Does Sony think their customers are morons?

I’m not pirating music or films, and I will gladly pay huge sums of money to huge world-wide record companies and film studios. But if they insist on protecting their publications with DRM, I will in turn insist only to pay half the price at the shop counter in return for less accessible content.

It is no secret that DRM, or Digital Rights Management, have been used widely throughout the DVD and CD publishing world for some years now. DRM is not a technology in its own, but rather an umbrella-term used to cover the various technologies that exist, intended to prevent illegal copying of DVDs and CDs.

Half CD and DVD logo CD is short for “Compact Disc”, a standard originally developed by Sony and Philips between 1979 and 1982. DVD stands for “Digital Versatile Disc”, a standard developed by Toshiba (and others) in the early 1990s. But you don’t need a Sony or Philips CD player to play your latest music CD, nor do you need a special Toshiba DVD player to watch a DVD-movie. This is due to the interesting phenomenon known as a “standard”.

Sony, Philips and Toshiba made a great effort to get other hardware manufactures to create CD and DVD players that could play the new format. They also allowed CD and DVD manufactures to create and sell CDs and DVDs. This all helped the formats to be widely accepted into every household. So when you buy the new James Bond movie, Casino Royale, you expect that you can go home and watch it, using one of your various DVD players in your household – even if they aren’t manufactured by Sony, Philips or Toshiba.

How DRM is bad User Experience

The way many DRM technologies work is by deviating a little bit from the CD or DVD standard, making the disc non-compliant to that particular standard. This works due to the odd fact that many optical computer drives aren’t that tolerant for errors in the CD or DVD. Regular players like the one in your Hi-Fi system or below your TV-set usually are though. Since most illegal copying takes place on computers and since it is now harder to get the computer to read the original CD or DVD, this in turn results in a medium that is harder to copy – not impossible, but harder.

The problem with this tactic is that it is not bulletproof. Like I wrote above, many standalone CD and DVD players can play the corrupted medium – but not all! There are many, many cases where a perfectly good car-audio system, home stereo or top-of-the-line DVD player are not capable of playing DRM protected CDs or DVDs. Just as many cases exist where computer CD-ROM or DVD drives are capable of playing and copying these same DRM protected CDs and DVDs.

In the early days of DRM the manufactures still labeled the DRM protected mediums the same way as the real CDs and DVDs. They got the certified “Compact Disc” or “Digital Versatile Disc” logos printed on them. In many cases these logos where removed due to huge outrage from the public. Personally I couldn’t agree more. It was like selling cheese at the supermarket labeling it “Lo-fat, only 2%” when it actually contained 25% fat. Putting the Compact Disc logo on an optical disc that did not live up the the Compact Disc standards was not good business practice (is it even legal?).

Let’s forget the fact that most consumers don’t bother to check for these missing logos, nor that they are still called “CDs” and “DVDs”. The biggest issue by far is that they still expect you to pay the same amount of money for a product that is only half as good. A product that can only be played on half of your players, not to mention the fact that you are not allowed to take backup copies for your car etc. – even in countries where this is actually allowed with real CDs and DVDs.

Dear record label and Dear film studio, please be fair and either drop the prices or just drop DRM altogether!

This story was inspired by many years of irritation over DRM. Recently spawned by a story on Slashdot where new DVDs released by Sony are reported not to work on multiple DVD players. Sony responded that it’s up to the manufacturers to update their hardware.

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8 Responses to “Does Sony think their customers are morons?”

  1. Jens Meiert Says:

    Reminds me of still many people’s reaction on bad usability: They do nothing (or even worse, they blame themselves). The reaction on DRM, RFID, and stuff is similar anyway, though with more “momentum”. Like we just shouldn’t accept bad design, we shouldn’t accept broken product promises (as with the mentioned DRM case) or even “privacy restrictions”, either; of course not. So thanks for every post that sensitizes.

  2. o nekim stvarima govoreći » Blog Archive » Obavezno pogledajte!!! Says:

    […] Da li Sony misli da su njihove mušterije moroni? […]

  3. David Reuben Says:

    If Sony keeps trying to stop people from copying, more people will go for less restricted ways like downloading pirated products. Sony should understand that where people try to restrict others it can only do them harm. The future will need companies finding new models of business. Like Napster now allows paying a monthly fee and downloading music legitamitly.

    There are so many solutions and all it takes is looking for solututions. The easiest way when everything is wireless, would be to make everyone stream the music and no one to download or have physical item.

  4. Houston The DVD Player Man Says:

    Privacy is everywhere, its really hard to stop it totally but to minimise it, that can be done. If the prices per download of movie isn’t high or the movie ticket kept increasing, we would’t be thinking of downloading it.

    Technology like DRM, will be hack in no time and they must find a win-win solution. Well, big company like Sony, they should be able to find a solution. If the solution is good and towards the consumers’ mind, i believe their sales will increase instead of preventing this and that which will create more resistant. Well, just my 2cents worth

  5. Dvd or cds Says:

    This is a bunch of crap all the time they make it so hard for a person that wants to copy something that they are going to use for their own personal use. then you are suppose to go pay for a software that is very expensive to do it .. it just lucky we can find free programs.

  6. rare and cheap dvds Says:

    The whole piracy thing and the big companies trying to stop it seems pretty funny to me. I don’t care what they come up with, there will be some hacker somewhere waiting for the new challenge. And he wont have any problem releasing his new program to the masses, and it just goes in a big circle. The people that get hurt are the general public, mostly the law abiding citizens. Funny how that works…

  7. dvd Says:

    I think this is bad usability!

  8. taxi service Says:

    i dont see why sony cares their customer service department is terrible anyways.