Why DRM Is Your Enemy

Boing Boing: If your Xbox is defective, MSFT screws you again with DRM Boing Boing is out with a post about Travis, a guy whose DVD player on his XBox 360 went bad. Fair enough — these things happen. So Travis sent it back in to have it repaired and the DVD drive was replaced by Microsoft. Ok, still, so far so good.

But then when Travis gets his unit back, in order to play the games that he’d previously purchased online he has to go through some major hasslescud to make this happen:

“First, you have to create a new gamer profile and make it an Xbox Live “Silver” membership. It’s free to create that new profile since the “Silver” membership is free, but there is a heck of a lot of data entry for contact information, not to mention the fact you need to give it an email address and password so it can sign on – just like a real profile. The representatives on the phone will tell you it doesn’t matter what email address you give it, but from experience I know they send account notices and such to that email address, so it should probably be legitimate. Of course, that means if you don’t have your own domain and/or can’t figure out how to set up email address forwarding then you’ll need to create a new, dummy Hotmail account or something. Super convenient.

Once you have the dummy gamer profile set up, Microsoft will credit that account with enough credits to go in and re-purchase all of the games you previously had unlocked. Getting that credit to come through takes eight-to-ten business days.”

So it sucks to be Travis. Well probably not in real life, but it sucks to be him when dealing with his defective XBox 360.

A little while back I blogged about my own personal switch from Microsoft’s Outlook email software to Mozilla Thunderbird (which rocks by the way). Basically what happened was that I installed a beta version of Vista on my laptop and then things went wrong and my Outlook was killed and I couldn’t reinstall it. It’s not that I couldn’t reinstall it per se though, it’s that I couldn’t get Microsoft’s authentication to work. When I typed in that little key it just kind wouldn’t take. On my old laptop.

So even though I’ve been using Thunderbird happily I decided to try again the other day. That old laptop has now been trashed. It’s a sad story but numerous things killed a pretty kick ass ThinkPad. First my kids kept pulling all the keys off of the keyboard which kind of screwed that up. Then I accidentally crushed it a bit underneath a seat on an airplane. Then when I was shooting timed exposure shots in the middle of the street on Columbus Ave. in San Francisco and having to run and shoot quickly between the walk/don’t walk lights the laptop fell out of my backpack onto the pavement. And then the final straw was an entire oversized balloon glass filled to the very very top of cold chardonnay went crashing into my keyboard.

These Streets All Know Me, The Shadows Whisper, The Night Keeps Looking Back at Me With Neon EyesThese Streets All Know Me, The Shadows Whisper, The Night Keeps Looking Back at Me With Neon Eyes… or another alternative title might be, Damn it sucks when your $3,000 ThinkPad falls out of your backpack and crashes on the asphalt when trying to do time delayed exposure shots darting in and out of traffic on Columbus Ave. Hosted on Zooomr

So now that laptop is dead. Very dead.

But when I bought my new Dell laptop (smartly, a sub $1,000 one this time), I bought it without Microsoft Office. I bought it without Microsoft Office because I already purchased a version of Microsoft Office for my dead ThinkPad. Certainly I own the software, I paid up for it. It’s dead on my ThinkPad. And I should be able to install it on my new Dell. Right? Nope. Authentication keys still don’t work. Even when read right off of the software discs that I own.

Now I could probably get this fixed. I know enough people inside Microsoft (and they really are great people) that I could probably figure out the right place to get this worked out. But that’s not the point. The point is that the DRM that in Microsoft Outlook prevented me, a legitimate user and rightful owner, from using my software without inconveniencing me. And the funny thing is, now that I’ve been using Thunderbird for the past few months, I don’t even care. Thunderbird was free for me to use and it rocks.

But what’s also really nice is that I know if my Thunderbird craps out that I can always go and reinstall it. And you know what, when I reinstall it I won’t be asked for an authentication key because it has no DRM.

Heh, interestingly enough I just spell checked this article on my copy of Microsoft Word (an old copy I’m sure) and the spell checker didn’t recognize the world Mozilla. Guess I’ll just need to be adding that one to my personal dictionary.

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  1. Actually, all Travis had to do was delete any profile on the machine and “recover profile” from Xbox Live.

    Five minutes later, his account would’ve been restored, and he could re-download any games he purchased. I’ve done this more times than I can count, always without a hitch.

    Travis just wanted attention, and you and Cory gave it to him. By the way: Travis’ site requires registration in order to post a response to his post — I chose not to register on his site to post my response, and the irony of a complaint against DRM going unchallenged by users who don’t want to give up their e-mail address to Travis did not go unnoticed. 🙂

  2. Anonymous says:

    “But what’s also really nice is that I know if my Thunderbird craps out that I can always go and reinstall it. And you know what, when I reinstall it I won’t be asked for an authentication key because it has no DRM.”

    Thats probably because Thunderbird is free and Office 2003 is not?

    I agree with some of your points with DRM but that statement is silly.

    Thunderbird (free) so who cares, they don’t care who you are so just reinstall

    Office (not free) would need to provide proof you own it

    But again agree that your key should have worked and so should authentication and that you bought it you own it no matter what machine its on.

  3. Anonymous says:

    How is this any different to Adobe applications (Photoshop, et al) which also do a “call home” registration, Macromedia and some PC games?

    Everyone just likes picking on MS becuase they’re such an easy target.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Pretty similar complaint from Mr Hawk about WMP 11 not working well with his stolen 60,000 song library.

    All FUD with no real problem.

  5. Anonymous says:

    thomas, man. Just get a Mac and be done with it.

    Really.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Uh. . FairPlay, is DRM

  7. Jeremiah says:

    It was a similar scenario that led me to abandon Outlook (and slowly, Word and Excel, too). I too adopted Thunderbird, but later was invited to GMail, and I have never gone back to client-based email.

    I’ve begun using GMail as my defacto word processor (the Drafts folder is wondermous) because I can work on document text from any internet connection. I know the GMail team is working on a WYSIWYG editor.

    Google’s recent addition of spreadsheets to the Google Services has been very handy for basic spreadsheets – invoices, worklogs, elementary budget analysis – and I’ve for all intents and purposes not required an MS Office product in several weeks.

    Anyhoo, I think i diverged from the topic, which was: DRM is my enemy.