Music Industry Spinning DRM Tales

Sunday, June 20, 2004 | 07:01 AM
in Music

Brace yourself for a DRM lie of biblical proportions:

Velvet Revolver, a supergroup formed from members of the bands Stone Temple Pilots and Guns N' Roses, released Contraband, their first CD. It shot straight to no. 1 on the charts, selling 256,000 copies in the U.S.,  according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Expect the Music Industry/RIAA flacks to start spinning dross into gold, claiming the reason for the CD's success was the DRM from Suncomm Technologies (remember them?). This is the company's 12th copyprotected CD, and Bertelsmann Music Group's fourteenth CD to feature the customer-unfriendly measure.

Not surprisingly, none of the prior CDs were breakout smash hits, or even decent big sellers; Certainly, none opened at no. 1 with a bullet.

In fact, there have not many CDs of recent years reaching anywhere near the success of Velvet Revolver (I guess Norah Jones or Eminem were the most similar in initial disc sales).

That's not at all surprising:  Contraband has been one of the most awaitied and heavily promoted albums of the year. Take the alumni of Stone Temple Pilots and Guns N' Roses -- two monster bands in and of themselves, neither of which have released a CD of new material in a long time -- and you have a pre-made audience, loaded with pent up demand for any new product from the group. 

Of course, the CD's success had nothing whatsoever to do with the copy protection. It was the music and the band's built in fan base which should get the credit.

You may recall Suncomm Technologies as a DRM laughingstock: In 2003, a Princeton University graduate student revealed that the company's vaunted digital rights management system could be defeated by simply holding down the shift key when loading a music CD (see "Revolutionary copy protection technology features no copy protection whatsoever").

Indeed, many Amazon reviewers (see a round up of Amazon comments here) have noted that the DRM can be easily defeated.

It took me all of 5 minutes to track down this info on Amazon. Is it lazy reporting, or simply effective spin? The entertainment media's coverage of the ironically named disc overemphasizes the import of DRM to Contraband's success. Consider C/Net ("Copy-blocked CD tops U.S. charts") the Register ("Lock-down CD scores No.1 hit"), and even the usually snarky and skeptical Good Morning Silicon Valley implied the CD scored big in part due to the DRM (Suits at Suncomm are a bit redeemed today . . .").

The Contraband CD comes with MediaMax copy protection (ala SunComm). It prevents Windows PCs owners from exercising their coyright fair usage of their purchase, converting their CDs to MP3s foir use with poperable palyers. The dics does include DRM-enabled Windows Media Player versions of the files. This will not allow Macintosh users to use their CD with their iTunes or iPod. Andrew Orlowski notes "we're yet to find a copy protected CD that the Mac can't unbork." Indeed, one commentator on Amazon stated: "iTunes on a G5 running mac OS 10.3.4 ripped the MP3s no problem."

For now, most iPod-owning Velvet Revolver fans can use their CDs only if they violate DMCA and hack open their legal CDs. That's right -- if a consumer wants to use their legally purchased CDs on their legal MP3 player, they must become felons. Something is very wrong with this picture.

This raises yet another issue: Shouldn't a copy protected CD be released with MP3 versions that will work with the most popular MP3 player? Nothing for Apple's iPod or AAC format, yet it comes with Windows media versions of the songs on the CD? That's something which should make Steve Jobs furious. This raises the question: Is there an antitrust issue here?

Beyond the Amazon reviewers, Some musicians and fans have been unhappy with the DRM system. "A vocal segment of the online population has been intensely critical of the copy protection plans, leading record label executives to worry about potential consumer reaction. Some artists, such as Virgin Records singer Ben Harper, have been bitterly angry at their labels' decision to include the technology without their approval" noted C/Net's John Borland.

Despite this, watch for future industry press releases claiming credit for Contraband's sales.

The reality is the success of the disc has nothing whatsoever to do with copy protection. It's as if the manufacturers of tube sox took credit for the U.S. military's defeating Saddam Hussein's army. The world's most powerful armed forces -- the most technologically advanced, best trained and equipped military defeats an unmotivated, undermanned, decaying regional force . . . Why? Because they had sweat sox which wicked sweat away from the infantryman's feet.



UPDATE June 22, 2004  11.34pm

Macfixit notes that Velvet Revolver songs purchased from the iTunes Music Store will play on an iPod -- its only the CD owners who cannot transfer songs to their pods.

