I’ve always had a strenuous relationship with DRM, but up until now it has been a purely ethical loathing of the restrictions placed on technology I’m supposed to own. Tonight, after buying a BluRay Disc and trying to play it in my computer’s BluRay Drive, my anger at DRM has taken on a technical justification.
Previously, anecdotal evidence had told me that DRM does suffer from technical difficulties – massive ones at that – but I’d never come across anything serious in my own experience. Occasionally, playing certain formats from certain companies required some tweaking and hacking but nothing has ever been rendered completely unplayable. Until now.
I have legitimately bought a BluRay Player. I have legitimately bought a BluRay Disc. I have legitimately put the BD into the BD-ROM drive. I have legitimately installed a legitimate operating system on my legitimately owned computer. I have not broken the law at any stage along the process. Yet the assumption that I wish to, or already have broken copyright law precludes me from playing this now very-expensive-coaster (although in actuality it wasn’t that much more than I’d expect to pay for a decent coaster as it was preowned from blockbuster during a sale).
Here comes the hugely ironic part. Due to the simple fact that I want to watch the film now, not after hacking and tweaking and fucking around for four hours to get the fucking thing to play on my legitimate device (did I mention that the device is 100% shop-bought, prefabricated, manufacturer-warrantied, legal shit?) which is legitimate.
Ok, ready for irony?
I’m seriously considering torrenting The Men Who Stare At Goats because of the DRM software on The Men Who Stare At Goats’ BD.
Yup, you read correctly. The DRM software is actually ENCOURAGING me to pirate the film. ENCOURAGING. Its entire purpose of existence is to DISCOURAGE this behaviour, and yet it fails miserably.
Breakdown of reasons:
Pirated BD rips can be played on any device, any OS, anywhere.
BDs can only be played on computers with the right software installed, or official BluRay players.
Pirated BD rips do not need to “load” for 5-10 seconds before they do anything.
BDs have loading screens. Loading screens for a frigging film.
Pirated BD rips are lower quality so they can be downloaded, but are still much higher quality than DVD rips and even DVD rips are generally acceptable quality.
BDs are very high quality but, due mainly to DRM, the performance overheads are enormous. Meaning BDs will struggle to maintain smooth playback on low-end hardware. This isn’t a direct concern for me personally, as my hardware can cope, but I worry for people who can’t afford to upgrade their entire PC just to playback BDs (considering such an upgrade could cost upwards of £500, compared to the £30 I spent buying a BD-ROM drive).
So, there you have it. Big media companies wonder why we keep pirating their shit, but then make their product technologically limited and generally WORSE than the FREE alternative. It’s like selling sweets for £30 a time, then arresting people who make similar sweets that taste better and are free, and getting all uppity and self-righteous about it at the same time. And then you start telling people who buy sweets from you, rather than getting them for free, that they can’t share their sweets with their friends or family, and they can’t give their sweets away or sell them, and then you start watching them eat them so you can be sure. And all the while wondering, why are my customers breaking the law by going to the copycat sweet makers?