Zune, Microsoft, & DRM: What’s all the Fuss About?

Someone help us out here. Since when does a bit of news about ‘crippled’ wi-fi activity and slightly-restricted file-sharing on a device make us lose all self-respect and denounce the product as hopeless?

Are we the only ones that how that every single MP3/Audio player to date has been successfully stripped of its firmware, souped-up, then published as a how-to on the web? But all that is besides the point: there is no evidence right now that indicates the need for anything as drastic.

First, let’s get one thing clear here: It’s not in Microsoft’s favor to have DRM. Any of it. Microsoft isn’t the author of the media nor does it own RIAA; Microsoft’s concerns are almost assuredly focused solely on maximizing profit and keeping their users happy. That’s the way the business world works. So the only reason DRM is in the Zune in the first place is just because it has to be there: legal reasons, politics, etc.

What that tells us is that Microsoft won’t be going out of its way to make your media-playing experience comparable to a week in the slammer (sorry Michael!). It means that wherever possible, the best-case-scenario is most likely. And it means that whatever DRM is implemented in the Zune, it can’t possibly be so bad as to make this product a big no-no. That’s not Microsoft, Michael Robertson, or us speaking: it’s pure business.

That said, there is undeniably something going on with the wi-fi. No one is really sure right now which media is subject to 3 days/3 plays rule – but that rule is definitely there, and not many like it. But before you scream, think about this: you can’t even share songs on an iPod. i Pods don’t have wi-fi, and until they do, you can’t really compare the two. It’s not a nice rule, we don’t like it any more than you do, but that’s life.

The best you can hope for is that it doesn’t apply to non-Microsoft-downloaded media files, and more importantly, that next-generation Zunes will be able to download songs and media off the net.

But Zune’s DRM isn’t Viral. Never has been, and if the laws of business don’t suddenly change, never will. We’re not to sure who came up with this BS, but it has no sources, and it’s been officially debunked anyhow. Just remember, Microsoft has never pushed the boundaries of DRM, and were against Blu-Ray for that very reason.

What matters in the end is hardware quality, style, price, and us. Just use some common sense, don’t believe every rumor you hear, and remember: worst comes to worst, in a week or less Zune will be running Linux as some hackers celebrate and prepare to release it to the public.

25 thoughts on “Zune, Microsoft, & DRM: What’s all the Fuss About?

  1. You’re not sure who came up with the Zune Viral DRM BS? And there are no sources??

    Read the article again and you’ll see one big source – Cesar Menendez, a Microsoft employee charged with communicating with the Blogosphere. When the word comes directly from Microsoft do you really need another source.

    And what do the rules of business have to do with Zune’s DRM being viral?

  2. Read the story again.
    Viral DRM => People would rather use other products instead. MS won’t push DRM further than it has to, and viral DRM is pushing it very far indeed.

    As far as for Cesar Menendez’ very wrong post, it was very ambiguously worded, and used one key word “currently” to talk about how a product that was still in the later stages of software development treats music. He wasn’t posting as Microsoft, he was posting as Cesar… And that’s why he was wrong.

  3. Sorry, Cesar posts as a Microsoft employee. He cautions users to avoid believing rumor and speculation that they might read on other sites. Only the Zune Insider has the real story.

    There’s probably a lesson here about the dangers of corporate blogging.

    Do they pay you to be a Microsoft apologist?

  4. There is no point in wondering in what capacity he posts.. he was wrong. Does it matter? (Like you said..)

    I’m not making up anything for MS, and they make blunders just like everyone else. I just honestly believe that Zune isn’t as bad as it’s being painted by Microsoft haters like Michael Robertson & co.

    Zune looks great, costs little, has amazing features, plays everything, and hasn’t been tested by the general public yet. I say give it a chance.

  5. Computer Guru said:

    “Zune looks great, costs little, has amazing features, plays everything, and hasn?t been tested by the general public yet. I say give it a chance.”

    Hey cool! Does that mean it will play songs I’ve downloaded off of the iTunes store? I hope so.

  6. AFAIK: It will play Audible AudioBooks, but no one is too sure about iTunes media.
    The problem is that iTunes media is protected via its own DRM, one which, thus far, Microsoft hasn’t recognized.. So we just have to wait as far as that goes.

  7. “But before you scream, think about this: you can?t even share songs on an iPod.”

    True, but Apple’s ignoring this wish-list item is a lot less of a no-no than Microsoft’s violating artists’ CC licenses to impliment it IMO.

    “We?re not to sure who came up with this BS, but it has no sources, and it?s been officially debunked anyhow.”

    Debunking a claim is not the same thing as excusing it away. MS thinks they’ve found a loophole in the CC license by making the DRM hardware-based instead of software-based. At the end of the day (or three days as the case may be), my CC-licensed music will stop playing. I don’t care how the Zune achieves this, I just know it happens. You expect people to believe the #1 software maker in the world can’t figure out a way to fix this?