My apologies for passing along bad information  . . .

.
UPDATE December 18, 2004  7.14am

Another way to avoid non-permissioned vendors from adding softare or altering your PC is to turn off the CD-ROM auto run -- that defeats nearly all of these silly systems which do not allow you the fair use of a CD you legitimately purchased to be played on your PC or iPod.

See this link:   Turn Off the CD-ROM Autorun
http://www.annoyances.org/exec/show/article03-018


.
Sources:

Lock-down CD scores No.1 hit
By Andrew Orlowski in San Francisco
The Register, 18th June 2004 08:56 GMT
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2004/06/18/copy_protected_cd_smash/

Copy-blocked CD tops U.S. charts
By John Borland
CNET News.com, June 17, 2004, 3:48 PM PT
http://zdnet.com.com/2100-1104-5238208.html

Velvet Revolver Shoots Straight To No. 1
Margo Whitmire, L.A. (Edited By Jonathan Cohen)
Billboard, June 16, 2004, 10:30 AM ET
http://209.11.49.183/bb/daily/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1000532533

Turn Off the CD-ROM Autorun   
Annoyances.org, Friday, December 14, 2001
http://www.annoyances.org/exec/show/article03-018


 

For a round up of all of the Amazon DRM discussions, click "Continue reading" below.

Amazon DRM discussions: I went through all 268 Amazon.com reviews. While most of the reviews of the music were generally positive ("A Full Throttle Blast Of Pure Hard Rock" and "gods of heavy metal have returned"), there was quite a bit of chatter regarding the copy-protection. Here are some samples of the Amazon discussions of DRM:
"insert the CD and keep hitting the shift key -- it will stop the copyright software." Others have noted DRM can be overcome by using "CDex to rip it to MP3s. You might need an older version, but it works fine" and "It's very available with WinMX and Kazaa Lite, and probably with eMule, Newsgroups, Ares, IRC, G2, etc... A search on WinMX yielded 1000 results pretty quickly." And this: "Just use clone then you can copy it. Junkies didnt think of that one i guess lol" This is an interesting perspective: "You can only RENT this music!, Reviewer: toddmpp (see more about me) from Detroit. This band feels that it must control the way you listen to the music that you purchase. You can't download to an ipod, nor burn a mixed cd for your own listening pleasure. It's a shame." Several reviews offered this advice: "If you use Windows (that's 95 percent of you) - hold down the shift key when you close the CD tray. Once the spinup is complete, go to Windows Media Player. Copy music. Begin copy." Another reviewer wrote: "Do the record companies think that this silly copy-protection is going to prevent these MP3 from being traded all over the internet? All its doing is punishing the people who actually paid for the CD. This also makes the downloadable version better and more enticing. If anything, silly copy-protection manuevers like this are only going to promote internet theft. This makes me want to download it off the internet (even though I didn't particularly like the music) and make sure that everyone I know also pirates it off me, just to protest this kind of stupidity. Didn't anyone learn from what happened to Metallica's career after Lars' Napster crusade? Still, despite the easily defeatable DRM system, an entire swath of buyers noted their plan to return their purchases to Amazon, saying "this is not an "audio CD" as defined by Philips 2 decades ago. Phillips denounces these discs, as they do not adhere to the standard "Compact Disc Digital Audio" specification due to their copy protection mechanism. It's too bad Amazon doesn't tell you that anywhere in the description. I would call that false advertising." Another reviewer gave it one star, noting "this one's going back . . . this piece of plastic will not play in my computer. it's already on it's way back to amazon for a refund. not an exchange, a refund." Then, there was this comment: "I'm returning mine -- it's obviously a defective CD (and it was sold as a CD, not a CD-like medium)." Some people did not really encounter issues with DRM: "Anyway, I didn't have any problems saving this disc to my computer. i opened realplayer 10, popped in the cd, and saved the tracks to my library. Just like any other cd." Still, others were frustrated and annoyed; Here is another typical complaint about the DRM limiting the usage of the CD: "BEWARE PC USERS-REFUSE TO BUY THIS STUFF!, June 8, 2004 -- i archive all my cd music to my computer for ease of use.then i play the recorded tracks on windows media player,musicmatch jukebox,whatever...reading or installing this cd on your computer requires that you download "keys" from the cd but even after installing the keys off the cd the tracks play back on computer as corrupted and skipping garble! the cd itself will play in your car or home cd player but it looks like RCA is screwing anybody who does any kind of digital archiving of media.evidently they also do not want to allow you a back-up copy of your software.