Tech: How Not to Do DRM
Digital Rights Management, or DRM, is the blanket term for any technique or technology that controls access to copyrighted material (usually music, movies, or computer software). Opponents of DRM argue that it burdens the consumer without really affecting the pirate, since almost all DRM schemes can be circumvented somehow. Supporters say that it dissuades casual copiers and helps to preserve the market for legit copies. I understand why DRM schemes exist, and I also think digital distribution is where everyone's headed. Buying a physical copy of an album or movie may become as outmoded as using an 8-track.
I ran into some problems with the bizarre DRM scheme used in the "Terminator 2: Extreme Edition" DVD, however. First, an explanation: the content in question is a high-resolution version of the classic movie "Terminator 2: Judgment Day," one of my favorite films. Now, the movie itself is stored as a series of HD video files on the DVD-ROM, rather than as a regular DVD-Video MPEG-2. The Interactual Player is needed to access these files from the menu. The Interactual Player also uses Windows Media Player 9 to download a license file from a remote server.
The problem comes in downloading the license. It's extremely silly to depend on the Internet to supply a license like this, since there are no guarantees in the Internet Protocol that any information will get where it's supposed to go. To add insult to injury, the license server rejects anyone using an anonymous proxy server (a very common method of accessing the Web). I had to use someone else's unsecured wireless network just to download the file. Needless to say, if it took someone with a computer engineering degree an hour to figure out how to get to these files, the average consumer's in for a ride.