Join 3,512 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Widgets Widgets Everywhere
March 1, 2005 4:35 AM   Subscribe

Sony will copy-protect most of its new releases by the end of the year. Sony VP Jordan Katz cites a consumer study when claiming the market is ready for this development. Closer analysis of said study shows that the facts do not support this. Some interpretations of that analysis are also not supported by the facts.
posted by Captaintripps (35 comments total)

 
I'd certainly buy a CD priced five bucks lower if it had some form of DRM-- if I want MP3s of my cd, I'll just download them after some kid circumvents the copy protection and the digital files circulate on the normal channels.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:59 AM on March 1, 2005


This Sony thing will either be quickly cracked and become unimportant, or it will prove to be truly secure... and people won't buy it. Either way, it's a dead duck.

Myself, I won't knowingly buy ANYTHING that's DRMed. What I get on a CD is a fully copyable, bit-perfect (assuming a good pressing, anyway) version of the original music. I simply will not pay for anything less.

Give me DRM-free lossless files online and I'll happily buy them. Price them well and I would probably buy a LOT of them.

Music does not need to be scarce and expensive. It can be cheap and ubiquitous. I'm sure there's a saturation point for music, but I don't think the vast majority of people ever get close. Exposure to music begets the want for more music.

The record companies could be far more profitable than they are now, but none of them are willing to go through the pain to get there. Instead, they want to use Congress to sustain their obsolete business model at gunpoint. (which is what laws, ultimately, are.)
posted by Malor at 5:13 AM on March 1, 2005


So has Sony been paying attention to the number of people walking around with iPods? Seems like I'm the last person in the world without one, even in this little midwestern town. I'm guessing their CD sales won't be so great if they've made sure nobody can get the music onto a portable player. I think I've only seen one actual honest-to-god portable CD player in the wild in the last year. I doubt people are going to be digging the old battery-eating walkman out of the junk drawer just to hear the latest release from Sony.

Clearly though Sony just doesn't get it. They didn't get it with their own proprietary music player (Sony file format only, thanks) and they don't seem to be getting it here. Perhaps they'll use the subsequent drop in CD sales to justify their claims of the effect piracy is having on the market?
posted by caution live frogs at 5:25 AM on March 1, 2005


Consumer: "I can buy a CD and rip it to my iPod, right?"

Sony: "You can't do that with our CDs. Spend another $X00 and buy one of our MP3 players and you can, though, through our built-in 'Sony Rapes Your Asses' feature. It's for the good of the industry, we fucking swear."
posted by Mikey-San at 5:35 AM on March 1, 2005


If the music Industry wants to know how well cheap music can sell they should check out the ringtone market.
posted by fullerine at 5:39 AM on March 1, 2005


Thanks for this great post, Captaintripps. DRM is an insidious reversal of the freedom given to mankind by Gutenberg – sort of anyway. And it is in the post, we will find more of it everywhere but as many other posters have noted here, it is most certainly a losing battle. Consumers only find light touch ‘good enough’ DRM (as in good enough to avoid the kleptocratric plastic people that comprise 95% of the content industry suing you) acceptable. Attempts to hack CDs to prevent casual copying will annoy many but stop few who genuinely want to pirate. I agree that lower prices might sweeten the pill somewhat, but...It’s pathetic. While it is natural for content people to want to protect their IP, the truth is that both Hollywood and the music industry are locked in obsolete, very high risk business models. They are buying politicians and abusing the law to continue to make supernormal profits (sometimes) from a risky model they have become accustomed to.

Leaving the fact that it is garbage aside, paying the likes of Mariah Carey $40m or whatever it was up front is a very high risk proposition – as is making a derivative action film for $200m. You HAVE to make that money back. Now imagine instead you signed say 20 (or even 40) bands who have proven fan bases (even smaller local ones), each hitting different market demographics and localities – it is a lower risk proposition. Same with films – don’t make one $200m film, make 10 $20m films that hit different demos – spread the risk and get more consumers buying your stuff overall. Look at Sanctuary Records – proven acts, high profitability, low costs.