(isn't that illegal ??) this is the first purchased cd i have encountered this on.no,i am NOT a pirate,my personal purchased cd collection is well over 500.it seems the recording industry is on the edge and about to fall off the cliff if it is willing to screw it's most loyal customers in a futile attempt to combat piracy.the hackers will crack them anyway and only legitimate consumers will suffer. BEWARE!!! I'm not familiar with Nero, but one reviewer wrote: "With regards to the copy protection, the program they are using is useless, uninstall their player if it installs, and then whack the cd into your writer drive, and if you have NERO you're in luck. It will display the 14 tracks on the cd, just drag them across and hey presto you have a copy of the cd without the protection, then rip your mp3s as normal folks, and you'll have no problems listening to it on your comp." Then there's the issue of the "forbidden fruit:"
"Do the record companies think that this silly copy-protection is going to prevent these MP3 from being traded all over the internet? All its doing is punishing the people who actually paid for the CD. This also makes the downloadable version better and more enticing. If anything, silly copy-protection manuevers like this are only going to promote internet theft. This makes me want to download it off the internet (even though I didn't particularly like the music) and make sure that everyone I know also pirates it off me, just to protest this kind of stupidity. Didn't anyone learn from what happened to Metallica's career after Lars' Napster crusade?"
Even more surprising was this review on Amazon.com:
Watch out music buyers! 1. I bought the album from iTunes. 2. I struggled to move the files to my iPod. 3. I realized I could not, due to copy protection. 4. Now I regret buying the album because I can't listen to it unless I'm at home. Shame on RCA! Why would you choose to frustrate your digital music customer base who legitimately purchases your product! Wake up RCA... it's the 21st Century! You are alienating your customers. Shame on iTunes for not notifying your customers of this issue BEFORE they purchase! Watch out music buyers! PS - Dear RCA, I'm sorry to see you are still in your old backward mode of thinking. You are leaving the innovation to others (like Shawn Fanning, creator of Napster) instead of being the innovators. --Wake up!, June 18, 2004 Reviewer: A music fan from New York, NY United States
Someone named Rick Splendid (ricksplendid@hotmail.com) even made this offer: "the cd is alright, but email me and I'll tell you how you can copy the disc with real player or whatever you use......it is a simple procedure that you can get around. See, I like to make mix cd's of my favorite songs, and when I found out that I couldnt do it to this disc, I did the research on how to crack it." This was another typical comment: "RCA/BMG have decided to implement a CD Copy-protection program in this that prevents it from playing in my car cd player, and prevents me from downloading any of the tracks to my computer for archhiving or even transferring to my mp3 player... so again What the heck??? I spend good money on a CD that I can only listen to on one cd-player in my house which isn't even close to my primary listening station. I now have to wait a few weeks for some super-genius out there to crack the protection before I can really enjoy this disc... I understand the need for cracking down on piracy, but don't do it at the expense of the loyal consumer, for pete's sake I've purchased over 1,000 CD's in the last 10-12 years, its EXTREMELY inconvenient for me to have to search my storage for the right disc I want when I normally just play them from my 200GB hard drive on my PC on which I spent a metric (...)