Blogger Davis Freeberg’s tale of DRM woe.

Davis Freeberg is a braver man than I am. He’s actually attempting to use his PC to watch HD content that he has purchased legitimately which means it’s all secured by DRM. Not only does he purchase videos from Amazon’s Unbox service, but he also watches streaming video from Netflix. All of that was working fine up until the point that he decided to purchase an High Definition monitor for his computer and then all hell broke loose:

Even though I’m an HDTV fanatic, it wasn’t until this past weekend, that I finally made the jump to an HD monitor. While I don’t have HDTV tuners on my Media Center, I do have an HD camcorder and it was important for me to be able to edit my high resolution videos.

After doing a little bit of research, I decided to pick up a SyncMasterTM 226BW from Samsung. Between the new monitor and my ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT video card, the resolution looks absolutely stunning. Even my home movies look fantastic in HDTV. I really couldn’t have been happier with the upgrade.

Unfortunately, Hollywood isn’t quite as thrilled about my new HD Media Dream Machine and they’ve decided to punish me by revoking my Watch Now privileges from Netflix.

The addition of the new monitor brought into play DRM in his system that was previously dormant and suddenly Netflix’s streaming media service was saying it needed to reset his licenses in order for him to use the service. Problem is it wouldn’t reset just the Netflix licenses, but all DRM licenses on all media on his system potentially making the Amazon Unbox videos he purchased worthless. The trouble was all due to that shiny new monitor he had purchased:

Netflix’s software allows them to look at the video card, cables and the monitor that you are using and when they checked mine out, it was apparently a little too high def to pass their DRM filters.

Because my computer allows me to send an unrestricted HDTV feed to my monitor, Hollywood has decided to revoke my ability to stream 480 resolution video files from Netflix. In order to fix my problem, Netflix recommended that I downgrade to a lower res VGA setup.

Did you catch that? Netflix’s official solution to the problem is either A) allow us to reset all the DRM licenses on your machine potentially making videos you bought from other places unwatchable or B) downgrade your equipment if you want to watch our stuff. This is the reward you get for trying to play by the rules and buying DRM crippled hardware and media.

As part of their agreement with Hollywood, Netflix uses a program called COPP (Certified Output Protection Protocal). COPP is made by Microsoft and the protocol restricts how you are able to transfer digital files off of your PC. When I ran COPP to identify the error on my machine, it gave me an ominous warning that “the exclusive semaphere is owned by another process.”

My Netflix technician told me that he had never heard of this particular error and thought that it was unique to my setup. When I consulted Microsoft, they suggested that I consult the creator of the program. Since Microsoft wrote the COPP software, I wasn’t sure who to turn to after that.

In the end, Davis recites the same mantra I’ve been chanting for awhile now:

The irony in all of this, is that the DRM that Hollywood is so much in love with, is really only harming their paying customers. When you do a DRM reset, it’s not your pirated files that get revoked, it’s the ones that you already paid for that are at risk. I’m not allowed to watch low res Netflix files, even though I have the capability to download high def torrents? How does this even make sense? It’s as if the studios want their digital strategies to fail.

While I understand the need for the studios to protect their content, I believe that these measures go too far. It makes little sense to block my ability to copy low res internet movies, when I can always rip the DVD straight from my Netflix discs instead. By blocking access to my Netflix membership, Hollywood is once again punishing their customers by pushing defective DRM.

Which is why I won’t be bothering to try and run HD content on my PC that doesn’t already have the DRM ripped out of it. While I have gotten a couple of Blu-Ray movies to play in my PS3, I won’t be bothering to pick up a Blu-Ray drive for my PC anytime soon. Nor am I particularly worried about getting an HDMI compliant video card and flat panel monitor. For now my Blu-Ray movies will be relegated strictly to playback on my PS3. By the time I get around to going HD on my PC perhaps the studios will have abandoned all the DRM nonsense, but it’s no big loss to me if they take awhile to get there.

1 thought on “Blogger Davis Freeberg’s tale of DRM woe.

  1. It’s funny that in their race to kill pirates of contents, the RIAA and MPAA end up screwing themselves. Maybe we should start a campaign to fully support DRM Les? This way we could kill the MPAA and RIAA quicker. wink

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