Media on OS X is dead unless someone comes up with a licensed DRM scheme

Discussion in 'Apple, Inc and Tech Industry' started by craigp, Feb 28, 2007.

  1. craigp macrumors member

    Feb 28, 2007
    I'm worried people, and I really need you all to know why.

    The Internet Tubes(TM) were full today about how the BBC are on the cusp of releasing an on-demand service for their license fee payers to download programmes.

    Once that lot had sloshed through, the next wadge of cybernews to pop out of the pipe was the new Bittorrent Network and how they're going to effectively be getting their users to pay the bandwidth bills to distribute a wide selection of content - including some very interesting HD content from prime-time providers.

    And the biggest problem with all this?

    Not a single second of any of this content will play on the Mac.

    So, this isn't a post when I'm going to rant about Microsoft and their proprietary formats ad nauseam... I've been there, done that, and to be honest, I can't really blame Microsoft for wanting to get the dominant hold on the media market.
    Its not fair that they are doing it by sheer dumb-numbers (with 95% of all computers sold having Windows Media installed on them by default really without the user having much say or knowing much different), but bollocking-on about how this isn't fair nah nah nah isn't going to change the situation.

    Competition is.

    The most exciting news today is that iTunes is on course to beat RealPlayer to the number 2 slot for installed based of media players ( This really isn't a mean feat, when you consider the sheer overwhelming effort it takes most pig-thick or appallingly apathetic users to realise there are other players out there, and figure out how to download and use them.

    Content producers, at the end of the day, don't really give two hoots what digital format is being used to distribute their content. So long as Johnny TwelveYearOld isn't able to stick the movie on his £10 memory stick, take it into school, and give it to all his mates, they're happy. DRM. Yes, that most-hated of acronyms is the real lynchpin here. It makes no sense for the content providers to be releasing big money content like movies without DRM right now. The cost of a DVD is significantly higher than the cost to a user of downloading a movie file off some P2P network - un-DRM'ed movie content would quickly kill DVD and any pay-for content.

    But the problem is that content providers actually don't have an option right now. Their only choice is to go with Windows Media protected DRM, or do nothing at all. Both the BBC and the Bittorrent Network both could not to nothing any more, and had to bite the bullet when going with WMV DRM. I'm guessing neither really had a penchant for WMV over anything else, but there was no 'anything else' to go with.

    So, all us Mac users are left with is one line at the end of some ****** FAQ:

    Q: Will this video play on my Mac/Linux machine?
    A: Currently, video playback requires Windows XP or Vista with Windows Media Player... etc....

    ...blah, blah, blah...

    The only answer to this is a cross-platform DRM scheme not controlled by Apple or Microsoft. Ideally, it'll plug into iTunes, so that Windows and Mac users at least can gain access to it. If Apple aren't going to license FairPlay, then someone else has to do it for them.

    Let's be honest, if Apple were keen to license FairPlay, this would instantly solve the problem comprehensively. Of course all the content providers would instantly jump on the bandwagon - they'd get the video iPod / iPhone 'for free'.

    The prognosis for video on the Mac, if the current state of DRM goes unchecked, is that the Mac platform is going to become increasingly more ostracised as a media platform. Apple are winning no war by keeping FairPlay unlicensed, and a complete lack of any alternative to WMV makes this decision even more dangerous.

    Someone needs to do something. And now.

    I want to be able to participate in this digital movie download revolution. Apple are dragging their heels releasing movies (both a reasonable collection, and outside the US), and I don't care for their download-to-own model anyway (works for music, but I rarely want to watch a movie more than once. I only want to rent movies). Or, I want someone (like Real tried to do with RealPlayer, but not so sucky) to come up with some kind of cross-platform DRM system - maybe even something that plugs directly into iTunes (works transparently).

    I'm worried that unless someone does something, I'm going to have to be watching my media on something other than the Mac systems I love.

    This is a plea to all software developers and bright sparks out there. Come up with an alternative to WMV. License it across platforms. License it cheap. Please help keep my platform viable.
  2. Project macrumors 68020

    Aug 6, 2005
    Completely agree.

    For us in the UK its not looking too good.

    Sky Anytime allows you to watch all of your premium content as part of your Sky subscription on any PC. Windows only, as it uses Windows Media DRM.

    BBC have a window of 24 months before Mac and Linux compatibility has to be on offer. So, 2 years without the BBCs iPlayer.

    This doesnt begin to take account for the proliferation of new content deals being sewn up by the Microsoft dudes.

