February 01, 2011 | Peter Bradwell

ORG calls for DRM evidence

There is rarely a pause for breath in the debate about copyright and intellectual property. But over the next couple of months there are lots of reviews and consultations going on, both in the UK and at the EU, that give everyone a chance to make a coherent, well-argued case for their vision of the copyright rule-book directly to policy makers and the people around them. If you have something to say about copyright, now is the time to be saying it. Here at Open Rights Group we will be making our strongest possible case for a regime of rules and enforcement that promote innovation and creativity, and also respect basic rights such as freedom of expression and privacy. We don’t think the current direction of IP and copyright policy gets it right on either count. And we’d like your help to explain why.

Aside from the Judicial Review intervention, first up is our submission for the 'Hargreaves review of Intellectual Property'. Today we’re issuing a call for evidence to inform our submission to the Review.

We know that there has been plenty of under-the-radar harm caused to ordinary consumers by ‘Digital Rights Management’ (DRM) over the past years. And we wouldn’t want that left out of the Review’s evidence base. It might be seeing the service you bought content on disappear, making your purchased music or films useless. Perhaps you bought an iPod or other music player and discovered too late that the format of your legally purchased music collection wasn’t supported. It might be that you bought music or film on one platform and found that unnecessarily restricted your subsequent choices about where to watch it, listen to it, or read it.

If you have had experiences of ‘DRM’ that you think we should hear, let us know. You’ll be helping us make the case that it can cause unnecessary, often financial, harm to ordinary consumers. Share this call with as many people as you can. The more evidence the better.

You can email your stories to me directly. Ideally we would appreciate short submissions that clearly set out your experience and the consequences of it. If it is possible to estimate how much money you spent on content featuring DRM, please do so. The deadline for your submissions to us is Wednesday 16th February.

We would also suggest taking a look at the Review website and consider putting in a submission. They’re really keen to see contributions backed by hard evidence, whether based on data or ‘case studies and individual experience.’ If you have either, tell them.

Comments (15)

  1. Gareth Illmann-Walker:
    Feb 01, 2011 at 10:56 AM

    Ubisoft have implemented a system of DRM that requires an active internet connection to very the software with their servers before you can play the game. (Settlers 7 in my case). I find it galling that sometimes I can't play a game I've legally paid for when I want because their servers are down. Not a massive issue I know but I like control over the software I've paid for, not to be beholden to the reliability of other people's systems which then claim I don't have an internet connection when I quite clearly do and the problem is at their end.

  2. Peter Bradwell:
    Feb 01, 2011 at 12:53 PM

    Hi Gareth. That's a great example, and helps demonstrate the impact on individuals of DRM. Thanks a lot for commenting. DRM tends to punish exactly the wrong people. As an isolated case it might not seem to some like a massive issue, but certainly when added up it causes real harm to legitimate consumers.

  3. Jordan Hicks:
    Feb 01, 2011 at 01:25 PM

    I bought TrackMania United off a friend a few years ago, and it came with the dreaded StarForce DRM. It requires you to have the disc in, then it checks the disc to make sure it's genuine, then it finally lets you play it, but most of the time, it just froze up and wouldn't complete the check.

    It got so bad, that I actually had to resort to downloading a no-CD patch for the game. Thankfully, Nadeo saw the error of their ways, and removed the StarForce DRM in the TrackMania United Forever update, so with that installed, you don't need to insert the disc and have it verified; the only protection is the serial key from your TMU manual, and logging into the account the key is linked to, so it's all good now. :)

  4. Rob Paddock:
    Feb 01, 2011 at 01:27 PM

    Quite similar to Gareth's example above, I bought a copy of EA's Command and Conquer 4 to find that it requires an active internet connection to play at all, even the SINGLE PLAYER modes!
    If you lose the connection for any reason at all you immediately get a message telling you this, and it refuses to save your progress until you exit your current game and return to the main menu. Needless to say, I stopped playing soon after.
    I do not see why I should be unable to play a game because my ISP is unreliable!

  5. Colin G:
    Feb 01, 2011 at 01:55 PM

    Before itunes went DRM-free, I bought 3 albums from the itunes store, only to find they wouldn't play on my non-Apple mp3 player. I spent money on music that, thanks to DRM, I couldn't listen to! I eventually illegally downloaded these albums, which solved the problem, and tbh I felt morally entitled to do so.

  6. DJ mam bach:
    Feb 01, 2011 at 02:00 PM

    Add me to 'why should I need a live internet connection for a game I paid for?' Starcraft 2 won't let me save anymore, since I can't remember the password to the online thingy, and of course can't create a new one. God help anyone still on dialup! Why don't they let me save locally?

  7. DJ mam bach:
    Feb 01, 2011 at 02:06 PM

    Music: I bought it on CD, I paid for it. Why can't I listen to it when I want? I want to rip a copy to my mp3 player, but am afraid if I do so someone will be able to sieze my CDs (if the PTB yoinked my whole music collection, I'd not be able to work in the field!)

    Whitelabels: why should the police be able to sieze-and-destroy anything I can't prove I paid for. No, that one was given out at a gig. That's a home recording. Oh, you're going to burn my irreplaceable stuff. Neat.

  8. Rafal Los:
    Feb 01, 2011 at 04:42 PM

    DRM that locks you to a particular media type... for example my wife and I own hundreds of dollars in iTunes music. If I want to listen to the music now I have to either stay locked into an Apple device, or listen only on my computer - what is that?! I LEGALLY own the right to the music, why can't I listen on any device I want?

  9. Abz Hu:
    Feb 01, 2011 at 07:20 PM

    I have also experienced the "stay online 24/7 to play a game" issue!

    The only thing that DRM system has done for gamers is nothing except causing frustration and anger really!

  10. Jack Aldridge:
    Feb 01, 2011 at 07:39 PM

    I bought a few b-side tracks from HMV digital back when it was using Windows Media DRM. After my computer broke irreparably, I had to email them to reauthorise the tracks on my subsequent computer. Having since bought a third computer, and HMV having since stopped selling DRM'd music, I have no way of playing my legally purchased music on my current computer. HMV advised burning the music to CD then ripping them to MP3, but of course I didn't think of this when transferring the files from the 2nd computer to the 3rd. In addition, the suggested solution would involve a significant drop in audio quality, which, as an audiophile, is unacceptable.

  11. Dann:
    Feb 03, 2011 at 01:12 AM

    First, some background info.

    I refuse to use a Windows or Apple -based Operating System on my computer.
    That in itself means I do not have access to iTunes (for "Digital Copies" of movies found on some dvd/blueray packages, movies that I actually purchase) and I do not have DRM encoded into my OS (Windows 7 refuses to allow some streams if they are found to be re-routed using some detection).

    There are a lot of things I cannot do because these freedom killswitches are not embedded in my OS, and that in turn means there is a lot of media I cannot access. (Vendor lock-in, Media lock-in).
    Basically I am treated like a second class citizen (or lower if possible) because I made a concious choice to view my medium in a way I want on a physical machine I own for my own personal consumption. Without going into music and video backups for personal use, media companies are LOSING MONEY because they are not reaching markets like me.
    There will always be copyright infringement, the problem is that business models are changing but businesses AREN'T!
    Also the quality of entertainment nowadays is so poor that people don't want to spend a lot of money on something they won't enjoy. People want to sample or view in entirety a form of media so if they KNOW they will watch it more than once, they will purchase it.

    Basically my point is, that we're getting mostly cruft from hollywood, consumer disappointment and apathy, people on the internet make more compelling media for consumption (and cheaper too), and that if people truly like something, they will spend money for it. BUT ONLY IF IT DOESN'T RESTRICT THEM!

    Case in Point: I imported a special edition DVD set of my favourite band from Germany. (Note: Special edition, not just a crummy cd, but actually STUFF included)
    Now my cd is scratched up from being played constantly while driving.
    I made myself a backup on my pc so I haven't lost anything. I will continue to support my band as long as they come out with things that are physically rare (not just music on cd's) regardless of the cost of importing it.

    Good thing DRM wasn't there to fuck me out of $65.
    Also, a lot of opensource codecs such as FLAC are superior to what the MPEG-LA cartel provides.

  12. Caroline Ford:
    Feb 04, 2011 at 11:33 AM

    The British Library supplies academic journal articles with DRM which means you can only print them out from one machine and they expire after a couple of weeks!

    When I order journal articles I make sure I get the paper version as at least I can keep that - the electronic one is crippled!

  13. Caroline Ford:
    Feb 04, 2011 at 11:39 AM

    Licensing of academic ebooks means that you need an Internet connection to read them and they only display in your browser. If you flick through the pages too fast it gives you a warning and you can print less than the normal fair dealing limit of one chapter.

    Licensing of ejournals means that library visitors do not get access, only students of that institution. For example I get access to the LSE library but can only access their paper journals as only LSE students get to access their ejournals.

    In both these cases publisher restrictions have made the e versions much less useful than paper!

  14. Matthew Navarra:
    Feb 04, 2011 at 12:29 PM

    The IP Review also has a twitter feed and blog found using links below - comments, ideas, concerns and thoughts welcomed...



  15. Jon Pritchard:
    Feb 04, 2011 at 01:27 PM

    One that I remember (I don't buy DRM'ed things anymore, it's a deal breaker) is I bought a charity single I think by Radiohead or possibly Muse, it was for Warchild, and it played in Windows Media Player fine. However, after many years and many different computers I've completely forgotten the password you have to enter in order to authenticate and listen to it, completely frustrating as I've changed email accounts too. So I just deleted it. I couldn't play it on my mp3 player or my phone anyway, because they don't support the DRM scheme.

    Just while typing this I've remembered another, more recent one. I bought my girlfriend Disney's "Up" on DVD this Christmas, and she was really excited to see it. So we put it on one afternoon, but it kept freezing and wouldn't play a whole section of the disc, you had to manually skip through to the other side. Our DVD player has never had problems with any other disc, and you could hear the disc drive working hard scanning back and forth, I believe this is because of the DRM they put on it. Really disappointed with it, it's a major hassle, I still have to send it back to the retailer to demand my money back -- that's not what you want to be doing right after Christmas.