  8. 3 days 3 plays feature is not clear enough. Also Microsoft and it’s employees Blogs currently don’t answer any questions about Video. So we don’t know if there is a 3d3p in Video also or not. But for sure we know that 3d3p applies to music files and is not using DRM to alter the music file. The device just “marks” the Wifi transfered file for the 3d3p feature. The users can also share pictures through Wifi but the receiver can keep the picture forever.

  9. “But for sure we know that 3d3p applies to music files and is not using DRM to alter the music file. The device just ?marks? the Wifi transfered file for the 3d3p feature.”

    So what? CC-licensed music will stop playing, period. Once again, I don?t care how the Zune achieves this, I just know it happens. No good!

  10. Dude, as Zune-Online says, we just don’t know yet.
    Once 3d3p starts to apply to CC-licensed or un-DRMified audio, then you can complain.

  11. Laer:
    Lets be a bit more accurate. CC-licensed as well as license-free music files will stop playing if you place them in your Zune through the Wifi Zune-to-Zune transfering feature, as the 3d3p applies.

    Of course if you trasnfer them to your device using the PC sync program there will be no problem. If they are DRM-free and their codec is supported by Zune, the 3d3p doesn’t apply.

    Off the record, I believe the 3d3p restriction will “die” about a month after the Zune release. There are many bad guys arround that will find a way hack the firmware :)

  12. You can be sure your our guys will be working on a fix as soon as we get our hands on a Zune.
    It’s not for “bad guys” only because Microsoft is doing something illegal by implementing 3d3p for CC’d media – so long as the “fix” is only used for CC’d media and not all DRM’d content, no laws are being broken.

  13. I am not a lawuer (I can’t even spell it right) lawyer but I can see that there would be a CC license violation if Microsoft applied DRM to non-DRM music files as you can check here:

    http://wiki.creativecommons.org/FAQ#What_happens_if_someone_tries_to_protect_a_CC-licensed_work_with_digital_rights_management_.28DRM.29_tools.3F

    I don’t think deleting a file from the device is a CC violation.
    But maybe I should learn how to spell that “law” word right. You never know, it could take a smart lawyer and not a smart hacker to bypass the 3d3p :)

    Spelling of “Lawyer” fixed
    bbCode changed to HTML
    -CG

  14. Fixed your spelling for you :P

    From what Microsoft has said ’till now it won’t be deleted, it’ll be changed into some kind of shortcut or something…. which is in violation.

    It doesn’t matter: deleting it because you think its illegal to share it is just as bad according to CC:

    [quote]If a person uses DRM tools to restrict any of the rights granted in the license, that person violates the license. All of our licenses prohibit licensees from “distributing the Work with any technological measures that control access or use of the Work in a manner inconsistent with the terms of this License Agreement.”[/quote]

    Hence, forcing the deletion of a music or media file after 3d3p is in violation no matter whether it is hardware or software implemented and whether or not the file itself is actualy modified.

    But, to be honest, we probably won’t be able to do it – if we can’t even afford a forum script and can barely pay our hosting fees, 250 USD for a media player isn’t going to come easy for “beneficial” purposes.

  15. “Dude, as Zune-Online says, we just don?t know yet.
    Once 3d3p starts to apply to CC-licensed or un-DRMified audio, then you can complain.”

    I haven’t seen any “official” information refuting this claim either. While the product is still in its pre-release stage, I believe it’s the perfect time to complain until we get a difinitive answer once and for all, dude.

  16. That’s true: Make sure Microsoft hears us loud and clear.
    But while we are doing right by ranting, at the same time, IEEE is right, you shouldn’t necessarily mark off the Zune as Microsoft’s (the ”devil’s“) pitchfork either.

  17. What matters in the end is hardware quality, style, price, and us.

    I’m not sure why you think YOU are so important to the Zune’s success. Maybe that’s one of your typos. (Spelling DOES matter!) Did you mean “use” as in “usability”?

    Anyway, I’ll take the charitable approach and assume you didn’t mean to say something that sounds incredibly arrogant, and deal with the other things. Yes, hardware quality and style and price do matter, but they’re hardly going to win Zune’s war on the iPod, because the iPod has those things (and it has usability, which Zune lacks from all reports: c’mon, who’s going to be stupid enough to be taken in by a fake scroll wheel!?).

