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Cartoons Reveal DRM Frustrations

I was struck by two recent cartoons that echo a common frustration with digital rights managed media: it's so hard to use the clumsy, purposely frustrating interfaces that it's easier to download and play a pirated version of media for which you have legitimate access.

First, Geekologie outlined in PowerPoint-like form the way in which the marketing and copyright geniuses at movie studios have ruined the experience of getting to a movie once you've inserted a DVD into a player.

There have been discs I've accessed lately that I wanted to put into the microwave oven after spending multiple minutes just getting to the point where I could actually watch the main feature. There's no reason for all this: the FBI, Interpol, and other warnings obviously don't ever stop anyone from any activity, but they are de rigueur irritations. Increasingly, unskippable trailers market to us just like we're bombarded at movie theaters.

The alternative? Stick a ripped-and-burned disc into a drive - or open a ripped file - and watch the film sans preludes.

The second cartoon, from the super-geeky Web designer duo The Brads (Brad Colbow and Brad Dielman), hits close to our heart: it shows Brad D. attempting to check out and listen to an audio book in digital form from his local library. (This cartoon is too big to display here; click the link to view it.)

Matt Neuburg painted a word story of the same horrible process in "A Silly Saga: How I Downloaded an Audio Book from My Library" (5 March 2009). Brad Dielman's saga ends with downloading the audio from a BitTorrent site.

In both cases, the examples aren't, "Hey, go steal stuff and rip off the copyright holder!" Rather, the humor lies in how hard companies make it to access content we have already paid for and can access entirely legitimately. Media firms seem to delight in making it hard, all of which contributes to "piracy" as a form of civil disobedience.


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Comments about Cartoons Reveal DRM Frustrations
(Comments are closed.)

GeorgeT  2010-03-04 22:55
"Media firms seem to delete in"

Umm, delight?
Glenn Fleishman  2010-03-04 23:13
Freudian swipe. Fixed!
Tim Crawford  2010-03-05 04:42
I noticed the same typo. It is still there in the rss feed :-)
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2010-03-05 07:25
Our RSS feed isn't updated on every minor change (since otherwise people would see tons of "new" articles when all we've done is fixed a typo or changed an infelicitous phrasing).

So we have to explicitly tell the system that an article has a significant enough update to warrant changing the feed and resetting the article to "unread" in many thousands of newsreaders.
Glenn Fleishman  2010-03-05 07:56
Actually, not! The feed is updated on every change, but we're pushing out through Feedburner, which has its own refresh schedule that can delay updates unless we force it.
Ron Risley  An apple icon for a TidBITS Patron 2010-03-05 09:17
The Javascript pop-outs are problematic for me. The second cartoon actually pops to a window that is _smaller_ than the inline image. Both are excruciatingly slow on my iPhone, and result in images that are unreadable and difficult to navigate. Is it just me?
Glenn Fleishman  2010-03-05 16:12
We've messed around with this to fix it. There's a direct link for each cartoon, and we removed the embedded one for the Brads for now.
I rip every DVD I buy and watch it from HDD. Sometimes if ripping gets too tricky I download a *pirated* version and use this instead. I think companies that sell films may actually have this perverse enjoyment slapping us around. Actually this seems to be true for some other big business enterprises.
Dennis B. Swaney  2010-03-08 20:11
I've sent the links for the ebook cartoon and the 2009 TidBITS article to the local library where I worked until I retired 2 years ago.
Has anyone ever actually seen the text of the Interpol declaration that they cite at the beginning of every DVD? I tried to find it but never had any luck.

My antennae also prick up when I read the date (late 70s), which given that home VCRs weren't widely available until about five years later seems awfully far-sighted.

The cartoon, though, really does sum up the industry's approach to a T!
Glenn Fleishman  2010-03-08 22:39
Mark Lilienthal  2010-03-09 14:51
Read the Interpol warning carefully. The French version is distinctly different from the English, explicitly allowing for "copying for the strictly private use of the copier."

"Fair use" provisions only apply in French speaking countries?
French law explicitly allows for copies to be made for their own use by the owner of the DVD/CD in question.
I was referring to the fact that the Interpol resolution is dated September 1977, which predates home VCRs by about five years in Europe. Surely there can't have been enough piracy in 1977 to warrant such concern, can there?
Shay Telfer  2010-03-09 07:14
Here in Australia the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission deemed that region coding was illegal, and so every cheap DVD player ships with a firmware update to make the player region free.
However a several thousand dollar Mac is still limited to 5 region changes then you're stuck for the rest of its life. Apple really needs to fix this.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2010-03-09 10:28
The FBI warning spoof from Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog is hilarious; I don't know offhand if it's available on the Web, but it's certainly on the DVD from Netflix.
I think the term "piracy" is inappropriate in this context. To my mind, "piracy" implies counterfeiting someone else's property for the end of making money without renumerating the original owner. In my case, I resorted to downloading movies from dubious sources, simply because I wanted to protect my child and her friends from the ruthless advertising that often comes with rental or bought DVDs. I shan't name the movies but I was shocked to the bone at the advertising material included in these DVDs those DVDs, nevermind the legal blurb that usually follows the movies. And yep, the torrent world helps me out, I download the movie, convert it to dv, edit it in iMovie and cut it to DVD with iDVD. The quality is never on a par with the original but so far, none of the children have complained. They're happy to have the movie without ads for candies and barbies.