April 24, 2014

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HBO Exec Wants to Rename DRM

People have had lots of objections to Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology – centering mainly on its clumsiness and the futility of its anti-infringement rationale – but until recently nobody had complained that the term “Digital Rights Management” was insufficiently Orwellian.

That changed on Tuesday, when HBO’s Chief Technology Officer, Bob Zitter, suggested at an industry conference that DRM needs a name change. Zitter’s suggested name: Digital Consumer Enablement, or DCE.

The irony here is that “rights management” is itself an industry-sponsored euphemism for what would more straightforwardly be
called “restrictions”. But somehow the public got the idea that DRM is restrictive, hence the need for a name change.

Zitter went on to discuss HBO’s strategy. HBO wants to sell shows in HighDef, but the problem is that many consumers are watching HD content using the analog outputs on their set-top boxes – often because their fancy new HD televisions don’t implement HBO’s favorite form of DRM. So what HBO wants is to disable the analog outputs on the set-top box, so consumers have no choice but to adopt HBO’s favored DRM.

Which makes the nature of the “enablement” clear. By enabling your set-top box to be incompatible with your TV, HBO will enable you to buy an expensive new TV. I understand why HBO might want this. But they ought to be honest and admit what they are doing.

I can think of several names for their strategy. “Consumer Enablement” is not one of them.

Comments

  1. Seth Finkelstein says:

    It reminds me of how some people have tried to rebrand censorware as “parental empowerment tools”.

  2. Ned Ulbricht says:

    So what HBO wants is to disable the analog outputs on the set-top box, so consumers have no choice but to adopt HBO’s favored DRM.

    In the antitrust context, this is called “tying”. If HBO has “market power” in the “relevant market” for the tying good, then this tying scheme may be unlawful.

  3. Charles Darke says:

    [i]the term “Digital Rights Management” was insufficiently Orwellian.[/i]

    My thoughts exactly, and yet we all play their game? Why don’t people use the term “copy control”.

  4. AndrewJ says:

    So what do we use instead? Digital Consumer Exclusion, Digital Channel Elimination, Digital Cartel Enrichment, …

  5. Adam Blinkinsop says:

    “That’s about what it amounts to — if they lock down everything, you aren’t going to be able to see it unless they enable you to.” — James, at work.

  6. Another Kevin says:

    Oh, it’s consumer enablement, in the sense of:

    “This new technology will enable the consumer to view our latest releases, because if the consumer doesn’t play our way, we’ll take our ball and go home.”

    Also known as, “cutting off your nose to spite your face.”

  7. pauldwaite says:

    Guys, this is just a slightly different sense of the word “enabled”. It’s perfectly clear as long as you use it in an appropriate sentence, e.g.

    “Bob Zitter wants to enable all of his customers: enable them good and proper, right in the ass.”

  8. sake says:

    Someone on Slashdot proposed “Digital Consumer Enfeeblement.” Sounds about right to me…

  9. Barry says:

    Digital Consumer Disenablement.

  10. John says:

    I think we are getting to where you can buy the disk, but if you want to be able to play the movie, that is extra.

  11. Xcott Craver says:

    Like “partial zero-emission vehicle” or “75% fat-free”: you create a euphemism for something bad by bragging about its complement. It’s health food because all the stuff we didn’t replace with fat is fat-free.

    So a restriction that prevents me from fast-forwarding is “consumer enablement,” because of all the other times it allows me to fast-forward. It’s enablement in the sense that it doesn’t ruin the experience 100% of the time the movie is playing.

  12. Michael Donnelly says:

    The disconnect between the HBO executive and his customers is so wide that it’s hard to fathom. In most other industries, this kind of ignorance would raise a clear alarm that the company has lost its way.

    But when it comes to consumer restrictions and big media, we’ve become numb to the stupidity. Stories like this barely faze anyone now.

  13. Joe Baugher says:

    I always thought that the term Digital Rights Management was a euphemism that was deliberately designed to make you feel all warm and fuzzy, that you were being told that it was your rights that were being managed. But it’s not your rights that are being managed, it’s the rights of the copyright owner.

    I came from a corporate environment where euphemisms like this were commonplace–when the company carried out massive layoffs they called it a “Force Management Program”. The military is replete with euphemisms like this–”Collateral Damage” is when bombs are dropped on innocent civilians, and “Friendly Fire” is when your own troops are killed by mistake. One of the worst of these is “ethnic cleansing”, which sounds almost as if it were a good thing.

  14. tz says:

    People with disabilities should sue, but I think he doesn’t think we can follow the chain Enablement -> Disabled -> Crippled.

    So we should call it Consumer Device Uncrippling. Except we have to cripple the device (disable analog outputs) to get their uncrippling.

    We’ll break your legs but give you a crutch! Wouldn’t that be better?

  15. Grant Gould says:

    DCE: Disabling Consumer Electronics since 2007…

  16. RZN says:

    Long time reader, but this is first time I comment anything… Hi, everyone! :)

    While I don’t particularly agree with a lot of stuff RMS says, I feel his “Digital Restriction Management” is spot on. And we get to use the acronym we’re used to.

    We don’t, as far as I know, have HBO here in Europe so I couldn’t care less; except, infections like these won’t stay in one place.

    Sometimes I feel that this is a lost battle because while people may complain, they will still get the things they need to play the latest HD DVD/Whatever movies. The idea of educating the masses and have them say no is but a dream, I’m afraid. The industry would change tunes in a jiffy if their revenue was denied them but I just can’t see that happening…

  17. Vincent Clement says:

    Yet again, the industry assumes that anyone watching via analog outputs must be copying the content. What a wonderful way to treat your customers?

