Always-On DRM – It’s Dead on Arrival


Piracy! This word evokes a different feeling in every person. A child of 5, who is a fan of Johny Depp, might see this world as his dream. Navy folks see this word as nuisance and terror. Artists see it with contempt and RIAA sees it with hatred of the thousand suns. Even people who pirate something might hate the people stealing off their stuff while blissfully downloading songs and movies.

I was a big fan of Flyte and was bitterly disappointed to see it losing the war against piracy. Like iTunes, I had sincerely hoped that Flyte might change the face of music as we know it. Anyways, that is old news now. Besides, there are many other ways people are trying to combat piracy.

DRM currently is getting the most attention and/or flak (as the case may be) in this field right now.

DRM- First of all, what is DRM? Digital Rights Management as it is called is a set of technologies that help the creators (be it the hardware or the software, company or individual) of digital content after its sale. This means that with the help of DRM the content always belongs to its creator and never to the person who pays for it. Even with the technological fields there are opposite ideas running both for and against DRM. Many big companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Sony and even Google use DRM.

Those who are against it say that it only creates more hindrance to legitimate users and there is no proof that it actually has improved the fight against piracy. I agree with this.

In fact, if anything, even legitimate users feel that a ripped or pirated product gives them more freedom than what they have paid for. This will be an ongoing battle for some time.

In the meantime, there is a new concept that is taking birth in the technological industry.

An always-on DRM system!

This is particularly in the field of video games. While some of you might know that using a pirated game on PS3 is incredibly difficult. As soon as you are connected to internet and it finds that you have used a pirated game your PS3 will be blacklisted. This means no online advantages that come with PS3.

Always-On DRM-001

Microsoft has gone one step further with their XBOX one. They have come up with the idea that just to even play the games one has to connect to the internet at least once in 24 hours. Sony hasn’t yet caught the flu but only time will tell how much popular this idea will become.

Now, the idea is ridiculous obviously. Why should I spare my bandwidth for gaming if I don’t want to? It’s a precious commodity with shady unlimited plans and everything.

Even more, it is not implementable on a large scale. The practicality comes in between. USA and Japan are not the only countries who have gamers in the world. If anything, those markets are saturated and people who have a PS3 would in all probability go for a PS4 and an XBOX 360 person would buy an XBOX One. The actual growth is in countries like India where there is a new breed of gamers cropping up. These are the youth who have the money and the inclination to play the games.

There are two problems with internet in India.

1. It is not up to the mark. The speed and more importantly the consistency is poor. The connections can snap at odd times and sometimes even with connection a person will just keep waiting for the webpage to open. The condition is improving but it will take some time. And India is one of the fastest growing internet userbase in the world.

2. The second issue is that the prominent internet usage source is dongles in India. Now, while I have not checked it with Microsoft, I do not think dongles would work with XBOX One. Even if they do, how many people would buy an extra dongle for their XBOX?

These problems effectively mean that either Microsoft would have to forego the idea of growing its share in developing countries or it will have to change the rules (at least region specific). Both these things mean only one thing- The idea is DOA or Dead-On-Arrival!

What do you think?

  1. Jp/Bluewaters2u says

    Great article here Kunal, and nicely put

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