We consumers need to rebel by avoiding this hacked content when we can and telling politicians they serve us, not the RIAA. But my cynical side suggests that this will be OBE – if mass piracy of Top 40 tripe and other disposable culture continues, their shareholders will demand a realignment of their models in a lower risk, more diverse, digitally distributed direction. Then maybe we will have a real culture again…
posted by The Salaryman at 5:46 AM on March 1, 2005


I'm sure I speak for a lot of people when I say that this will merely encourage me further to not buy Sony CDs in the future.

Most of these DRM schemes are hare-brained anyway, so if Sony puts out something I like I'll wait until someone else cracks it and shares it via P2P. If the music business decides to take the attitude that it's in a war against the consumer, it's only right that the consumer fight right back.

Now, as to the likelihood that Sony, as a member of the pop music axis of evil, should actually put out something new that I'd like, well, that's another matter entirely.
posted by clevershark at 5:57 AM on March 1, 2005


Easily bypassed by holding down the shift key.

Abstract. MediaMax CD3 is a new copy-prevention technique from SunnComm Technologies that is designed to prevent unauthorized copying of audio CDs using personal computers. SunnComm claims its product facilitates "a verifiable and commendable level of security," but in tests on a newly-released album, I find that the protections may have no effect on a large fraction of deployed PCs, and that most users who would be affected can bypass the system entirely by holding the shift key every time they insert the CD. I explain that MediaMax interferes with audio copying by installing a device driver the first time software from the CD is executed, but I show that this provides only minimal protection because the driver can easily be disabled.

Oh, and fuck them for trying to sell me something that installs malware on my pc.
posted by clubfoote at 6:15 AM on March 1, 2005


The actual Billboard source article says that it allows three copies. How do they do do that?

Now, as to the likelihood that Sony, as a member of the pop music axis of evil, should actually put out something new that I'd like, well, that's another matter entirely.

Sony is the label for Franz Ferdinand, Modest Mouse, Ben Folds, Kaki King, and Tenacious D, among others.
posted by smackfu at 6:18 AM on March 1, 2005


You named 5 acts... Sony owns thousands. Eventually a handful of them were bound to be decent, if by statistical error alone.

Also I guess I must be the only MeFier who's not that keen on Modest Mouse.
posted by clevershark at 6:25 AM on March 1, 2005


I don't dig the Modest Mouse, either. Ben Folds, on the other hand, now there's a guy who can rock this bitch . . .
posted by Mikey-San at 6:31 AM on March 1, 2005


Ok, the study cited asks: "Would you much mind DRM if the CD was five dollars CHEAPER?". (And even then, most people said "Yes, I'd mind.")

If I was offered two versions of a CD, an unrestricted version at $16, and one that allowed a couple back-up copies at $11, I MIGHT go for the DRM version.

But: just what are the chances than Sony's new DRM discs are actually going to BE five dollars cheaper?

Idiots.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 7:05 AM on March 1, 2005


One assumes that Linux PCs will be unaffected?

And also that disabling autorun on Windows PCs should disable the copy protection?

And also that Ad-Aware and kin should remove the malware device driver by default?
posted by Ptrin at 7:10 AM on March 1, 2005


More corporate schizophrenia. The technology wing of Sony just apologized for its recent refusal to build mp3 support into its players, and subtly suggests that concern over rights management has diluted its innovation. Nonetheless, Sony Music plows ahead with its boneheaded plan to put all of its intellectual property behind lock and key.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 7:31 AM on March 1, 2005


But: just what are the chances than Sony's new DRM discs are actually going to BE five dollars cheaper?

Oh, I don't doubt they will be. At first. Then once they've sold a few hundred thousand and the market gets used to the idea, they do it to all CDs and the price goes right back up where it was. The reduced price is just a temporary way to make the wedge nice and pointy.

The thing is, if were willing to put up with DRM I'd just buy the good tracks from iTunes and save my money on the 8-12 shit tracks per CD. The lack of DRM is the last remaining reason to buy CDs at all.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:56 AM on March 1, 2005


Oh, I don't doubt they will be.

I find your implicit faith in the music industry... disturbing.

