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A Copyright Cop In Every Zune 454

Mike writes "As if the Zune wasn't already crippled and unpopular enough, now comes a story indicating that Microsoft may build a 'Copyright Cop' into every Zune. A future update of the software for Microsoft's portable media player will likely include a 'feature' that will block unauthorized copies of copyrighted videos from being played on it. The president of digital distribution for NBC, J. B. Perrette, said the plan is to create 'filtering technology that allows for playback of legitimately purchased content versus non-legitimately purchased content.' Of course there's no way to tell legitimate content that you create from 'non-legitimate' content, so this looks like just another nail in the coffin of the Zune." Update: 05/08 20:50 GMT by T : From Microsoft employee Cesar Menendez comes this categorical denial of any such filtering mechanism.
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A Copyright Cop In Every Zune

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  • Nothing new there (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @05:15PM (#23329894) Homepage Journal
    Its just 'trusted computing' rearing its ugly head.
  • by lgw ( 121541 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @05:22PM (#23330002) Journal
    For the most part, people just don't care about DRM or trusted computing because it doesn't affect them. However, this "copyright cop" sort of thing is sure to be noticed by the average user. Microsoft seems to be betting heavily on selling DRMed platforms, and I wonder whether they've lost their way, and are listening to partners instead of customers. The Zune has not been an astounding success, and going out of their way to antagonize their customers in a market where they don't have any sort of market dominance seems like hubris on Mocrosoft's part.
  • by Mactrope ( 1256892 ) * on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @05:23PM (#23330012) Homepage Journal

    I've got bad news for both NBC and their friends at M$ - you have to have an audience that's actually captive before you try to screw them like this. In the mean time, Apple needs to slap them both with an anti-trust lawsuit for the attempted collusion. Both of those greedy pigs are crying about "suffering" "piracy" but most companies would be happy to suffer with their market share. Most companies would also be bright enought to milk it by delivering product that does not suck life.

    Zune was never good but this will surely make it complete shit. A network that "squirts" vanishing media and advertisments. A clunky form factor that's trying hard to match competiton from three years ago. About the only thing they could do worse is make it less reliable than it already is. Bingo. They can't make Vista DRM work with quad processors and always on networking, do they really think an embedded device has a snowballs chance in hell? If you bought an old one of these on firesale, learn how to load it with free software because an auto "update" might cripple it.

  • by Yurka ( 468420 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @05:26PM (#23330052) Homepage
    "...will work with [NBC] to try to develop..." is classic software marketing BS - three weasel verbs in succession, a minor masterpiece. Translation: "This feature? Oh, sure, we have it. I mean, we'll have it in the next release. I mean, the crack team of our coding monkeys is going to make it their priority. Now just sign here, initial here and here."
  • They exist. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by willeyhill ( 1277478 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @05:27PM (#23330076)

    I've seen one and only one in the wild. It was bought by someone on some kind of internet firesale site. The owner was pleased but it was clunky and he'd have been better off with a much smaller and better built iPod for what he spent. He made it sound tempting to the ignorant and I half wondered if he was not tied into M$'s sleazy marketing program.

  • by Gat0r30y ( 957941 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @05:34PM (#23330184) Homepage Journal

    "In the short term, this will not win us a lot of friends,â he said. âoeIn the long term, the consumer wants there to be quality premium-produced content, and in order for that to continue to be a viable business, there needs to be significant protection around it."
    Yes, the consumer wants quality premium-produced content, and they want to be able to play it on what they want when they want. And unless that is what they are offering, pirates are going to take the time to remove any protection around it no matter how significant, and give it away for free. As long as this their view, they aren't going to have a viable business, but when it dawns on them that the consumer is ultimately in charge of the situation now, and network stooges aren't, they will release content in an intelligent manner - so the consumer can access it when they want, and on what they want.
  • by Migraineman ( 632203 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @05:39PM (#23330244)
    "... non-legitimately purchased content"? At first I thought this was editorializing by the submitter, but no, TFA contains that exact quote. I garner two ugly conclusions from this statement from Mr. Perrette:
    - 1) Your device will soon only play "purchased" content. No home movies for you.
    - 2) Your device will soon only play content purchased from us.

    I think Microsoft has figured out what Step 2 is:
    1. Create media player with subscription services.
    2. Shoot self in foot by crippling said player to the point no one wants it.
    3. Profit!?

    "A clunky form factor that's trying hard to match competition from three years ago."

    Is the Zune the Vista of music players, or is Vista the Zune of operating systems?

    Microsoft seems unable to do business sensibly. Maybe Gates and Ballmer are getting tired of working every day. What motivates a billionaire to keep producing mediocre results?
  • Battery Killer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dloyer ( 547728 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @05:41PM (#23330274)
    Not to mention that the extra processing needed for the wiz bang water marking technology will reduce battery life.

    How much? Who knows, but extra design constraints always create compromises and battery life is one place it is likely to show up.
  • Re:Watermarks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dmeranda ( 120061 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @05:42PM (#23330286) Homepage

    Except that watermarks still don't work.

    • * They don't expire when the work goes in the public domain after its copyright also expires.
    • * They do not take into account Fair Use exemptions.
    • * They do not equally protect all content producers; only those who can pay the cartel licensing fees.
  • by Count Sessine ( 1135193 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @05:45PM (#23330336)
    OK Microsoft-faithful and Apple-haters - listen up. This is why everyone says that Microsoft is 'uncool'.

    In spite of a few missteps as of late, Microsoft is still the biggest, richest, most powerful company in tech today. And yet, they have their tongues so far up the record and movie industry's *ss that it isn't even funny anymore. No one respects an obsequious brown-noser. If they had any spine at all, they would tell the record and movie execs the Truth (that they're living on borrowed time) and that the only way to continue to make any money at all is to trust their customers.

    Apple was upbraiding the record industry execs for a good three years during and through the Napster debacle. Apple was telling them that customer-hostile DRM that took away obvious and visible consumer rights wouldn't work, they were telling them that the bottom would fall out of the CD business, and they were offering Apple's services as a customer-friendly alternative to some of the loser businesses the record industry was trying at the time (like PressPlay). It's not like the folks at Apple were geniuses for recognizing all of these things - it's just that they have their own protected platform and they're in the software business so they know full-well how futile copy-protection really is.

    When the record execs finally realized that everything Apple had been saying was right, they had lost a good fraction of their business and they were desperate to try something new.

    The guys who run Microsoft will never have the balls to tell a potential business partner that. They have enough money in the bank to BUY any one of the record companies that they're sucking up to, and yet they behave like the record companies' servile bitch. And that's why they'll never be considered 'cool'.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @05:46PM (#23330340)

    This isn't the first time Microsoft has retrofitted already-sold products with patches or policies that remove functionality or add aggravation. From the nag they tacked on to Windows menus asking you if your copy is legit to their "This copy of Windows is not genuine" cripple to Windows Update refusing updates to a validly-licensed Windows 2000 (I typed the key in myself years prior from their hologrammed hardcopy distributed with the software, and there was no chance the key was illicit or used inappropriately) to Microsoft refusing to activate a Windows XP laptop with the license/key on the bottom of the machine -- supposedly, with the last, I can call them and plead my case with one of their phone workers.

    All of this after the software was paid for. Terms introduced after the sale. All of these things kick into effect in the normal course of using the product -- indeed, you must risk experiencing them in order to keep your product secure and functional down the road. Isn't that something you would think morally would be an implicit obligation of theirs upon sale of the product, not an extra feature used to impose additional terms on your use?

    So, surprise, surprise, now they're pulling it with expensive hardware. Feel free to enjoy yourselves, on your dime and on their terms. It's just the logical extension of the crap we put up with in the software world. Can't wait until the portables have to have a direct connection to the Internet to authorize your usage, you scumbag customer.

  • by thermian ( 1267986 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @05:48PM (#23330374)
    I'm sick of hearing about this. Lets dispel some myths.

    1: You can copy music on and off an iPod with great ease. There is no magic DRM preventing this *at all*.

    2: Apple are quite happy to let you rip their music to cd, and then to mp3. It's no different, and sounds no different from ripping a bought music cd.

    3: The iPod only has DRM on it because Apple new they would get sued to fuck if they didn't, or if they went around allowing direct circumvention. By allowing copying to audio cd they avoid this via the fair use claim.

    4: A *lot* of available iPod content is not DRM'd anyway.

  • by Technician ( 215283 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @05:50PM (#23330402)
    I've been doing that for years on my SanDisk MP3 player

    Consumers are good at finding what they want and the features they want. Some folks will be fine with the player and it's subscription service. The rest of us will find players that will play our content ripped from DVD's, shared, and downloaded from YouTube.

    I often get asked "What computer should I buy?" I always tell them "Find the software you want to run and then buy the haredware that will run it.". With portable media players, this is still very true. If you want to play MP3's and .flv files, only buy a player that will play it.

    If you want a player that plays music purchased from the Zune site, you may wish to consider one, but remember, it won't play songs from iTunes. It looks like it also won't play YouTube rips.

    You can vote for DRM with your wallet, or you can vote against it. Vote wisely.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @05:53PM (#23330426)
    Actually your list is identical to the Zune's.
  • Re:Watermarks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @05:54PM (#23330442) Homepage
    To the publishers these are features, not bugs.
  • by Colonel Korn ( 1258968 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @05:55PM (#23330448)

    I'm sick of hearing about this. Lets dispel some myths.

    1: You can copy music on and off an iPod with great ease. There is no magic DRM preventing this *at all*.

    2: Apple are quite happy to let you rip their music to cd, and then to mp3. It's no different, and sounds no different from ripping a bought music cd.

    3: The iPod only has DRM on it because Apple new they would get sued to fuck if they didn't, or if they went around allowing direct circumvention. By allowing copying to audio cd they avoid this via the fair use claim.

    4: A *lot* of available iPod content is not DRM'd anyway.
    The same is true of the Zune and even Vista, despite the frequent complaints about DRM. So far, DRM is a paper tiger.

  • Learn from Vista (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gilesjuk ( 604902 ) <giles.jones@ze n . c> on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @05:55PM (#23330464)
    Vista is DRM and restriction overload and doesn't sell. Zune barely sells now, it's not even available in the UK.

    Good luck Microsoft. Customers buy features not ball and chains.
  • by 91degrees ( 207121 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @05:56PM (#23330470) Journal
    There are already dozens of devices that work with all the stuff I download from the internet. I gather that even the iPod will (although I think it's fairly fussy about formats), and will play purchased videos from iTunes.

    So there's good reason for content providers to support it, but what reason is there to buy the thing? Why are Microsoft going the screw-the-customer route? It never worked for Sony, but at least they had an understandable concern that their chunk of the media cartel would lose out if they didn't restrict everyone.
  • Maybe you shouldn't be annoyed with Twitter, in this case. His extremely negative evaluation was only as negative as that of the New York Times. Quote:

    "If you like to download the latest episodes of "Heroes" or other NBC shows from BitTorrent, maybe you shouldn't buy a Microsoft Zune to watch them on. [my emphasis]

    "A future update of the software for Microsoft's portable media player may well include a feature that will block unauthorized copies of copyrighted videos from being played on it."

    Consider this: Someone bought a Zune, believing that he understood the features of the product. But later, Microsoft, in an "update", changes the way it works. That's nasty. It teaches customers that they can't trust Microsoft or a Microsoft product.
  • by blhack ( 921171 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @06:01PM (#23330534)

    1: You can copy music on and off an iPod with great ease. There is no magic DRM preventing this *at all*.
    YOu're right, they would never Intentionally take measures [] to prevent third parties from writing software that allows for transfer to and from the ipod.

    2: Apple are quite happy to let you rip their music to cd, and then to mp3. It's no different, and sounds no different from ripping a bought music cd.
    You're right! How gracious of apple to ALLOW you to transfer a piece of your property to another piece of your property! Its almost like we're PAYING thing for this or something.

    3: The iPod only has DRM on it because Apple new they would get sued to fuck if they didn't, or if they went around allowing direct circumvention. By allowing copying to audio cd they avoid this via the fair use claim.
    Please cite at least 1 example of a company being sued for creating a device that allows people to play MP3s. You might want to let Justin Frankel know that he should have been "sued to fuck" (whatever that meansd) for creating winamp instead of chilling in his multi-million dollar home studio.

    4: A *lot* of available iPod content is not DRM'd anyway.
    Right AGAIN! How GRACIOUS of apple to allow you to play the music that you purchased on anything other than their blessed device!
  • by dangitman ( 862676 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @07:26PM (#23331460)

    You do make a point, though. This is because the majority of people who buy iPods are more interested in it as a fashion item than as an mp3 player.

    Got any evidence of that? most people I encounter with iPods are listening to them on the bus or train - and have them buried away in their pockets. They are also usually trying to avoid contact with other people. If it were about a fashion statement, then wouldn't they be:

    1. Not listening to them
    2. Showing them off
    3. Only using Apple-branded headphones, rather than swapping for better-sounding ones that aren't white

    No, they actually seem to be using them to listen to music. I'm not sure how an iPod can even be a "fashion statement" these days, as so many people own them.

    Flash-based mp3 players are "sexier," and the people who buy them don't need a lot of storage, as their collections generally consist of a few CD's worth of singles. Hard drive based mp3 players are more for enthusiasts who have been collecting albums their entire life.

    Again, complete nonsense. How do you know what music is on people's flash-based players? I'm a big music enthusiast, and have been collecting all my life. My player holds only 4GB, despite the collection on my computer being around 100GB. There's no reason to carry all my music around with me everywhere I go. Every time I sync my player, a fresh selection of music is updated - and new episodes of podcasts are uploaded, and old podcast episodes deleted. Seriously, why do I have to carry my entire music collection around just for a couple of hours of commuting?

    It's quite funny the ego and delusions that some people (typically self-described geeks) have over this simple issue of portable music. Yeah, anybody who has a smaller player than you must have terrible taste in music, oh elite collector.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @07:28PM (#23331476)
    I wasn't saying this is the case of all people who buy these products. It is generally the case, there are exceptions. I don't jog, and I know very few people who do. This isn't a problem for most people. I don't listen to my entire music library on a daily basis, but I have no way of knowing while copying the files over what I would feel like listening to throughout the day. I find it more convenient to pack my entire collection with me, on a HDD-based MP3 player that is no bigger than my wallet.
  • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF ( 813746 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @08:06PM (#23331772)

    Why is it the products Responsibility?

    Legally, it is not the product's responsibility. This is just MS kowtowing to the media companies in hopes of getting their content. Legally MS doesn't have to do this. They just think it will make them money, whereas Apple has been down this road before and wants as little DRM and as easy and flexible of a consumer experience as possible, because that is what they think will make them more money.

    If some how I do manage to run copy protected works on the ZUNE and get hit by a law suit via the RIAA then am I protected because I assume the ZUNE as acting as a controller?

    Playing copyrighted works is not illegal. Making a copy of a copyrighted work is potentially illegal. MS's actions offers you no increased legal protection and, in fact, reduces the likelihood your use would be protected under the fair use doctrine.

    I am not a lawyer but to me if a products goes to such an extent to enforce copy protection then the liability of infringement would fall to the ZUNE and to Microsoft...

    I recommend talking to a lawyer, but MS is trying to restrict playing video, not making copies of it in the first place. By the time you're trying to play it, the infringement has happened already.

  • Re:Watermarks (Score:3, Insightful)

    by zippthorne ( 748122 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @09:31PM (#23332478) Journal
    Who cares if watermarks don't expire, no one is going to be checking them after the work goes into public domain.

    How do they prevent you from fair use in any way?

    The only downside to watermarks is if they're audible. Are they audible?
  • by Xtifr ( 1323 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @10:02PM (#23332674) Homepage
    Actually, I suspect that more people are buying iPods simply because that's the only name they know. My brother, who sort-of knows better came to me asking if I could recommend a good brand of iPod, since he knew I'd been comparison shopping recently. Of course, he meant "portable mp3 player", but to most people that is spelled "iPod". So I recommended the Samsung...iPod. :)
  • by Roger W Moore ( 538166 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @10:09PM (#23332718) Journal

    I'm not sure M$ ever did really listen to their customers

    Sorry but MS are very good at listening to customers. Its just that they only listen to their business customers and nobody else. This worked extremely well for them with Windows and Office and in theory should have worked with the Zune too. Unfortunately they do not seem to have realized that in this case their business customers, the RIAA, are employing kamikazee tactics. They are more interested in ensuring that nobody can ever listen to content in a manner they have not personally approved than they are about making a successful, profitable product.
  • by dangitman ( 862676 ) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @12:14AM (#23333636)

    1. Because I do not know what you want to listen after a few songs.

    So, why does that mean you need your entire collection with you at all times? Even "small" players by today's standards can play music continuously for several days without repeating the same song twice. You still have plenty of choice. And if you don't know what you want to listen to, again, why do you need your whole collection? Just let it play whatever comes up randomly.

