Tag Archives | Copy Protection

Windows Genuine Advantage: A Lousy Microsoft Name No More!

Back, in March, I wrote an article for PC World on the worst Microsoft product names of all time. One of my nominees was Windows Genuine Advantage, the anti-piracy technology that’s suffered at least a couple of major breakdowns that caused woes for paying customers. I wondered what exactly was advantageous about it for anyone but Microsoft, and groused that it was a patronizing moniker. And I suggested that Microsoft change the name to “Windows Anti-Piracy Technology.”

Over at Cnet, Ina Fried is reporting that Microsoft is dumping “Windows Genuine Advantage” for a name that’s close to my recommendation: Windows Activation Technologies. And it’s making activation slightly less annoying:

In Windows Vista, if a user does not activate their software immediately, they get a warning that they still need to do so. The dialog box offers two options, to activate immediately or to do so later. However, the activate later box cannot be checked for 15 seconds.

Microsoft decided this was a bit too annoying. With Windows 7, users can click activate later immediately, but then get a dialog box touting the benefits of activation.

I suspect I haven’t squawked about Windows’ copy protection for the last time. But to be fair to Microsoft, most of the changes it’s made to activation in the last couple of years have been to make it less annoying, and it’s suffered no recent meltdowns. And at least I won’t feel like my intelligence is being insulted every time I hear its name.


RealDVD on Trial

RealDVD logoRealDVD, the DVD-copying application from Real which I reviewed back in September during the brief period it was available before Hollywood stepped in and convinced a court to yank it, is fighting for its life in a San Francisco court. Wired has a good report on the proceedings so far. Maybe I’m just being pessimistic, but reading it leaves me thinking that U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel is inclined to side with Hollywood, not with Real and with the notion that consumers have the right to duplicates DVDs in a way that preserves copy protection, puts extreme limitations on what they can do with the copies, and makes it impossible for them to distribute them via file-sharing networks.

If RealDVD is ruled to be illegal, it’ll be sad. It’ll also be kind of silly.  Kaleidescape makes a neat home entertainment system that does something very similar to what RealDVD does–for thousands of dollars. Telestream’s $39 Drive-In is also much like RealDVD–but it runs only on Macs. And we seem to be nowhere near any scenario that involves users of DVD rippers such as Handbrake–which override copy protection altogether–being thrown in jail.

Basically, the only thing that prohibiting release of RealDVD does is to prevent Windows users who aren’t all that well-heeled–and who bend over backwards to respect copy protection–from creating digital copies of their DVDs for personal use. Everybody else can go on merrily copying their movies. Remind me again just what purpose would be served by eliminating it from the market?


Microsoft Plans to Profit from Piracy with Office Web Apps

After countless attempts at suffocating software piracy, Microsoft has accepted it as an inevitability–one that it can profit from. The company intends to deliver an ad-supported edition of Office 14 in an attempt to draw illicit users into its revenue steams, Silicon Alley Insider is reporting.

That is not to say that Microsoft has abandoned the fight–it’s just thinking outside of the box. Today, at the Morgan Stanley Technology conference, Microsoft Business Division president Stephen Elop told attendees that an ad-supported version of Office could provide Microsoft with an eventual upsell opportunity with pirate “customers.” It would also diversify its revenue streams, he said.

Over the past two years, Microsoft has pushed ahead with its Office Genuine Advantage (OGA) program. OGA requires customers to validate their licenses in order to receive updates and add-ons. The program met with resistance from some customers when their paid software was flagged.

Those measures, while helpful, have apparently fallen short. Last month, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told Wall Street analysts that piracy drained Office sales more so than competition from Google Apps, OpenOffice.org, or any of its other competitors.

“We offer services through Office Live today that take advantage of both ad-funded and subscription offerings. As we announced last year at PDC, we will deliver Office Web applications, which will be available with the next version of Office, to consumers through this service. We have nothing more to share at this time,” a spokesperson said.

Microsoft has pushed the dial enough toward enforcement direction that a new direction is warranted–paying customers won’t accept more inconvenience and intrusion. I’m not certain that splattering a Web-based version of Office with ads is going to eliminate piracy altogether, but it will provide an alternative to unauthorized copying that could reduce its occurrence without markedly affecting Office license revenue.


iTunes Goes DRM-Free, Gets More Expensive…and Gets Cheaper?

ituneslogoIt might or might be announced this morning at Macworld Expo, but it seems inevitable: CNET is reporting that Apple has hammered out a deal to sell DRM-free music from Sony BMG, Universal, and Warner, joining EMI’s iTunes Plus DRM-less music in the iTunes Store. The agreement would finally give Apple DRM-free music from all the major labels–something it really needs given that Amazon.com and most other major purveyors of music downloads have lost the copy protection.

Amazon.com also undercuts Apple’s pricing on many tracks; CNET reports that Apple’s deal with the labels will force it to drop its flat 99-cent fee in favor of variable pricing, with hot new stuff sometimes costing more, and back-catalog songs going for 79 cents. Seems like a reasonable concession to me (and complete albums already go for varying prices at the iTunes Store).

I don’t recommend buying DRM-hobbled music, which means that don’t recommend buying the protected songs that still comprise the majority of Apple’s offerings. It’ll feel good if I can stop warning folks about the iTunes Store–and I’ll bet Apple is looking forward to losing the DRM as much as anybody at this point.


25 Arguments for the Elimination of Copy Protection

Can I begin with a few disclaimers? I believe that people who create things deserve to be rewarded for their efforts. Which means that I think that stealing entertainment and software is wrong. Actually, come to think of it, if there was a form of copy protection that was never a hassle for paying customers but which effectively prevented piracy, I might enthusiastically support it. (Go ahead, mock me if you must–I’ll wait.)

With that out the way, I also believe this: Copy protection (also known in recent years as Digital Rights Management) just stinks. At its best, it creates minor but real inconveniences for the people who pay for stuff; at its worst, it badly screws up their experiences with the products they buy. Let’s just say it–the world would be better off without it.

Most of the best arguments against copy protection aren’t so much arguments as case studies. Over and over, it’s caused both anticipated and unanticipated problems. Including ones for the companies who use it.

So let’s review the case against copy protection by looking at what it’s done for us over the past 25 years or so. Warning: Persons whose blood boils easily should read no further…

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