    It appears that in the near future at least, DRM is the new platform play for Microsoft and they are wrapping this sector up extremely fast.
  3. OllyW Moderator


    Staff Member

    Oct 11, 2005
    The Black Country, England
    Not forgetting Channel 4's 4OD, Windows only :mad:

    And Channel 4's reasoning

    Will you offer 4oD for the Macintosh?

    Category: 4oD | Sub Category: Getting Started

    Unfortunately not at the launch of 4oD.

    This is an industry-wide issue caused because the accepted Digital Rights Management (DRM) system used to protect online video content, which is required by our content owners, is not compatible with Apple Mac hardware and software. The closed DRM system used by Apple is not currently available for licence by third parties and there is no other Mac-compatible DRM solution which meets the protection requirements of content owners. Unfortunately, we are therefore unable to offer 4oD content to Mac users at this stage.
  4. Project macrumors 68020

    Aug 6, 2005
    I cant even blame Channel 4 or Sky, as much as it frustrates me.

    I mean, I dont see why they need DRM for this content in the first place, when I can take a video and record any program I want from TV, or just feed an S Video lead from the box to my Mac and record it there, completely unprotected.

    But if they feel that a DRM solution is needed (for time lapsing content), then clearly there is no suitable DRM on the Mac. Apple has to add time lapsing to Fairplay asap.
  5. Benjamindaines macrumors 68030


    Mar 24, 2005
    A religiously oppressed state
    Let's not forget Netflix, their online streaming will never support Macs because the content is wrapped in Microsoft DRM :(

    I would honestly stop torrenting movies if I could watch them streamed from Netflix.
  6. Wolfpup macrumors 68030

    Sep 7, 2006
    Totally agree with all this. Someone needs to do something, as it's nuts for companies to support Microsoft's closed DRM.

    I also get so ticked off when I see normal people throw a video up in WMV format rather than a more open format...

    I'm also completely uninterested in the iTunes store (and by extension, Apple TV). I'd rent for a reasonable amount (say $2/movie like the Tivo/Amazon thing will apparently be), but I don't buy movies, and if I did I'd buy them on DVD, not a (more) DRMed and closed platform.
  7. craigp thread starter macrumors member

    Feb 28, 2007
    What I can't understand, above everything else really, is why some enterprising company doesn't just come along and write some clever bit of DRM that slots into iTunes (or has a cross-platform viewer).

    All you've got to do is write this DRM scheme and find a way to hook it into iTunes. Sure, this is probably technologically very challenging, but its not like you've having to write an OS or anything.

    With a cross-platform, good performance, pluggable DRM format someone could make a mint. As I said before - like Real, but less sucky (cos Real player did suck arse big-time).
  8. CaptainHaddock macrumors 6502

    Jul 6, 2004
    Nagoya, Japan
    All this DRM-encumbered media is such a niche market anyway. I think in the end, because it can't work across all systems and for all users, DRM will just die. Windows is hardly better off because it has more DRM. How many users actually have an encrypted link all the way to their high-definition TV or monitor to make the whole set-up work? Less than one percent I'm pretty sure. The DRM lords are welcome to fight over that scrap.

    Regular people will keep watching TV or using their plug-and-play DVR. Tech-savvy people know where to find stuff for free that isn't DRM-encumbered.
  9. Rodimus Prime macrumors G4

    Rodimus Prime

    Oct 9, 2006

    which you can partly blame on apple refusing to license out fair play. Microsoft is more than willing to license out its DRM so that what a lot of companies are going to use. There are very very few cross platform DRMs.

    Real player which is complete crap and a lot of people never will use and fair play.

    If you have to give up part f the market share one way or the other hate to break it to you all but apple is better one to loss than losing more people to the fact that real player is crap.
  10. Wolfpup macrumors 68030

    Sep 7, 2006
    I HOPE DRM dies like that, but I have a more pessimistic view of humanity I guess. I just see too many drones who respond with "HA HA HA WHO CARES YOU SUCK HA HA HA" to any important issue (and often then get frustrated when they get bit by it later-but can't make the connection that they should have cared...)
  11. whooleytoo macrumors 604


    Aug 2, 2002
    Cork, Ireland.
    I hope you're right. There are some worryingly big content providers jumping on the DRM bandwagon now.
  12. AdeFowler macrumors 68020


    Aug 27, 2004
    Great post craigp.