  18. Gerv says:

    “That set-top box has DCE” – Damaged Consumer Electronics.

    Or for something closer to the original, how about Digital Consumer Enchainment?

    Gerv

  19. Trellium says:

    The beauty of Cod Liver Oil is that enables the user to eat their last meal again.

    HBO; the cod liver oil of the digital world.

    There, doesn’t that sound like a great motto? What’s sad is that my wife and I enjoy a lot of the HBO programming. So, we pay them each month for their programming. Then we buy our favorite shows on DVD. But thanks to our being Enabled with common sense, we see that we can fine tune our budget in the future.

    After all, we could just rent from Netflix. What HBO should be doing is finding more reasons why we prefer to buy rather than reasons to avoid their content.

  20. Anonymous says:

    DCE = Dodgy Copyright Enforcement?

  21. John says:

    I think that the expression “Digital Consumer Enablement” should be reserved for the work of hackers, and for such products as “DVDfab HD decrypter” (which is free) and AnyDVD HD.

    But I also think that “DRM” is not an appropriate expression, because it wrongly implies that products bearing that description actually work properly.

  22. sake says:

    DCE == Digitally Crippled Entertainment

  23. Adam says:

    A friend of mine suggested that DRM should be pronounced “drime”. So we can say “drime doesn’t pay”

  24. Bill says:

    En`a´ble`ment (n.)
    1. The act of enabling, or the state of being enabled; ability.

    Thankfully, some things don’t first have to be disabled in order to be enabled. For example, my ability to discontinue (or never subscribe to) HBO remains constant.

    The ability to watch subscription services on a HDTV, or to record them to a DVR, are intrinsic to the value of the subscription. If these abilities are disabled or sold at a higher cost, subscribers will resent it and cancel. The name or acronym of the methodology will be of no concern.

  25. Andre says:

    Is it worth to combat DRM? It is dead and will survive. A zombie.

    Maybe “content decoder” is a usable term? Sounds good in German.

    Decoder sounds good for DRM. It is as if your DRM unprotects for you encrypted content, so you as the consumer can view it.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Was that “drime doesn’t pay” or “drime doesn’t play”?

  27. Lawrence D'Oliveiro says:

    How about “Fair Use Violation”. Call a spade a spade, I say…

  28. Tel says:

    Didn’t Consult Engineering

    Doesn’t Cooperate with the End-user

    Don’t Consider Endorsement

    Different Connectors Employed

    Diabolic Constraints Embedded

    Disrespects Customer Expectations

  29. John says:

    DRM = “Doesn’t Really Matter”.

    There are preliminary reports which suggest that at least one “new” disk title has already fallen to hacking and is copyable.

  30. Jesse Weinstein says:

    DCE = Deeply Corrupt Entrapment?

  31. Xcott Craver says:

    DRM = “Drastically Reduced Marketshare?”

  32. Hal says:

    As mentioned above, HBO is just jumping on the bandwagon. Stallman et al have been trying to rename DRM for years.

    I looked into the Doom9 forums to see what is happening with the new AACS key update. Apparently of the new Matrix trilogy HD disks, the later 2 are the first to use the new keys. So far nobody has released software to play them, but some are predicting it will happen within a few days.

    There is also a report that the new disks contain an update to revoke the certificates of at least one brand of software player. This is a separate “explicit” revocation mechanism than the “implicit” revocation of just not encrypting to an exposed key. There had been speculation about whether explicit revocation would be used with the new releases. One user complains that after trying a new disk, his old disks no longer work with a certain piece of software. We will have to see if others confirm this development.

  33. Tarkeel says:

    If anything, this DRM will drive people away from legitimate products, because the quality (incredibly enough) is actually better on downloaded stuff. No waiting 5 minutes for all the stupid intros and anti-piracy commercials to watch a 20 minute TV show.

  34. Tomer Chachamu says:

    I usually say “DRM – it manages your rights away!”

  35. Tomer Chachamu says:

    I usually say “DRM – it manages your rights away!”

    It’s a bit like the whole “trusted computing” vocab.

  36. John says:

    There are reports that Matrix 2 and 3 are “new aacs” disks with all the security bells and whistles. Also, I believe they do “revoke” un-upgraded players. According to forum posts, they incorporate MKB v3.

    But never mind. Slysoft have upgraded anyDVD HD and it can copy them – and I believe they are already on the torrents in a drm-free form.

    But those disks are not due to be released until next week.

    When it was said they were expected to be cracked within three weeks of their release, I thought that meant after their release – not before.

    Also, there is an article on Engadget about those disks having been hacked – and it is already leading to a proliferation of Diggs. Isn’t the expression deja vu?

  37. Crosbie Fitch says:

    Deja vu?

    No, that’s just a glitch. It probably means the stormtroopers are already at your door.

  38. Anonymous says:

    DRM?

    A poster on Slashdot suggests (as regards aacs) “Digital Restrictions Mockery”.

  39. ice 9 em says:

    Every one wants a lil DiCkE, right?

  40. goatchowder says:

    Up is down.
    Left is right.
    Freedom is Slavery.
    Ignorance is Strength.
    War is Peace.
    White is black.

    What, is George Orwell now required reading for anyone in P.R., marketing, or political consultation?

    I’ve had it. The bald-faced, gleefully brazen LYING on the part of anyone with money, or who is desperately trying to grab it– it has to stop.

  41. mathiastck says:

    I prefer DRM to restrictive IP law. Any technology can be cracked, some laws are hard to change.