fed with our $$, I suppose. D R M = Demand Royalty Money.
  • by oneirophrenos ( 1500619 ) on Sunday June 21, 2009 @04:52PM (#28413457)

    Buy it once, use the pirated copy thereafter. After all you're purchasing a "license" and a "service" not a product, so all that matters is the license.

    I don't understand why you would pay for DRM-infested products, if you don't even intend to use them after purchase. What you are effectively doing there is rewarding the company for making user-unfriendly products. It might seem the "moral" thing to do, but it really just enables the company to remain "immoral" and continue with their anti-consumer policies.

  • DRM has not been implemented correctly to date.

    Are you crazy?

    There IS no correct implementation of DRM.

    When a manufacturer puts DRM into a device, it means they want to control the device even when they no longer own it. And that means that at best, you're renting the device with a one time charge that they call a "purchase"... at worst, they're just laughing at you behind your back because you gave them money for nothing.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 21, 2009 @04:55PM (#28413485)
    It doesn't matter. If you bought the CD, you have the right in the US under the fair use clause to download it.

    Really? Could you point me to the case that was decided that set the precedent for this? After all, issues like this in US law are based on precedent. Or failing that, can you point me to the exact phrase in the clause that unambiguously gives me the right to download copyrighted works if I already have a license for them?
  • by Drakonik ( 1193977 ) <> on Sunday June 21, 2009 @04:56PM (#28413493) Homepage

    Amen. Nobody seems to understand that we (at least in America) live in a hugely capitalistic society, and that means that we as the consumer hold IMMENSE power. It's all well and good to buy an ipod and then write to Apple complaining about DRM, but that doesn't mean much, because they've got your money already.

    Exercise your capitalistic rights to control the market.


  • by Whillowhim ( 1408725 ) on Sunday June 21, 2009 @05:06PM (#28413577)

    I completely disagree. Buying an item you don't intend to actually use is sending the wrong message. You're rewarding the book publishers for their insane DRM when you should be discouraging them.

    Finding pirated books can be a pain in the ass. If they're going to force me to spend time looking for a copy with bad proofreading and odd line-breaks, I'm going to ask for a refund on the money I spent on the book. Or better yet, just not spend it in the first place. Its not that I'm unwilling to buy ebooks, its that I value my time and spending 10-60 minutes looking through various websites/peer to peer applications is more valuable to me than the cost of the book in the first place.

    And for the record, I've spent just under $1000 at Baen's online store over the last 3 years, because the books there are unencumbered by DRM and are easy to find and buy. I'm more than willing to buy books if I'm given a fair deal. It just seems that a lot of book publishers are so scared by the piracy boogieman that they piss off their real customers.

  • No, the lesson is don't buy DRMed content, stop encouraging them.
  • by schwaang ( 667808 ) on Sunday June 21, 2009 @05:09PM (#28413597)

    Which is why I find it misleading when Amazon shows the price of the kindle version and directly compares it to the price of the deadtree version. They are really two completely different animals, and this hidden download limit is one great example of what makes the comparison false.

    (I try to use my kindle and kindle iphone app with open eyes, but I didn't know about this download limit until now.)

  • by 0123456 ( 636235 ) on Sunday June 21, 2009 @05:11PM (#28413607)

    "Your post makes it sound like DRM is bad."

    DRM _IS_ bad because there's no way to allow me to use media I purchase in any way I choose (e.g ripping DVDs to my MythTV server) while preventing me from giving those files to someone else.

    DRM simply cannot be 'implemented properly', because it's broken by design; either I control my use of purchased media or the IP Robber Barons do... there's no middle ground.

    Any effective DRM will cripple my use of media so much that I simply won't buy it. For example, I would have bought a few hundred Blu-Ray disks by now if it weren't for the DRM... if it's cracked to the point where I can use those disks as easily as DVDs, then I'll start buying them, but not until then.

  • Re:Euphamism? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mR.bRiGhTsId3 ( 1196765 ) on Sunday June 21, 2009 @05:11PM (#28413611)
    Perhaps you shouldn't. When you say infested by DRM you have made an unnecessarily combative statement as though accusing the producers of something heinous. Granted, you are right, but it makes it harder to carry on a discourse with people who aren't already aligned with your view of thinking. Ditto for almost every alternative to Digital Rights Management listed on the GNU website. I particularly like "Digital Shackles" as a proposed alternative. I mean really? It just makes the whole conversation less civil and people more likely to dismiss your views as those of a zealot.
  • by amiga3D ( 567632 ) on Sunday June 21, 2009 @05:13PM (#28413617)
    Right on! I don't feel the slightest bit of pity for the suckers that bought the crap. It's got Digital Restriction Management! DUH! It's crippled. Why would you buy crippled equipment and content? The beauty of it is that M$ could ditch the Zune and it's DRM format for another crippled device with a new DRM system totally invalidating all previous downloads....and people would buy it! "A fool and his money are soon parted." -Thomas Tusser
  • by causality ( 777677 ) on Sunday June 21, 2009 @05:20PM (#28413683)

    I have no problem with DRM until it stops me from being able to use my media legally as I see fit. If a DRM scheme somehow prevented me from giving a file to my friends, but let me listen to the song on my ipod, Sansa, or Zune as I wished, that'd be perfectly okay. I don't mind buying products/services/licenses. The DRM that is demonized is the DRM that preemptively treats you like a criminal and unfairly restricts your usage of a PRODUCT THAT YOU PAID FOR THE USAGE OF.

