We free software folk have been trying to warn people about the dangers of Digital Restrictions Management for a while, we really have. Yet you just aren’t listening to us! Well, here are two recent all-too-obvious-in-hindsight DRM travesties by Microsoft that might have you reconsidering. If Microsoft can’t even be trusted to do DRM correctly, then who can?
First, Microsoft decided to close down their MSN Music service, presumably because it was unprofitable. Unfortunately for any customer who ever bought anything from the store, they won’t be able to play their purchased music files on any additional devices come June because Microsoft is shutting down the servers. Each audio file is actually a file encrypted with DRM, and once the servers go away, so too go any of the means of being able to decrypt the files. Ain’t it great that “pirates” will be able to play their downloaded mp3s indefinitely, but people who legitimately purchased the music will be stuck with worthless files and no refund? But that’s what you get when you willingly buy something infected with DRM.
Microsoft also uses Digital Restrictions Management on all of its Downloadable Content for the XBOX 360. All downloaded files are linked both to the user account and to the hardware. Want to change accounts? You can’t take your downloads with you. Buying another XBOX 360? Can’t take ‘em with you. Buying another XBOX 360 because your old one broke? You’re still screwed! That’s right, this poor sap’s XBOX 360 broke, taking all of the downloaded content that he bought along with it, and Microsoft’s only response was “buy all your content a second time.” It makes you wonder why they even use the word “buy”, because when you actually buy something it implies that you actually own it. If this is really the future of gaming consoles, we gamers are in big trouble. Microsoft is trying to supplant a decent product (games on DVD that can be played in any console) with an inferior one, simply because they can make a lot more money with it, what with the duplicate downloads, lower distribution costs, no need to print manuals, etc.
And why shouldn’t they? By buying all of this content that’s infected with DRM, we customers are bringing it all down upon ourselves. Unfortunately, many people will only realize too late how evil DRM is — after they’ve spent thousands of dollars on music only to have the authorization servers shut down, or after they’ve spent hundreds of dollars on downloadable content only to have their XBOX 360 crap out on them. And Microsoft doesn’t care about fixing any of this. They already have your money, and they’re big enough they can just tell you to go screw yourself. Actually, I wish they were that kind, because tauntingly suggesting you pay again for everything you’ve already purchased once is worse.
So join with me and refuse to buy anything that’s infected with DRM. Support the EFF’s anti-DRM campaign. Support the Defective by Design campaign. Spread the word. Don’t be the poor sod who abruptly finds himself “owning” hundreds of dollars of worthless DRM-infected files that cannot ever be used again.