However, for those among us (like the French) who dream of, nay, demand more – the picture gets a
On the flip side of this digital record is, of course, Microsoft. Love ‘em or hate
‘em, they're certainly taking a different approach than Apple. Unlike the normal Microsoft M.O. of slowly (but
surely) beating you into buying nothing but Microsoft products, when it comes to digital-media Microsoft is singing a
new tune. "We are the DRM of the people. None of that proprietary stuff like Apple," they chant. The new plan
of attack is to aggressively license their DRM technology and push third-party devices. The thought is simple: as long
as consumers have an ample selection of playback devices the content won't feel locked down. That's a fine goal, in
theory. However, one has to wonder how well this works when they, themselves, can't do it right. Take Origami for
Recently, like the rest of the tech world, I sat down to ponder the importance (or lack thereof) of
Microsoft's poorly code-named Origami. Try as I might, I just couldn't grasp the market for this device. As a media
writer, my first reaction was obviously, "It could be like a Portable Media Center, but better!" The problem,
I quickly discovered, was DRM. As Vista approaches and native digital-cable support will finally be a reality, it's safe
to say that more and more of Media Center's content will be wrapped in DRM and, while Microsoft did foresee syncing with
devices such as Portable Media Centers, their support for syncing to other full-fledged computers (which Origami devices
are) is nearly non-existent. Yes, they did buy FolderShare and this does provide a brute-force method of syncing.
However, once DRM is applied, all bets are out the window (or should I say Windows?). Where does this leave Origami
devices? That's unclear, but without some major changes to Windows Media Player, it's unlikely that you'll be carrying
around the latest episode of The Sopranos on your Origami device.
This leads us back to the French. Ahh,
the French... As a
jingoistic proud American, I am predisposed to abhor the phrase "The French
are right." Yet, one has to wonder if there is some merit to their stance. While I won't go so far as saying that
Apple should be forced to open their platform (that's Apple's decision to make), I do fully support France's decision
(should Apple not open up their formats) to make it legal to circumvent protection for one's own purposes.
Apple (and all DRMers) need to live with the consequences of their decisions. Content wants to be free.
Content wants to move. If your business relies on locking down content, you should be responsible for locking
it down. If your DRM isn't strong enough, that's your problem. Governments aren't… well…
shouldn't be in the business of picking winners. That's not to say that the government shouldn't find and prosecute
those who steal / publish / etc. illegally. To that end, the French bill includes several provisions for punishing
pirates. Governments simply need to learn the difference between theft and "activities that could lead to
theft." And as much as my mouth will hate doing this, I must begrudgingly force it to say that maybe, just maybe,
the French government understands that difference. Alas, I will apologize to my mouth by treating it to a nice Cab. It
turns out the French are good for a couple things.
If you have comments
or suggestions for future columns, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org