-ton of money on the sound system." A music fan from Tornado Alley phrased it this way: "Screwed By The Label", June 8, 2004 -- "I'm giving it 5 stars based on expectations. Would love to actually review this highly anticipated release, but because the RCA/BMG label mullets put protective handcuffs on the files, I can't download the tunes to my iPod. The "customer support" people claim it's all Apple's fault. Funny that I haven't run into this problem with any of the other 500+ CDs (from my own collection that I paid good $$ for) that are currently on my iPod. These guys are crazy if they think I'm dropping $14.95 for the CD only to turn around and give Apple another $9.99 to download the CD from their iTunes store. It's too bad that this type of corporate greed has to taint what I hear is a solid (and needed) rock release." Some of the newer Car CD players that can playback MP3s won't play the disc: "This CD does not play in my car, nor can I copy it onto my iPod. It requires files to be installed on the PC to play. Avoid this disc and do not encourage more copy protected CDs that cause problems." Owners of the latest Macs apparently encounter little problem: "iTunes on a G5 running mac OS 10.3.4 ripped the MP3s no problem." Brandon Fuller from Longmont, Colorado gave one of the more complete perspectives on the iPod/DRM compatability issue:
Not Compatible with Your iPod, June 10, 2004 So I just bought the new Velvet Revolver CD. It showed up yesterday. There is a sticker on the package that says: This CD is protected against unauthorized duplication. It is designed to play on standard playback devices and an appropriately configured computer. If you have questions or concerns visit www.sunncomm.com/support/bmg Whatever. So I pop the CD in the computer so that I can rip it and put it on my iPod. The CD starts playing some auto play stuff and then an embedded Windows Media Player comes up in a web page and allows you to play the songs. Exit. I went into iTunes and hit Import to rip the tracks. When it finished I went to play the tracks and they were all garbled. What's going on? Guess I ought to read that web page. So on that Sunncomm site it basically says the CD is protected. It will only allow you to play it on a computer with its technology. You cannot rip tracks from the CD. It specifically states that you cannot move the songs to an iPod because they (in so many words) don't like Apple and Apple isn't working with them so screw Apple. Huh? No, screw you. I like Apple and I just bought your music. But by the way, this album is available at the iTunes Music Store. After doing some research, it turns out that this company is putting their copy protection on more and more CDs. This one happens to be the first one that I have bought. So now what? How does this work? Turns out that when Windows starts to auto-run the CD, it quickly installs a hidden driver on your machine that is used to garble the sound of CDs protected by this technology. So now my computer is "infected" with this driver. Some grad school student figured this out a while back and let the world know if you just hold down the shift key, Window's auto-run does not run and you have ready access to the CD. They threatened to sue him. That solution is too late for me, I already have this installed. More research and system scans pointed me to a hidden driver on my machine called SbcpHid. You will find it in your Windows\System32\Drivers directory. So all you have to do is go into the Windows device manager, find it, stop it. Now you can rip. If you want it off your machine, you can uninstall it from there too. While there was a sticker on the front of the CD, I found this to be very sneaky. I mean installing hidden drivers on your computer. The driver is not marked with any company name or details so you don't know what it is. The timestamp of the driver was manually adjusted so you couldn't tell that this was installed today. This sounds like most of the spyware that we are all trying to rid our computers of. So where does that leave us? If you buy the music in a store, you can only play on these certain devices? If I would have bought this music at the iTunes music store, I am limited to what Apple wants me to do. So in this case, if I wanted a good old CD case and disc plus the music on my iPod, I would have to buy the same music 2 times according to the record company. That isn't right. Fair use law dictates it. If the industry doesn't get this figured out, we are going to be in trouble. For now, I guess you and I need to be selective about how we buy our music."
Finally, a nostalgia buff makes this observation: "Whatever happened to the days when people accually appreciated a cd for how good it was and not if it was compatible on an IPOD. Its works on my old ass cd player just fine and my walkman. Great cd from beginning to end. I've had it for 4 days and everyday i have had a different favorite song."