There's no way Sony will lower its wholesale prices. Why should it? It's not like you have a choice if you want to hear the new releases from a Sony-signed artist.
posted by clevershark at 8:02 AM on March 1, 2005


I can't think of a single Sony musician that I like so for all I care they can charge 50 dollars for a CD that emits poison gas if it comes near a computer.
posted by fleetmouse at 8:06 AM on March 1, 2005


I find your implicit faith in the music industry... disturbing.

Uh, did you read any further beyond the first sentence?
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:06 AM on March 1, 2005


Guess Sony won't get anymore of my $. I have heard that you can strip the DRM of stuff by copying to a analog source (such as a minidisc perhaps), then copying from analog back to digital). Now this is not something most consumers are going to do on a regular basis. However for those into the outright copyright piracy and duplication it seems an ridiculously easy thing to do. So in essence this DRM crap does nothing but hurt the standard consumer.
posted by edgeways at 8:15 AM on March 1, 2005


The stupidity of this battle is truly grand.

Not that any the anti-piracy schemes presented so far have been anything to write home about (other than for entertainment value, as they are indeed comedy gold); it doesn't matter: at the end of the day *any* scheme can be cracked in a very simple manner by simply re-recording the content off the line out jacks.

Pedestrian? Sure, but the quality is likely to be higher than that of most MP3s.
posted by magullo at 8:19 AM on March 1, 2005


Let's run this down.

What have we got?
DRM that makes it marginally more difficult to rip the CD, and will cause the CD to not work on some car stereos, game consoles, computer CD ROM drives etc.

Who does this effect and how?
Big time pacific rim pirates (arrrrr!): not at all. It is easy enough to bypass the DRM and they only need 1 un-DRMed master to make all the copies they want. These are the people that actually cost the record company sales.

Small time p2p fileswappers: not at all. As above, it only takes one.

Me (tech-savy music fan): Small inconvenience. I may have to jump through some hoops to make rip the CD, then, since I mostly listen to CDs at work on my computer's CR-ROM I will make an un-drm'ed audio CDR. This actually makes it *more* likely that I will give copies to friends. If I'm carrying around a copy, and someone shows interest, I will probably just give it to them, knowing that I can burn off another copy at home.

Your mom (non-techy user): Big inconvenience. Buys a CD that for some reason won't work in her car stereo/mysteriously messes up Windows when she puts it in to play.

So, the only player in this drama that this seriously hinders is the one person that had no possibility of ripping/sharing the CD in the first place.

The one reason Sony may be doing this is so they can pursue an additional criminal charge (DMCA circumvention clauses) when going after file swappers.
posted by Capn at 8:46 AM on March 1, 2005


By using CoLinux (for instace), any DRM scheme can (at least in principle) be broken, without resorting to the lossy technique of re-recording the tracks.

The war is already over, just a lot of people haven't heard the news.
posted by sonofsamiam at 9:12 AM on March 1, 2005


Uh, did you read any further beyond the first sentence?

Yes, but there really is no case at all for Sony lowering the price for any length of time, or for any reason. They have a monopoly position on the work of those artists who have signed with them.
posted by clevershark at 9:21 AM on March 1, 2005


Only a complete idiot would allow a disc to install arbitrary pieces of software on their computer simply by placing it in the drive. Disabling the autorun 'feature' is not only easy, it's mandatory for the non-stupid.

The thing that blows me away is the legalities of this. By installing software on computers automatically, aren't they opening themselves up to lawsuits? Suppose Bob, the air traffic controller, inserts the new Fiona Apple CD into the drive at the control tower. The malware infested Sony product installs software via autorun, and subsequently hoses the air traffic control system, and crashes a 747. Bob didn't agree to any form of EULA when the disc installed the malware. Isn't Sony now liable for the deaths of hundreds? This example may be a bit contrived, but the fact remains that Sony is installing software on your computer without your permission and without a EULA. It's not like they're going to open up the source, so how do we know they're not installing keystroke loggers?
posted by mullingitover at 9:38 AM on March 1, 2005


Suppose Bob, the air traffic controller, inserts the new Fiona Apple CD into the drive at the control tower. The malware infested Sony product installs software via autorun, and subsequently hoses the air traffic control system, and crashes a 747.

