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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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  • AntiTrust (Score:0, Interesting)

    by bobwrit ( 1232148 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @05:17PM (#23329932) Homepage Journal
    Sounds like an AntiTrust lawsuit waiting to happen.
  • Huh? Zune? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Frosty Piss ( 770223 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @05:18PM (#23329952)
    I've heard of this Zune, but never actually seen one out in the wild. Do they actually exist? In other words, the Zune can have as much DRM as it likes. No one who cares about that sort of thing will buy one anyway. In fact who does buy them?
  • by Mongoose Disciple ( 722373 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @05:27PM (#23330068)
    According to TFA, Google and other companies are exploring having filtering technology similar to this to eliminate copyrighted content from their shared video sites. Unless/until that happens, I can't really see even Microsoft making this move.

    As TFA points out, MS is way at the back of the portable mp3/video/etc. pack and it knows it can't afford to stick more "features" in that will drive users away. Now, the NBC dude quoted in the article brings up the idea that through whatever the Zune store is called they'd have options to offer whole seasons of a show at a discount instead of being forced to the $2/episode no matter what pricing standard of iTunes, and I could see that drawing people to buy the episodes from Microsoft -- but not so long as the alternative is to get them free for the iPod from YouTube. A generation raised with free TV and VCRs hesitates even less about 'stealing' TV episodes than it does about songs.

    So unless YouTube etc. put a filter in place that successfully blocks this same content I can't see it going anywhere on portable players so long as Apple refuses to do it to the market-dominant iPod.
  • Re:Huh? Zune? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Fishchip ( 1203964 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @05:28PM (#23330086)

    I read in some paper or another today that MS is 'finally' bringing the Zune to Canada in June. Weird, two bits of news on the Zune in one day.

    If this thing is so dead... why are we getting hit with it just now? =P Oh, the kicker is that the Zune online store won't even be available in Canada until some unknown date.

    Methinks it's going to be DOA up here.

  • Re:Huh? Zune? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by gad_zuki! ( 70830 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @05:29PM (#23330112)
    I got a refurb'd one at woot for 80 dollars. Yep, a 30gig player for 80 dollars. I havent had any problems with "DRM." I load mp3s on it and it plays. Video too if I want to take that extra step of encoding it into wma.

    Since the recent firmware update I can even synch over wireless. Hell, it even has an FM radio in it.

    Of course we never discuss the massive drm in the ipod, the missing radio, and the incredible price of apple's product.
  • No way (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MooseMuffin ( 799896 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @05:31PM (#23330142)
    Sure Microsoft makes plenty of bad decisions, but there's no way they're dumb enough to think that zunes aren't selling because customers want more content restrictions.

    On the other hand, I suppose they are dumb enough and arrogant enough to believe that they could compete with itunes if they kissed the asses of enough content providers. They can't, nor can anyone else really. That battle has already been fought and apple is winning by an overwhelming margin. Their best bet is to make quality players with as much compatibility as possible and forget the music stores and DRM ass-kissing that comes with running one.
  • Awww (Score:3, Interesting)

    by GrayCalx ( 597428 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @05:42PM (#23330290)
    I have a zune and I love it. These replies are hurting my feelings.

    I just couldn't deal with the small screen of the similarly priced ipod. The downside though is that there are no freaking accessories. You can go to any online site and find 150 different cases for the iPod. From diamond encrusted cases to cases cut from the t-shirts of workers from sweatshops. Same online store you'll find like 2 for the zune. And they both cost $249.99.
  • by plover ( 150551 ) * on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @05:56PM (#23330472) Homepage Journal
    Nope. You are forgetting what drives Microsoft (and all corporations, really): money.

    In today's world, Microsoft MUST continue to put out new versions of Office and Windows, otherwise people will not give them money. But would you put out $400 for a new copy of Office 2007 to replace your copy of Office 2003, just to get the Ribbon bar, or to get the new and improved Pashtun grammar checker? And if so, will you put out another $400 in 2009 for another new copy, to get the ultra-dynamic margin tool? Probably not. So in Microsoft's eyes, you are not sending them enough money.

    Microsoft's business plan has no way to continually extract money from its customers over the long haul. So they are forced to invent new "features" to keep people upgrading, in order to churn that money. But Office and XP are "good enough" for most people. The churn is slowing.

    Where Microsoft is trying to go tomorrow is the subscription model. You'll buy a subscription to Office Forever which will cost you only $9.99 per month, (or whatever the rate will be.) The OS in conjunction with the TPM chip will enforce that only a legitimate, paid subscription will be able to run. Illicit copies will be prevented from saving, or crippled from editing, or whatever.

    Microsoft believes they need the lock-in DRM model to work in order to survive over the long term. They are deathly afraid of Linux, because it's nipping at their heels of functionality and usability already, and a free alternative that runs whatever software you want is the only thing that could stop their model from working. Look to the future for Microsoft to push for incorporating the TPM chip into the BIOS, so only a blessed and approved (and paid for) OS will boot on the hardware of the future. So, any technology or business deal that helps them leverage DRM is a step in the right direction -- for them.

  • Re:Huh? Zune? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by VEGETA_GT ( 255721 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @05:57PM (#23330500)
    And you bring up the only good reason to get a zune, retailers are forced to drop the price to get the things out of there stores. I am by no means a ipod fan, but hey there are other alternatives, take creative labs offering. Brother has a Zen which in all honesty I think is better then either the ipod or the Zune. but hey ya ipod > zune any day. But again not only alternatives.
  • by blhack ( 921171 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @06:05PM (#23330562)
    Have you noticed a new trend in digital media? NBC has most of their shows online for free. South Park has all of their online for free. hosts more TV shows that most people would want to watch in a lifetime online for FREE!

    The problem with all of these services is that you have to put sitting in front of a computer to use them. IF these media companies can figure out a way to put their content (and with it, their ads) onto a portable device...well, then DRM be damned, I'm buying whatever device that IS.

    This is a strategic, relationship building move by microsoft. NOthing more.
  • Re:Nothing new there (Score:5, Interesting)

    by aurispector ( 530273 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @06:12PM (#23330658)
    I'm not sure M$ ever did really listen to their customers; they certainly have never seemed to put them ahead of their partners.

    The music companies have been sort of backing away from DRM, but the movie industry isn't. It's not clear if they're getting industry pressure to support DRM in exchange for some sort of agreement (exclusivity?) allowing video downloads for the zune. After the "play for sure" debacle, who would trust them anyway? There are plenty of fine alternatives to Ipod and Zune anyway.
  • Re:Huh? Zune? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Foofoobar ( 318279 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @06:17PM (#23330710)
    I worked with a guy who was 'pro-microsoft' and swallowed every word that cme out of Redmond (we live in Seattle). He got the Zune the second they came out and they looked like crap but had a full color screen. He had it crash a few times on him and had trouble with it from the start but he always said 'works great!' with a smile no matter how many times I saw him having problems with it.

    And now with the touch iPods having wireless connectivity to the internet, touch screens, video and applications, the ZUNE is even more a brick.

  • by twistedsymphony ( 956982 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @06:21PM (#23330770) Homepage
    I've got a Zune... I bought it because I didn't have a media player and a 30GB version was on sale for $75, I figured it'd at least make a decent portable hard drive.

    I've grown to like it quite a bit and I've been very pleased with my purchase despite the lack of integration with most car audio system and the way overpriced 1st party accessories.

    One of my favorite features is it's ability to play video exceptionally well coupled with a long battery life, namely TV series that I rip from my DVD collection so that I can watch them on the frequent business trips I take from the east coast to the west coast (USA).

    I fear that this new "feature" will likely destroy the most useful aspect the Zune actually holds for me.

    That's the problem with DRM... it makes things less useful, and not just slightly less useful, A LOT less useful.

    If MS does add this feature I'm likely to just go out and buy an iPod since it will integrate with the stereo interface in my car and it happens to also not include this great new "feature". Despite the fact that I don't particularly care for the iPod's interface, nor it's price, nor it's trendy attitude, the Zune will be demoted back to portable hard drive status and sit in a box along with my USB memory sticks.
  • Re:Nothing new there (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dangitman ( 862676 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @06:25PM (#23330816)
    I'm pretty sure not. There are tons of players that out-sell the Zune. Really, how many people want large hard drive based players these days, anyway? It's the age of the Nano. Even full-size iPods sell nothing compared to the iPod Nano.
  • by twistedsymphony ( 956982 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @06:26PM (#23330824) Homepage
    Have you ever actually used the Zune interface? Personally I find it far easier and quicker to navigate than any other portable media player on the market, including the iPod and the iPhone. IMO it's one of the few things they actually got right wit the device.

    This new DRM "feature" is another story, but don't troll on something you know nothing about just because you're an Anti-MS fanboy.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @06:43PM (#23331012)
    "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."

    I'm friends with one of the OS X developers (pretty high up in the company, so I'm going to post anonymously as his name is easily linked to mine if searched), and I know before he was with Apple, he was one of the biggest pirated on the II and other platforms. I was one of the few that ever cracked his encoding when he had a company of his own.

    Thing is, figuring out the checksum was dead simple. It is even alluded to as to how to do this in the binary. My friend calls it an idiot test...if a programmer can't figure it out...even by trial and error...they don't want you programming for the ipod. The new iPods are hot-synchable, and without the proper coding, you COULD screw something up. His explanation is that anyone able to get through this simple task is most likely not going to fuck the shit up (pretty much his words). Hell, last I looked, on his own personal site he has code stubs that get the job done so you don't screw it up. Of course, it is in no sense linked to Apple...or alluded that he is a member of the company, but it is a well known site within the company so it isn't a secret.

    But of course, a company taking intentional measures to protect their hardware isn't fucked up by idiots is can still do it, but you have to pass the idiot test first. Personally, I would rather a company do this...I don't want third rate programmers accessing my hardware (especially as I'm a whore when it comes to software...I'll install anything once...this is why I have backups!)
  • by Programmerman ( 1166739 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @06:53PM (#23331118) []

    They say this isn't coming or planned.
  • Re:Nothing new there (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dabooda ( 412228 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @07:17PM (#23331380) Homepage
    Your polarised view of people that use flash vs HDD players is a little narrow.

    I wouldn't take a HDD based player jogging and I sure wouldn't listen to 80 gb of music between dockings in day to day life. I would only consider a HDD player if I were to travel for 2 years without a PC.
  • by colinnwn ( 677715 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2008 @07:31PM (#23331494)
    Are there any alternative firmware projects for the Zune? I haven't found any. It seems like decent hardware with the wireless and FM, and reasonably priced. But I wouldn't give the standard MS firmware 5 minutes of my time, for many reasons.
  • Re:Nothing new there (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dangitman ( 862676 ) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @12:21AM (#23333680)

    but they chose the iPod over the Zune or one of the millions of other players to make a fashion statement.

    How do you know this? I suspect you are psychologically projecting. It's a pretty typical nerd thing. Anything that's popular, or anything that's attractive must just be an empty fashion thing. True nerds choose things that are ugly and unpopular!

    Did you ever think they might be popular because people enjoy using them? I never met anyone who bought it for fashion. Most I know bought it because they tried a friend's and really liked the way it worked, and it changed their music listening habits.

    At the very least, people are buying iPods because everyone else is doing it, which itself is a form fashion statement.

    No, it's not. It might be following fashion, but "making a fashion statement" is about doing something different and daring - like wearing sandal with socks when everybody else is wearing Nilkes.

    I'm going to get bashed by Apple fanatics, but if people were buying based on features, they wouldn't be buying iPods. The iPod is nice, but feature-wise there are better players.

    Such as? And don't you think things like form factor and user interface count in purchasing decisions? A list of features is useless is something is not easy to use. But in any case, the original iPod was by far the most advanced player on the market. It was the smallest hard drive player, and the only one with high-speed Firewire transfers. Hell, many players were still using AA or AAA batteries at the time!

    There's iTunes lock-in, but even that isn't a big issue anymore because there are ways around their DRM, and there are other music sellers.

    people don't use iTunes because of lock-in, they use it because they enjoy using it, and it makes things easy. This was actually the biggest failure of other players. They came with craptacular software.

    That more or less leaves "fashion statement" as the reason for iPod popularity over other players.

    Only if you ignore the actual reasons that most people buy iPods.

  • Re:Nothing new there (Score:5, Interesting)

    by noewun ( 591275 ) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @01:17AM (#23334044) Journal

    Sorry, but you're just wrong. Obviously people are using their iPods to play music, but they chose the iPod over the Zune or one of the millions of other players to make a fashion statement. At the very least, people are buying iPods because everyone else is doing it, which itself is a form fashion statement.

    Fascinating insight. I eagerly look forward to the data behind it. I assume you have done a thorough study of people's buying habits, using a random sample of a large cohort of people who have bought mp3 players. I would ask that you please send me raw data, the questions you asked, and the selection criteria you used in picking your cohort so I can check for any bias in your sampling.

    What? You have no such data? You've made no such study? Your conclusion is based on nothing more than your own judgements, preconceptions and projections?

    Oh, yeah. I'm on Slashdot.

    Now, I've bought two iPods. I bought my first in the winter of 2003. Over five years later it's still going strong, on the original battery, despite the fact I have not been gentle with it. Given that record of reliability, I just bought my second one (a 32 GB Touch) because I am pretty sure I can use the crap out of the thing and it will still be running strong five years from no. I'm not sure how that fits into your taxonomy. Personally, I find the "fashion statement" line of reasoning is usually forwarded by those who can't believe their logic isn't shared by everyone else on the planet.

Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced -- even a proverb is no proverb to you till your life has illustrated it. -- John Keats