The RIAJ (RIAA, Japanese-style) is conspiring with Japanese phone manufacturers to come up with a new way to verify that customers have purchased the content that they’re playing on their cell phones:

The notion is that the RIAJ would work with the phone companies to get verification software on every handset. It could then ‘phone home’ every time the audio player is activated to check if a track was bought legally or not.

Inside sources say not only is such a move possible because the phone networks dictate what software appears on handsets in Japan, but that it’s highly likely to be up and running by 2011.

On the face of it, this is a fair move. After all, nobody who has purchased their music has anything to fear about this. Right?

Except, of course, that’s not really true. What this means instead is that if you want to play music, you have to have their approval. So if their networks are down, you may not be able to play the music that you legally purchased. Or if they discontinue the program, everything you purchased could go inert. So what this will do is either (a) be completely ineffective against people that have hacked, DRM-free versions of the songs being played or (b) make life difficult for people who want to play media that is not in their system. In the case of (a), it will make owning an illegal copy of something more hassle-free than owning a legal copy of it. This was the boat that the American record companies completely missed when music piracy became mainstream while they insisted that listening to music be attached to a disc or tape. The movie industry is looking at that now where DVD’s get scratched and subscription services lapse or the terms change or you can download movies illegally for free and they will always work without anyone’s permission. In the case of (b), well, they have made themselves the complete and total gatekeepers of what can and cannot be played on your phone. May work out well for them, but sucks from just about everyone else’s point-of-view and may not be technically possible.

Then again, Japan is a whole other country and what doesn’t work well in the US could work well in Japan. They may view abiding my DRM as their civic duty or somesuch, so (a) may be a workable solution. Then again, to the extent that Japanese are a cooperative bunch, piracy shouldn’t be the issue it would need to be in order to justify that time and effort to implement this plan.

I realize that I am starting to become a one-note Charlie, returning to the subject of the iPhone as regularly as Half Sigma returns to HBD, but this is yet another reason why I am extremely reluctant to get an iPhone and why I wasn’t going to get one even when it looked like I might need a new cell phone. While Apple hasn’t signed on to anything like this (well, except iTunes DRM, but I wouldn’t count that), they pretty easily could. Their centralized way of going about things makes this sort of thing much, much easier than it would be for Google, Nokia, or Microsoft with their respective mobile operating systems.

-{Link via Kent Newsome}-

Category: Server Room, Theater

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One Response to Prove You Own It, Then Play It

  1. web says:

    This is where the phrase “Defective By Design” has come to embody “DRM.”

    Everything you posit as a possible issue has happened before – either in the US, in Europe, or (yes) Japan already. And then there’s the matter of them locking it to a “specific player”, so that your download only works one place – the single console, phone, pc that you downloaded it on. God forbid that should ever die.

    I received a “free” download of some broadway tunes from iTunes a while back. The download window expired shortly after the download. I almost lost the “license” to them when I reformatted my computer, because I swapped my hard drive for a new one (thankfully I kept the old one around in case I needed files off it, and was able to retrieve what I needed later).

    Obligatory XKCD on the matter as well.

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