Trust me when I tell you that the machines that are running the air traffic control system are not used to also play Fiona Apple for the bored controllers.

It's not that you're wrong, it's that your example is stupid.
posted by bshort at 10:09 AM on March 1, 2005


It's not that you're wrong, it's that your example is stupid.
That was why I added the "This example may be a bit contrived" caveat.
posted by mullingitover at 10:18 AM on March 1, 2005


So does that mean Sony Music Japan is reneging on its announcement (Japanese text) of discontinuing copy protection?

Since 2000, Japanese labels such as Avex Trax, JVC, Sony, and Warner Japan have used copy protection on their discs, but in the last year, Sony and Warner have announced they would discontinue copy protection, while Avex was a bit more vague about whether they would. (Avex press release in Japanese. Wish I could find Warner's announcement.)

Sony and Warner backed out, citing the growing use of the iPod in Japan. So, if a Sony division in one part of the world is getting out of copy protection because of customer demand, where does this other "customer acceptance" of copy protection come from?
posted by NemesisVex at 10:31 AM on March 1, 2005


Alas... History repeat thy self!
posted by pixelsmoke at 11:29 AM on March 1, 2005


Sony and Warner backed out, citing the growing use of the iPod in Japan. So, if a Sony division in one part of the world is getting out of copy protection because of customer demand, where does this other "customer acceptance" of copy protection come from?

Ever since they obtained their entertainment arm, Sony has been the ultimate corporate example of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. If Sony dumped the movies and music, its value as a company would increase: it was a stupid acquisition which has done nothing to benefit the company. It has already cost them the market for portable music players, which I imagine will soon dwarf the market for recorded music (if it doesn't already).
posted by mr_roboto at 11:51 AM on March 1, 2005


If they do this, as an added bonus pirated CDs will actually be more valuable than before. Let's see, crippled CD for $15, or well-pirated non-DRM CD for $10. Hmmm...
posted by nTeleKy at 12:47 PM on March 1, 2005


Copy protection? How 1988.
posted by VulcanMike at 3:11 PM on March 1, 2005


I'd certainly buy a DRM disc for $5 less (assuming it's something I'd spend money on in the first place).

And then I'd promptly bypass the protection, using the line out technique if necessary, rip it, losslessly encode, distribute via p2p, and resell/throw away the disc.

Also, everything Capn said. Idiots.
posted by squidlarkin at 3:59 PM on March 1, 2005


Ever since they obtained their entertainment arm, Sony has been the ultimate corporate example of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing.

Posted somewhere:

I'm still waiting for the RIAA and MPAA to go after the software and hardware makers next...

REUTERS - In a landmark case, Sony Corporation (SONY) won a USD $50M lawsuit against Sony Corporation (SONY) for violations of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act.

The lawsuit accused SONY of producing hardward and software, including but not limited to CD-ROM, Hi Fidelity car and home stereo equipment, and DVD players capable of being used to play standard CDs, thus allowing hackers to rob SONY of billions in CD sales by buying their CDs and then playing them in their computers or car stereos.

"Those stupid bastards," said Sony VP of CD-ROM and HiFi Audio equiment John Smith. "What were they thinking?"

"This will teach hardware and software makers that they will be held responsible if their products are being used illegally," said Sony VP of Music and Movies Fred Barber. "This sends a clear message: break your hardware before shipping or we're gonna get you. If you ship a functional product, you're going to pay!"
posted by Mitheral at 9:47 PM on March 1, 2005


VulcanMike: Copy protection? How 1988.

True. I wonder when they are going to start burning holes in CDs and then have their DRM software check for the physical defect.
posted by Mitheral at 9:50 PM on March 1, 2005


if (label == "sony") {
     discard;
     if (band == "good") {
          think "that sucks, oh well. plenty of other great music out there";
     }
}

posted by 31d1 at 7:12 AM on March 2, 2005


« Older Happy 10th Birthday...  |  Complacency Kills by Joe Sacco... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments