Today I had my first big hairy encounter with why Digital Rights Management software is the worst idea that has ever come out of the tech sector.
It’s a snow day here in DC, well, more like a slushy rain, and the fear of driving has closed everything down. So, I’ve got the day off. This leads me to start scrolling through Netflix looking for something good. But Netflix has next to nothing good right now, because none of the major film companies want to play with them. So, I figured I’d look through iTunes and see what I could find in their movie selections. I decided it was finally time for me to see Looper. And streaming at $4.99 was reasonable. So, I pay my money, and start the download to buffer and I get the sign that it’s ready.
Now this is where I tell you that I have my MacBook connected to my television. I use it as a media console and I sometimes move windows over to the television and blow up things like YouTube videos or Netflix movies or anything else that would just generally look better on the bigger screen. I’ve got the screen split between my laptop’s built in monitor and the television.
So, I move my iTunes window over to the television to play that movie for me and my partner and my roommate so we can all watch it together. And then it stops playing. It would hiccup for a second and then black screen. Then I got this popup window.
The text of it reads “The selected movie won’t play on one of your selected displays. This movie can only be played on HDCP (High Bandwidth Digital Content Protection). Try moving the iTunes window to a different display. Make sure the entire window is in the supported display.”
And it’s true. When I would move the movie over to my desktop it would play, but even if it would be just a hairs breadth in the television display it would seize up.
This was not something that I knew before I paid my money, and had I known in advance that this was going to happen I wouldn’t have bought it at all. The purpose of renting that movie was to have a nice little snow day in with my partner and to pass the time. So, I reported this to iTunes and demanded my money back.
And then I went to Amazon. And at least Amazon is up front about it. They give you a giant list of all the compatible televisions on which you are allowed to watch their movie.
But seriously, I have to have a specific kind of television to watch a goddamn movie?
This is why piracy is rampant. Artificial barriers to access result in people not getting the product they want the way that they want it. Watching a movie on a television should be a no-brainer. You stream your movie and you watch it on a television in your home. You shouldn’t have to have a special television that is DRM compliant just to be “allowed” to watch a movie. It’s completely stupid.
So, I didn’t get the movie on iTunes or Amazon. I was perfectly willing to pay for it. But I want to watch that movie on my television. If I can’t do that, I’ll just keep my money.
To learn more about this kind of stupidity check out http://www.defectivebydesign.org/