Wednesday, November 13, 2002

And now, in Macrovision...

Also in this week's Music Week is an opinion piece by Brian McPhail, who comes from Macrovision. Not the company that made the poor-quality alternative to Atari, but the people who make copy protection technology. What does he have to say?

The problems with copy protection technology so far were not with our technologies, they were caused by implementation decisions

Now, I don't know which specific CDs were using Macrovision, so I'm going to assume that McPhail is talking for his industry as a whole, okay? And I'd say that CDs which lock up computers and won't allow the machine to reboot even to spit out the offending CD is a problem with the technology, not the implementation. And anyway, doesn't that sound a bit like a mines manufacturer trying to claim that its not their product that blows people up, but the way its used?
They came from the technology being young and the decision makers being early on their learning curves. Some were saying 'we don't care if its not playable in 10% of cases.' Our view is that, if you have more than 0.5% to 1% non-playability, it is not worth doing it.

This is incredible - first confirmation that the labels care so little, they don't mind if one in ten records are duds - imagine if a car company took that approach; you'd have Ford/Firestone all the time. Not that Macrovision are much better - "one percent non playability" is, remember, 6,000 copies of a platinum selling single that just don't work, which we still don't think even approaches being good enough.
The systems worked as the labels intended...

Up to one in ten sales being totally worthless? That was their plan?
... but the consumer thought 'this is preventing me from using my music in the ways that I have become accustomed to enjoying it'

No, Brian, consumers thought "I have just bought a CD that I'm not able to use" or, if they were lucky "I have bought a CD which has been designed to stop me from using it in ways that I'm supposed to be able to."
We discovered that bringing out a copy-protection solution that was playable was not enough. Since then, we have gone through a major shift in our thinking. We realised that for the music business, there needed to be an element of rights management technology to make it more convenient for consumers, and not just copy protection"

We think what he's trying to say - maybe its become gibberish because we're trying to quote from the article - is that they realised that having copy protection that stops people from using the music they've bought pisses people off.
We have developed a solution called SafeAuthenticate which allows labels to add additional music tracks which are pre-ripped and can be easily transferred to PCs. The next version will enable easy export onto portable devices and will support CD burning. Then the consumer will feel that if he buys a new Robbie Willaims album, he can play it on his PC and also make his own custom compilation and export it to his portable device. He can do more than he could do before.

Well, first of all, it doesn't take new technology to allow labels to put more tracks on CDs - there's load of space, the limit just comes from the chart rules. So singles will still only have three tracks on them, whatever.

Second: "he can do more than could do before." Play on PC, make compilations, export to portables? Isn't that "exactly what he could have done without copy protection" rather than "more than he could before"? Next you'll be trying to tell us that the sexy world of Digital Rights Management will allow us to hear different sounds through each speaker - creating a 3d effect - and will enable star djs to rework original tracks into new mixes. Macrovision is a Denver Boot on CDs, and adding so much technology that the CD might actually let you do what you're paying for except in 10,000 out of every million copies is not a great claim.

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