    I just hope that Apple are aware of the situation and are working on a solution. Otherwise the content providers have a valid excuse.
  13. iZealot macrumors newbie


    Feb 23, 2007
    Of course apple is aware of the situation and working on a "solution" ::insert the bull **** caugh here:: ::now release the obvious solution:: partnership
  14. AdeFowler macrumors 68020


    Aug 27, 2004
    With who? Apple have a formidable cross-platform armoury: Quicktime, Fairplay and iTunes. Why do they need to partner with anyone?
  15. craigp thread starter macrumors member

    Feb 28, 2007
    Sure, they have the technology, but for whatever reason, they're not exploiting it to its fullest. Apple are the people best placed to provide a good cross-platform DRM but, for reasons only Sir Jobs himself knows, they're deciding not to. Meanwhile MS take over the world (again).

    The only alternative HAS to be some third party coming up with a tenable alternative.
  16. Queso macrumors G4

    Mar 4, 2006
    Sadly, it's now too late for Apple to do anything. Content providers have held off on this for three years waiting for the licensing of Fairplay, but they've finally thrown in the towel and jumped in with MS. Once a couple of the majors did, everybody else has. Apple could release the best thing ever now and nobody would use it.

    Apple of course couldn't care less, since they're too busy gushing about how many Disney movies they've sold in the USA. Once again, they've missed the wider picture and a market they should own has slipped away.
  17. craigp thread starter macrumors member

    Feb 28, 2007
    This is Apple's reasoning for not licensing FairPlay. Almost everything else Jobs says in this article is true, but this argument is fundamentally flawed.

    I would argue that licensing FairPlay is exactly what Apple need to be doing right now. Sure, technologically its going to be a difficult job to keep up with people cracking FairPlay, but:

    1) You're a technology company. Architect some cunning way to make keeping the DRM updated simple. You've got some of the brightest computing minds in the world working for you. Make it happen.
    2) Since iTunes 6.something, there seem to be far fewer FairPlay cracking apps floating around. Perish the thought that Apple may have actually finally made it a little too difficult for the crackers to circumvent it - I wouldn't suggest this for a second for fear of phlamewars of the highest order. But Hymn seems to have languished in obscurity, perl scripts to intercept audio streams after iTunes decodes them are a) Windows only, and b) still very geeky (i.e. no easy to use UI), and Apple are still selling more digital music than ever. Maybe FairPlay is actually quite difficult to crack?

    Its worth realising that DRM on music and DRM on video should be considered as two separate concerns. With DRM on music, you're only worried about, say, three minutes of audio worth less than a quid. With Video, you're talking about a single much higher price for the content if you were to buy it conventionally.

    So the DRM scheme is far more important to get right, and it is based on a completely different set of customer wants and needs: namely, you're probably going to want to keep music, as you'll listen to it over and over again, whereas with video you're probably going to only want to watch it once. So there needs to be a rental model for video. Jobs is right to push for non-exploding music content (i.e. pay to own) since the typical user isn't going to want to lose their entire music collection if they stop paying. Whereas, I'm quite happy for movies I watch to 'expire' after a week. If I really like it that much, offer me an option to 'upgrade' the purchase to keep it for a few quid more (or I'll just buy the three-disk DVD).

    Could Apple's real motivation for keeping FairPlay closed be more to do with wanting to restrict users of Macs and iPods (and iPhones and AppleTVs) to having to use the iTunes Store to get their digital stuff? I had no problem with this when it came to music - since Apple had a great product (good range, good price, reasonable quality), but when it comes to movies, their content range sucks, their pricing options suck (I don't want to buy, I want to only rent movies), and it isn't even available outside the US anyway!

    FairPlay (or a worthy competitor) needs to be licensed cross-platform if the Mac (and all Apple's other devices) is going to be a viable platform for digital content in the near future.
  18. craigp thread starter macrumors member

    Feb 28, 2007
    Solution Found!!!!!

    This, my friends, is the solution we've been looking for: BBC strikes Google-YouTube deal

    This is the answer.

    This is the solution.

    Cross-platform - YES
    Content provider-chosen DRM - YES
    Supports rental (probably) - YES
    iPod / iTunes / iPhone / AppleTV support - NO (but I'm over that now)

    Until Apple licenses FairPlay, this is as good as it gets, and it ain't arf bad. Not much proper content will be put on YouTube (as opposed to the BBC's hateful iPlayer app), but they've got two years to do something cross platform (according to the terms of the BBC Trust propsal).
  19. Mr Skills macrumors 6502a

    Mr Skills

    Nov 21, 2005
    I started a very similar thread a few months ago, but no-one seemed concerned. I'm glad that people are waking up to this danger. I suppose I should quote here what I said then:

    How DRM Saved The Mac... and could kill it

    There's a lot of talk about how the iPod's halo effect has helped Mac sales, but I believe the iPod has done more than this - in a sense, it saved the mac as a family media platform. Without the dominance of the iPod and iTunes, legal music downloads might have bypassed the mac completely, as vendors turned into Windows Media as the only choice.