    Your post makes it sound like DRM is bad. BAD DRM is bad. Whether or not it can be effectively implemented is another issue; I know you couldn't magically detect the difference between a new media player and a friend's thumb drive.

    All DRM is in fact bad because all DRM carries the assumption that you are incapable of doing the right thing and thus, must be actively prevented from doing the wrong thing. A DRM scheme that prevents you from giving a file to your friends is treating you like a criminal because the assumption behind it is that you WOULD give it to your friends -- they are so certain that you would do this, that they paid programmers to design a system to prevent it. To say that this restriction doesn't bother you because you wouldn't do that anyway misses the point. The point is that your morality means absolutely nothing if you have no ability to be immoral. To support any form of DRM is akin to saying that they are right to treat their customers in this adversarial, dehumanizing fashion.

    DRM is power. It's power to control markets, to micromanage customers, to dictate obsolescence, and to hold content hostage. It's a power that comes with no concept of due process or innocent until proven guilty. It's a power that is "justified" by the fact that media companies have chosen not to create a business model suitable for the Information Age, which is no justification at all. It's a power that was not given to the companies willingly, but rather was one that they have taken for themselves. It was born not of overwhelming customer demand, but rather, a desire to control.

    DRM is also a sad alternative to restoring the balance that once existed between the temporary monopoly granted by copyright and the benefit of society. Copyright was once only twelve years in duration, and this was when a mechanical printing press was the most technologically advanced method of distribution. We now have the ability to create and sell many more copies of a work in twelve years than we ever could have done before, yet copyright now has a ridiculous duration that has no concept of balance. It is plainly evident that you are dealing with people who are never going to be satisfied, for whom enough is never going to be enough.

    The reason why so many no longer respect copyright is because it is no longer respectable. Those who choose to respect it anyway give it a benefit of doubt that the media companies are not willing to extend to their customers. Restoring the balance that once existed could create a world where people again respect copyright because they can see that it is reasonable and good. Such people would not want to infringe it, and thus, would need no restraints to prevent them from doing so. The fact that this simple, self-evident truth is so hard for so many to imagine is evidence enough that we have gone too far down this negative path that we are on. More DRM, no matter how benign, could only take us farther down that path.

  • by AnEmbodiedMind ( 612071 ) on Sunday June 21, 2009 @05:28PM (#28413731)

    Great point.
    I generally hate DRM, unless as you say, the process really fits a service model.
    Zune has since moved away from DRM when you buy music - they now generally give you unprotected MP3s. But if you get a subscription it really is a service - you can download all the music you want but it will expire if you don't keep up the subscription (although you do get to keep 10 songs a month in MP3).
    I think that model of DRM is the only one that I've seen that actually seems fair and works.

  • by Kopiok ( 898028 ) on Sunday June 21, 2009 @05:30PM (#28413747)
    From what I remember, the Zune pass allows you access to anything in the Zune store library as long as you pay the subscription. Removed from the library? Can't listen to the music. Stop paying? Can't listen to the music. You are not purchasing any music, you are paying money to access a library. The Zune marketplace is a completely different service than outright purchasing music. I believe they give you 10 un-DRM'd downloads per month along with the subscription, so you can see they do see the fact that their customers want DRM-free tracks.
  • by Zero__Kelvin ( 151819 ) on Sunday June 21, 2009 @05:46PM (#28413865) Homepage
    No. Where you are getting confused is that if you buy the CD, you don't need to "buy" it online, but DRM is trying to break this. It (The DRM Movement) is an attempt to circumvent fair use by controlling your computer, such that it cannot play music which you have the right to play under fair use unless you pay for it again. ... and again, and again, and again ...
  • Re:Euphamism? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 21, 2009 @05:52PM (#28413903)
    Parent makes a good point, one that a lot of us -- especially on slashdot or in political discussions -- tend to miss. Mod up.
  • by macs4all ( 973270 ) on Sunday June 21, 2009 @05:53PM (#28413907)
    "There might be another iteration of it..."

    Another ITERATION of it?!?!?!?

    This error message demonstrates EXACTLY why Microsoft Just Doesn't Get It(TM).

    Most people on /. know what "Iteration" means; but PLEASE find me 10 (non-dev and non-IT) people on the street who can give a definition of "Iteration" in that sentence.

    If you have your C++ code jockeys approve Error text, this is what you get.

    You would NEVER see the word "Iteration" (howabout "Copy"?) in an Apple Dialog (unless it was in a dev. tool like XCode).

    "Iteration", INDEED!
  • by easyTree ( 1042254 ) on Sunday June 21, 2009 @05:57PM (#28413953)

    When you buy the CD, you haven't bought any rights to anything. You've just bought the CD. According to copyright, you have no right to copy that CD.

