Thinking of buying a Zune? Microsoft has plans to put “Copyright Cop” on it.

Microsoft’s Zune media players continue to lag behind Apple’s popular iPods so they’re looking to gain an advantage wherever they can. One possible boost is a recent deal with NBC to license shows for use on the Zune after NBC yanked them from Apple’s iTunes offerings after a dispute over pricing and DRM. Microsoft seems eager to do whatever it takes to make NBC happy including developing software that would check for and block any illegitimate NBC shows found on your Zune. Here’s a snippet from the New York Times Blog:

Late Tuesday afternoon I reached J. B. Perrette, the president of digital distribution for NBC Universal, to ask why NBC found Microsoft’s video store more appealing than Apple’s.

He explained that NBC, like most studios, would like the broadest distribution possible for its programming. But it has two disputes with Apple.

First, Apple insists that all TV shows have an identical wholesale price so that it can sell all of them at $1.99. NBC wants to sell its programs for whatever price it chooses.

Second, Apple refused to cooperate with NBC on building filters into its iPod player to remove pirated movies and videos.

Microsoft, by contrast, will accept NBC’s pricing scheme and will work with it to try to develop a copyright “cop” to be installed on its devices.

Oddly enough there appears to be some debate at Microsoft about whether or not this Copyright Cop software will actually ever see the light of day on the Zune:

In the Zune Insider Blog, Cesar Menendez, a member of Microsoft’s Zune team, refers to this post, and the blog discussion it prompted. He writes:


    We have no plans or commitments to implement any new type of content filtering in the Zune devices as part of our content distribution deal with NBC.

It’s worth noting that Mr. Perrette told me that Microsoft committed to explore filtering; he didn’t say it committed to implementing those filters.

Here is what Mr. Sohn, the Microsoft spokesman, told me yesterday when I asked him about what Mr. Perrette said: “I don’t think they are wrong, but we are not going to characterize those discussions.” Later he added, “We have agreed to work with NBC across a range of topics, and protection of copyrighted material is certainly one of them.”

Either way it’s certainly a good reason to think twice about whether or not you want to purchase a Zune especially given the fate that befell users of the defunct MSN Music service.

14 thoughts on “Thinking of buying a Zune? Microsoft has plans to put “Copyright Cop” on it.

  1. As despondent as I am about my Ipod, I gotta say, I’d never, ever buy a Zune, and that little piece of info only makes me even less likely to ever, every buy one (can one get less likely than never, ever?).

    Anyway, I gotta wonder about the method and technology behind these filters that NBC wants.  Would they simply filter out all non-DRM and NBC approved shows? I mean, there’s plenty of ways to get video files onto my iPod, only one of them is through iTunes store.  Sure the thing only supports a certain narrow range of formats, but to say that it will only play stuff bought at the iTunes store might be asking for trouble. 

    I can’t really see any other way than that to enforce such filtering: Make it so the Zune only plays files that are purchased and DRM licensed through the Zune store using the account the device is registered to. Just seems to me that would be extremely limiting for a portable video player, but what do I know, I’m some poor schmuck that doesn’t run a multinational entertainment company or software company.

  2. Wow. Color me unsurprised and underwhelmed! Micro$haft goes for the big bucks without a conscience or good business sense and NBC acts like a bunch of money-grubbing assholes in an otherwise clearly-defined market.

    I would really like to know when these douchebags are going to join the real world and realize the market doesn’t tolerate this crap very well anymore?

  3. Webs, thanks for hint about Rockbox.

    Ryan, the less the market tolerates intrusive DRM, the more sales figures will drop, the louder the cries of piracy, and the more intrusive DRM will get.

  4. the louder the cries of piracy, and the more intrusive DRM will get.

    The faster these clowns go out of business, the better. It would be my ultimate dream if they would lock down their content so tight that only the purchaser could even hear (or see) it.

    Then those of us who produce media for the sheer pleasure of it would suddenly find ourselves on a playing field without the several 800-lb gorillas that are the big media companies breathing our air and using our gravity.

  5. What Elwed said. The best solution is probably education, but there’s always going to be a group of people who will pirate something if they can.

  6. I agree that education is the answer. I was semi-freetarded myself until I started working at a software company and getting a paycheck for what I did.

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