    2. Because syncing is a PITA,

    Syncing is a pain? Seriously? It's a hassle to plug your player into your USB to charge the batteries and sync every once in a while? Don't you ever charge your player? The syncing is automatic when you plug it into the computer.

    especially if I had to select what to listen "today".

    But you don't have to. That's what smart playlists are for. Do you really have any idea about this stuff works? It sounds like your thinking is stuck in 1998.

  • by dangitman ( 862676 ) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @12:39AM (#23333778)

    That doesn't benefit Apple. And once again, Apple didn't want the DRM it is only a burden on the company. But the labels insisted.

    This wasn't very long ago, have you forgotten the history so quickly? Remember when, after Napster was shut down, Apple basically became Enemy #1 of the music industry when they launched the "Rip, Mix, Burn" campaign? Apple was publicly advertising the activity of making "unauthorized copies" of music CDs - an activity which the RIAA and labels would like to see outlawed. If Apple was all about DRM and lock-in, then wouldn't they have added DRM to their CD ripping features of iTunes? Microsoft attempted that one with Windows Media Player.

    And for fuck's sake, Apple jump-started the online music store business. One reason the labels allowed Apple to do this, was that they considered Apple a small player, so if anything bad happened, it wouldn't affect much of the market. Remember iTunes was Mac-only as this point. The music labels had no idea that iPods would be the runaway success that they were. They thought they would always be able to strongarm Apple. But that all backfired on them. Now they are retaliating against Apple, because their own pro-DRM policies painting them into a corner when it comes to selling content for iPods.

    Strategically, I believe what Apple were trying to achieve was to stop the growth of Microsoft proprietary media formats. Apple doesn't care so much if your media has DRM or not, but the last thing they wanted was Windows Media (or even Real for that matter) dominating the landscape. It has actually been remarkably effective. They've gone from a time when Quicktime was installed on fewer and fewer machines, and the web was filled with Real and Microsoft media formats, to having people eagerly using Quicktime-based products - and almost nobody ripping their media in WMA or WMV formats any longer. Now MPEG-4 dominates, which is an excellent outcome both for Apple and the consumer.

    The iPod lock-in argument doesn't really stack up, when you consider that you can easily use an iPod without buying any DRMed media at all, and most people do. If anything, it's a negative effect on Apple, because it makes people more reluctant to buy content from the iTunes Store.

    So basically, DRM doesn't benefit Apple, Apple have consistently argued against it, publicly and privately - yet you still somehow believe they have some sort of covert hard-on for DRM? Sorry, doesn' t make sense.

  • by tuxgeek ( 872962 ) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @01:14AM (#23334024)
    I also have a HDD player. It eats a full charge in a couple of hours. The SSD goes for a day or two between charges. Then there is the weight and bulk difference. Oh, and not to mention the accidental drop factor.

    I paid about $240 for the 20GB HDD & $270 for the 16GB SDD.

    Nope, HDD is obsolete, SDD is better.

    But if you like HDD devices, go for it, to each their own.

  • by vought ( 160908 ) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @01:59AM (#23334268)

    The iPod is nice, but feature-wise there are better players.
    To most consumers, the iPod does have features other players don't have. Because those features are not listed on the box doesn't mean the features aren't included.

    Most people see styling and design as very important features.

    No one wants to carry an ugly music player, even if that ugly music player has more technical features, costs a little less, or has a different name.

    That more or less leaves "fashion statement" as the reason for iPod popularity over other players.
    And what's wrong with that? It's a better widget. People vote with their dollars overwhelmingly. There are other music players for people who don't value styling as a primary feature - just like there are stores like J.C. Penney for people who don't want to shop at Nordstrom.
  • by thetoadwarrior ( 1268702 ) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @05:25AM (#23335108) Homepage
    It's nice to have your whole collection, not because you'll listen to all of it but because you have everything and you can listen to whatever you feel like listening to at the time.

    Don't forget movies and if you start adding movies to your iPod then that will quickly eat up 80 gig.

Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later. -- F. Brooks, "The Mythical Man-Month"