    Really though; who cares? If the law is out-of-synch with reality, should I play along? I think not... Do what's *right* not what's legal. You'll cause less damage / hurt less people and be much happier.

  • by dreemernj ( 859414 ) on Sunday June 21, 2009 @06:40PM (#28414241) Homepage Journal
    You can go to the Zune Marketplace and just buy DRM-free MP3s if you want to as well. ZunePass is just a different way of accessing it. There is DRMed music there too. I rarely find that the a particular song I want on there has DRM, but it is there. When I encounter it, I try Amazon instead.
  • by nine-times ( 778537 ) <> on Sunday June 21, 2009 @07:12PM (#28414459) Homepage

    It (The DRM Movement) is an attempt to circumvent fair use by controlling your computer, such that it cannot play music which you have the right to play under fair use unless you pay for it again. ... and again, and again, and again ...

    Sorry, but that's just not how copyright law works. Neither copyright law nor fair use really cover the *playing* of a song or the *listening* to it. It only covers the act of copying. If you buy a CD with copyrighted material, you can play it even without fair use, but without a license or fair use, you wouldn't be legally allowed to copy the CD.

    However, under current copyright law (AFAIK), buying a CD does not grant you any particular right to the copyrighted works of that CD. It does not give you a lifetime right to own a copy, and to make a copy in the event that your copy gets lost. Fair use only allows you to make backups of the copy that you own.

    So it seems to me that "fair use" would permit you to make a copy of your CD and keep it as a backup, but if you lose the CD and it's backup, it doesn't specifically give you the right to make a copy from the original that someone else owns.

    Of course, if we were writing copyright law now, it would make more sense to handle things the way you're suggesting, and it's the sort of legal distinction that would only be made explicit if there were an actual lawsuit. And I doubt there will be a lawsuit for private copying that doesn't include further distribution, so I doubt it will come up.

  • by causality ( 777677 ) on Sunday June 21, 2009 @07:25PM (#28414561)

    If the DRM is so good that "the average person has no pragmatic or material objection to its restrictions" then objecting to it on "principle" alone becomes an exercise in, well, juvenile-wish-fulfillment. In fact, the "average" person has no problem with DRM schemes such as those that "lock" down DVDs or VHS (macrovision), nor those that iTunes had or most software has. I'm not saying that most DRM schemes are there yet, but if DRM is that unobtrusive, then I'd consider it an acceptable part of the real-world compromise necessary when dealing with the owners. I leave to each person to decide if that deal is Faustian or not.

    My explanation of why I object on the basis of principle can be found in this post []. Far from being juvenile, it's a recognition that there are timeless things in life which are and always have been far more important than immediate convenience and certainly more important than whether you can play your music. The juvenile approach is the one in which convenience is everything, where all concerns about whether something is wrong are put to rest by access to entertainment. Such an approach knows nothing of principle, or of the difference between what is legal and what is right and good.

    What I'd fear more is the DRM schemes that are designed not to control but to outright discourage the use of digital media. Put on your tin-foil hat with me and ask for a second why content owners would allow online digital providers such as Wal-Mart, Amazon, MicroSoft, and Audible to run a service which can disable your ability to use a license not due to breach on your part but just because they don't want to maintain their servers anymore (and in some cases this has already happened, see Walmart). Any good contract between owner and provider would require that the customer be allowed continued use of the product as sold. Not having those provisions smacks of a scheme by the owners to be able to say "oh, your product doesn't work anymore, well, that's digital downloads for you. Aren't CDs so much nicer!"

    No tinfoil hat is necessary for that. All you're doing there is making the observation that these companies are still living in the past, a past time when they had full control over distribution. It's a natural consequence they have no interest in correctly dealing with digital media, as you have pointed out. They have not decided that technological progress has created a different world with new possibilities, and that this means they should evaluate whether their business model is suited to this new world. Instead, they still want that old world where they have full control and they are willing to become adversaries to their own customers in order to preserve it. That is the actual problem. Rather than address this problem and become a joy to do business with, they want to apply a band-aid and this band-aid is called DRM. Other band-aids include wielding political clout to purchase laws that benefit their interests at the expense of others, and making monstrous "examples" by financially ruining the lives of people who have done very little harm to anyone. I cannot in any good conscience support this effort, nor any devices designed to promote it. It's not just that it isn't working, it's that it is wrong. No amount of convenience and no degree of music player reliability is going to change that.

  • by youngone ( 975102 ) on Sunday June 21, 2009 @09:01PM (#28415145)
    *sigh* Sad isn't it? There you are, faithfully buying the music of your favourite band, and then enjoying it in whatever way suits you when you run headlong into Corporate Greed and Stupidity. That's pretty much why DRM will never work. What you want is pretty much in direct oppposition to what EMI (in this case) wants.
  • by hplus ( 1310833 ) on Sunday June 21, 2009 @10:06PM (#28415527)
    Yeah, the one with DRMed videos.

To do two things at once is to do neither. -- Publilius Syrus