    But what is happening with video downloads might reverse this positive trend. Windows Media DRM is becoming the de facto standard all over the web for DRM movie downloads. Macs are in danger of being on the fringes for video downloads.

    Don't forget, regardless of player quality etc, the real issue is that Windows Media is the only option for video DRM.

    All over the web, protected video content is appearing that is unavailable to Macs (e.g. movie downloads for Sky subscribers) and this time it is not because the companies don't want to support Mac users - they simply don't have the option if they want to protect their files. Microsoft DRM is the only game in town.

    Of course, it could be argued that this falls under the Microsoft antitrust thing... but no-one seems to be pursuing them for it.

  20. Mr Skills macrumors 6502a

    Mr Skills

    Nov 21, 2005
    And while I'm in the mood for quoting myself from other threads... :)

    The web is starting to be flooded with commercial video download services, almost none of which (apart from Apple's own iTunes) will work on a Mac. The reason? The aggressive push of Microsoft's WMV.

    And you can't answer "just use iTunes" because:
    1. It is available only in the USA
    2. The alternatives that are shut off to Mac users are often cheaper or free (several TV channels in the UK now offer their own programmes for download; Sky Movies customers can download from the internet; BBC is about to introduce 'iPlayer'.... the list goes on.)

    The big problem is not the lack of availability itself, but the way it puts off switchers. When they try to use a service and find that they can't, it reinforces the old "Mac's aren't compatible" stereotype.

    Video DRM is a big, big stick for Microsoft to beat Apple with. Most people have interpreted Steve's Open Letter as being only about music DRM; reading between the lines, I think he's realised that iTunes can't achieve the same near-monopoly on video as it has on music. He's trying to use his muscle on the music side to encourage all DRM to be abandoned. It's not just about iTunes; ultimately, it's about the Mac.
  21. FleurDuMal macrumors 68000


    May 31, 2006
    London Town
    If that's the answer, then it's a pretty meaningless question. I don't want clips, out takes and trailers - I want the on-demand service for programming. This is just the BBC bigging itself up about something thats really not that interesting.

    If there was a wide range of half-decent movies and TV shows on the iTunes store (in the UK there are currently approx. NONE), and they were of DVD quality at least, then I wouldn't moan about the way Apple is dealing with DRM. But there isn't. And the inability to play Windows Media DRM is really inhibiting my internet experience now to the point where I'm seriously thinking ploughing my savings into a Windows machine instead of a Mac.
  22. Frisco macrumors 68020

    Sep 24, 2002
    Many good points in this thread. Once again Apple missed the market with it's obstinate refusal to license. I guess Jobs and Apple haven't learned a thing from the past.

    Macrumors and other Mac forums are filled with newbies who have just "switched" asking "how can I play this or that video?" When they find out they can't, they must ask themselves why did I spend $2500 on this, when my 6 year old Dell could easily play it.

    Apple please learn to license!
  23. MisterMe macrumors G4


    Jul 17, 2002
    This misrepresents the vast majority of those newbies. The notion that Apple's "failure" to license its DRM is hurting it is not borne-out in my experience. Most newbie questions about non-viewable video that I see are requests for help viewing files which are freely available and non-DRMed. Usually, the solution is to install the Perian and Flip4Mac QuickTime codecs or the VLC media viewer.
  24. Counterfit macrumors G3


    Aug 20, 2003
    sitting on your shoulder
    I don't mean to be a jerk, but I can't figure that sentence out for the life of me. :confused:
  25. Porco macrumors 68030


    Mar 28, 2005
    Whilst I agree with the main thrust of this thread, the situation with the BBC is slightly different, because of their public service remit, and the charter that goes with their huge licence fee (a legally-required fee for any TV-owning household in the UK for any non-UK readers who don't know that). The charter, amongst other things, states that the BBC should be independent and fair. Of course locking out non-MS users by doing a cushy deal to use their DRM is neither. Clips on Youtube are being used as a promotional exercise to drive people back to the BBC's MS-DRM-based iPlayer for full programmes.

    This means that any TV-using mac or linux households in the UK are effectively helping to fund the BBC's MS-backed DRM solution. This is an untenable position in the context of their charter, and I can't actually see how they going to get away with it. The two years that has apparently been called a 'reasonable time frame' is laughable. If I tried to not pay my TV licence for two years on the basis that it was a 'reasonable timeframe' I'd have a huge fine for not paying it. So why are the BBC allowed?

    For any UK users, you can (and I urge you to) have your say to the BBC in a public consultation on their site, here[1].


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