    The reason no one in their right mind would be a Zune over an iPod is that Zune’s advantages don’t matter, but its disadvantages DO matter. You can plug your iPod into new cars from practically every major company. You can use it with any major platform easily, and you have fabulous software to go with it on Mac and Windows: iTunes (and probably decent software on Linux, although I haven’t tried it). There are things coming out all the time that ‘integrate with’ or in some way connect to the iPod, but Zune? Nothing. Zune will connect to your Windows box and to other Zunes, and that’s probably it. (If there’s more, there’s not much more.) So there are lots of Windows users out there, but how is that an advantage of the iPod. There aren’t many Zune users, so the network effect doesn’t kick in, and this one feature is practically useless. And even if there *were* lots of other Zune users, is this really the way people want to share music? I doubt it.

    Just use some common sense, don?t believe every rumor you hear,

    Good advice.

    and remember: worst comes to worst, in a week or less Zune will be running Linux as some hackers celebrate and prepare to release it to the public.

    But this final word really doesn’t finally have any relevance. How many people will actually install Linux on it. Maybe one tenth of one percent of the users.

    If not completely hopeless, Zune is pretty nearly so.

  18. Just a note, Brandon, that “us” was a reference to the first paragraph.
    Us as in the users. Not “us” as in NeoSmart Technologies. “Us” as in the people that will put aside their MS-bigotry for a minute and look at the facts :)

    So, I’m glad you
    “take the charitable approach and assume you didn?t mean to say something that sounds incredibly arrogant,…”

    ;)

    As for your other points, I mostly agree; this particular article however is mostly focused on the DRM issue and its effect on the Zune…

    Interesting comment you have there though, if only someone *cough* would care to see what the customers think… *cough*

  19. [quote comment=”6412″]3 days 3 plays feature is not clear enough. Also Microsoft and it’s employees Blogs currently don’t answer any questions about Video. So we don’t know if there is a 3d3p in Video also or not. But for sure we know that 3d3p applies to music files and is not using DRM to alter the music file. The device just “marks” the Wifi transfered file for the 3d3p feature. The users can also share pictures through Wifi but the receiver can keep the picture forever.[/quote]

    You can’t share video wirelessly on the Zune. Sharing is limited to audio files and photos.

  20. “First, let’s get one thing clear here: It’s not in Microsoft’s favor to have DRM. Any of it.”

    With all due respect, you couldn’t be more wrong. DRM is in Zune because: (1) Executives at the 4 major record labels want it; and (2) It will enable Microsoft to lock out competitors.

    If you spend $10K on DRM’d content for your Zune and then try to switch to an iPod, you will have to buy the content all over again. If Apple offers you a conversion utility, then Microsoft can sue Apple and you under the anti-circumvention clause of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Result: You are locked into Microsoft.

    The primary objective of highly-paid record label executives is not to promote the business; it’s to keep their highly-paid jobs for as long as possible, or at least until they get an even better job. Consequently, they need a BS story to tell stockholders about how they are going to protect existing revenue streams. Since “pixidust” and “magic wands” probably won’t go over too well, DRM is talked up (Incidentally, piracy also serves as a useful excuse for bad numbers). Although, Microsoft, and even many of the record label execs, know that DRM will not protect existing revenue streams, it doesn’t matter; DRM helps self-interested music execs keep their jobs for at least another fiscal quarter and it helps Microsoft lock in consumers while locking out competitors.

    Microsoft is dropping PlaysForSure because their business strategy is to become the dominant vendor. Since tech companies view DRM as a way to create barriers to competition, a dominant vendor, such as Apple and Microsoft (at least in aspiration), will always do everything they can to ensure their DRM does not work with anyone else’s. Cases-in-point: (1) Apple’s reaction to the French attempt to open up the iPod to other LEGAL music stores; and (2) Apple’s reaction to RealNetwork’s Harmony; they implied legal action and “upgraded” their software to render Harmony inoperable.

    I’ll leave you with one last quote from a Rollng Stones interview of Steve Jobs in 2003: “None of this technology that you’re talking about’s gonna work. We have Ph.D.’s here, that know the stuff cold, and we don’t believe it’s possible to protect digital content…it only takes one stolen copy to be on the Internet. And the way we expressed it to them is: Pick one lock — open every door…So what you have to do is compete with it.”

    Clearly, Jobs has changed his mind (or at least his tune) about DRM. That’s not because the PHDs were stupid; it’s because it’s in Apple’s best interest to lock in customers and lock out everyone else.

  21. But what’s the point of locking a user-base that doesn’t exist if DRM hurts their initial sales?

  22. I used to have a neat little player called the zen micro, it didn’t play video files and you couldn’t download files from the i
    tunes store. It had remarkable sound quality and you could download from the windows media player or any of the other playsforsure sites on the web. Now i sit in anticipation of the next big thing in portable media players the Zune. With soo much speculation and
    supposing going on by so many people about the Zune, I think that this product will definately take us places we have never been to before.
    As the Zune improves wheather by firmware updates or hardware improvements time and a little patience will tell. Personally I’m buying it on the 14th of Novemeber becuase i love new things and gee wiz gadgets. See ya !!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *