Sunday, May 23, 2004

Life Can Be Such a Mess...

Boy, can life be a total mess. I have been trying to watch the movie Wag the Dog for a couple of days now. I either have too much to do or can't seem to get through it because we go to bed so late. About to make a third and final attempt to watch the movie this evening. Hopefully this time we'll be able to complete it.

Completely unrelated to what I was just talking about, I want to just stop and mention how brilliant hackers are. Time and time again, content publishers like the recording industry, movie studios, etc. push software and hardware vendors to create all sorts of measures to prevent people from pirating. All that work for what? People who pirate media will continue to do so because nothing is full proof. And those of us who actually spend our hard earned cash, what do we get? Nothing. We get angry because we can't use the media we paid for the way we want to.

Examples:

- Battlefield 1942, Vietnam, etc.: I install the game, but I'm forced to leave the CD in the CDROM drive, have the game frequently verify that I own a copy of the CD, etc.

- iTunes Music Store: I bought the tracks and I can't play them through Winamp without some plug-in that can't integrate as tightly as an unencrypted one because Apple doesn't want you to use anything other than iTunes.

- DVD's: I've spent HUNDREDS of dollars on DVD's and I can't rip them to disk and have all my DVD's locked up in a closet. Instead, I pull out these suckers, get them scratched and am forced to buy new ones...

What ever it is, what ever the DRM, it's always an inconvenience to the paying consumer and mere a one additional step for the pirate.

Now, to the bit about the brilliance of hackers. I love the fact that no matter what the security measure, it IS a matter of time until it's circumvented. Take PlayFair/HYMN for example, it took ~1 year before hackers finally broke the protection schema in FairPlay (iTunes' DRM for Store content). The tool strips the DRM clean off the media, producing pristine unprotected AAC files. A win for the consumer, a win for the hacker.

Will the tool slow down the success of iTunes Music Store? No. Why? Because it's clearly easier to buy it through that store than to spend the time pirating it. The price is right, and most importantly it's convenient and easy. Napster's success wasn't that it enabled millions of people to pirate music over the internet, it's success was that it discovered a HUGE opportunity to make money in a way that's cheaper and more efficient than ever.

-s

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