Media Sources: Lock-down CD scores No.1 hit By Andrew Orlowski in San Francisco The Register, 18th June 2004 08:56 GMT http://www.theregister.co.uk/2004/06/18/copy_protected_cd_smash/ Copy-blocked CD tops U.S. charts By John Borland CNET News.com, June 17, 2004, 3:48 PM PT http://zdnet.com.com/2100-1104-5238208.html Velvet Revolver Shoots Straight To No. 1 Margo Whitmire, L.A. (Edited By Jonathan Cohen) Billboard, June 16, 2004, 10:30 AM ET http://209.11.49.183/bb/daily/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1000532533

Sunday, June 20, 2004 | 07:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack (13)
de.li.cious add to de.li.cious | digg digg this! | technorati add to technorati | email email this post

bn-image

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d8341c52a953ef00d834210bad53ef

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Music Industry Spinning DRM Tales:

» drm week with barry from meta-roj blog
barry's posted his spin on the hot contraband drm news. cory did his thing and the slashdotters did their thing to the beastie boys and macrovision did their thing too. busy busy busy. something barry brought up, and i feel... [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 20, 2004 9:03:20 AM

» links for drm week from meta-roj blog
since this is such a popular subject right now, and i'm overwhelmed a bit with trying to invent financial models for things that should happen, i'm just going to drop a bunch of "to comment on" links related to drm... [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 21, 2004 4:13:41 AM

» links for drm week from meta-roj blog
since this is such a popular subject right now, and i'm overwhelmed a bit with trying to invent financial models for things that should happen, i'm just going to drop a bunch of "to comment on" links related to drm... [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 21, 2004 4:16:44 AM

» RIAA wake-up call from Drakeview
What if the star-making ability of the record labels and their Recording Industry Association of America lackey were disintermediated? Suppose that rather than payola and heavy rotation, people learned of promising acts and music through viral marketin... [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 21, 2004 12:44:49 PM

» Aye Matey! from birdherder.com
Silly Record Companies. So the new Velvet Revolver CD has copy protection and is #1 on the charts. "We're thrilled... [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 22, 2004 11:07:16 AM

» david weinberger gives ms another view of drm from meta-roj blog
in the continuing developments on drm, david weinberger pulled the cluetrain into microsoft and shares this with us... so between the record labels spin and the outbreak of cluefulness in big places like microsoft, i suppose we've got the stage... [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 24, 2004 12:59:20 AM

» david weinberger gives ms another view of drm from meta-roj blog
in the continuing developments on drm, david weinberger pulled the cluetrain into microsoft and shares this with us... so between the record labels spin and the outbreak of cluefulness in big places like microsoft, i suppose we've got the stage... [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 24, 2004 1:02:09 AM

» Velvet Revolver....un-Contraband-ed from surroundablog.com
Velvet Revolver is the latest of the super groups to capture the attention of the cd buying public. Unless you've been hiding in a root cellar in Tuktoyaktuk; you'll immediately recall that this band is a cross-polination of Guns and... [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 25, 2004 9:53:37 AM

» Velvet Revolver....un-Contraband-ed from surroundablog.com
Velvet Revolver is the latest of the super groups to capture the attention of the cd buying public. Unless you've been hiding in a root cellar in Tuktoyaktuk; you'll immediately recall that this band is a cross-polination of Guns and... [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 25, 2004 9:58:41 AM

» Velvet Revolver....un-Contraband-ed from surroundablog.com
Velvet Revolver is the latest of the super groups to capture the attention of the cd buying public. Unless you've been hiding in a root cellar in Tuktoyaktuk; you'll immediately recall that this band is a cross-polination of Guns and... [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 25, 2004 10:32:52 AM

» Velvet Revolver....un-Contraband-ed from surroundablog.com
Velvet Revolver's #1 album sales aren't due to its DRM ptrotection technology. It's just basic hype over hip, and I won't be buying the album. Not because I downloaded it...I just don't care about these overly-hyped super projects anymore. [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 25, 2004 12:12:43 PM

» david weinberger gives ms another view of drm from meta-roj blog
in the continuing developments on drm, david weinberger pulled the cluetrain into microsoft and shares this with us... so between the record labels spin and the outbreak of cluefulness in big places like microsoft, i suppose we've got the stage... [Read More]

Tracked on Jul 4, 2004 9:32:51 AM

» Annoying Music CD Copy Protection from Kerry's Abend!
[Read More]

Tracked on Dec 17, 2004 10:44:40 PM

Comments

Cory Doctorow had a nice speech on DRM he gave to Microsoft.
http://craphound.com/msftdrm.txt

It's entertaining, and certainly worth the read.

Posted by: wcw | Jun 20, 2004 1:24:57 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.



Recent Posts

December 2008
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30 31      

Archives

Complete Archives List

Blogroll

Blogroll

Category Cloud

On the Nightstand

On the Nightstand

 Subscribe in a reader

Get The Big Picture!
Enter your email address:


Read our privacy policy

Essays & Effluvia

The Apprenticed Investor

Apprenticed Investor

About Me

About Me
email me

Favorite Posts

Tools and Feeds

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Add to Google Reader or Homepage

Subscribe to The Big Picture

Powered by FeedBurner

Add to Technorati Favorites

FeedBurner


My Wishlist

Worth Perusing

Worth Perusing

mp3s Spinning

MP3s Spinning

My Photo

Disclaimer

Disclaimer

Odds & Ends

Site by Moxie Design Studios™

FeedBurner