Digital rights management (DRM) is something that Apple, Inc., (formerly Apple Computer, Inc.) had to implement into its iPod/iTunes scheme in order to convince the hopelessly dated Luddites that run the music industry to try the legitimate sale of digital music. The scheme is, of course, costly, cumbersome (though far smoother than any other DRM scheme) and unpopular with customers who are used to being able to copy or digitize (i.e., rip) their own CDs, but now find that they have even less freedom with the digital media that they buy.
It all comes to a head with Microsoft’s Vista operating system, however. According to the above theregister.com article, Vista’s DRM scheme is horribly restrictive. It is embedded at the firmware level in your computer and certain devices. All this means is that it is nearly impossible to use any software scheme to even allow yourself to play your own music on another computer that you own. Furthermore, the scheme propagates itself to mobile players, like Microsoft’s Zune, such that playing your music on more than one player becomes a chore.
The most terrifying aspect of this DRM scheme is that it can apply itself to music that comes from CDs that you own. Hence, it is entirely possible for you not to have as much freedom to play your digital music as you do to play your CDs!
Enter the media and the welcome mat that they rolled for Windows Vista. Perhaps most surprising was NPR’s total lack of coverage of Vista’s DRM scheme. When I complained to NPR about the fact that their coverage of Vista was little more than a reading of Microsoft’s press releases, I go this response:
Thank you for contacting NPR’s Morning Edition.
I regret that our programming has not met your expectations. We strive to
offer the highest quality of news and information available. Listener
feedback helps us to accomplish this goal.
We welcome praise, as well as criticism, and your thoughts will be taken
Thank you for listening to Morning Edition, and for your continued support
of public broadcasting. For the latest news and information, visit NPR.org.
To which I replied in disgust. After all, it seems as if NPR and other public radio outlets are favoring Microsoft’s scheme perhaps because they want to charge for access to material that they produced with public moneys. I replied:
It is truly despicable that the mass medium of last resort for the consumer, NPR, is not discussing important issues.
To which they replied:
As the primary news source for millions of Americans, NPR takes our
responsibility to be accurate very seriously.
Your suggested information will be taken into consideration.
Additionally, your message has been forwarded to NPR’s Office of the
Ombudsman. For more information about the role of the NPR Ombudsman, please
Thank you for listening.
So, perhaps someone is listening. Fortunately, for now, there is the option of avoiding the Microsoft DRM scheme. Hopefully, there will not be a time when one has to ask Microsoft permission to play media that one owns, especially media whose production one has funded through taxes.