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* Wednesday, May 4, 2005

Why DRM Sucks (Redux)

I've been seeing more ads for MovieLink so when I was traveling last month, I decided to take them up on their offer to purchase my first movie from them for $.90. At the time, it seemed like a good deal for an interesting service. I was flying in and out of Minneapolis on the same day, so why not spend the time on the plane watching a cheap an inexpensive movie. So the night before the flight, I browsed their site and found one I wanted to watch, created an account with them, gave them my credit card number, downloaded their software, and downloaded the movie. When all was said and done, I opened the “MovieLink Manager” software and saw the movie waiting for me. Happy camper that I was, I shut down my laptop and went to sleep.

Cut to the airport, I’m on the plane and approved portable electronic devices can now be used. I whip out the laptop and bring up MovieLink to watch my movie. Except that I get an error message that my software has not been authorized for the proper security rights and needs to be upgraded. It will now connect to the internet, and this may take a few moments. But of course, I’m 30,000 feet up in the air with no internet, so now I can’t watch my movie. Bah humbug. So I figure that for whatever reason, the software didn’t authorize properly last night, even though it said it did. It lied. I’ll just have to authorize it when I’m online before the presentation, and then I’ll watch it on the flight home.

Yeah, right.

I tried to authorize it during the day, but it kept trying to connect to their server for authorization and ending with an error message that it couldn’t authorize my software. Double bah humbug. So now I don’t get to watch the movie on the way home, either. And with MovieLink, you only get 30 days to watch the movie, and once you start watching it, you only have 24 hours to finish it. Then it goes bye-bye.

So I get home and the next day I use their online chat to talk to technical support. The rep was incredibly nice and empathetic, but no matter what we tried we couldn’t get it working. Mainly because we couldn’t find a folder called “DRM” that was supposed to be on my hard drive. My contact information was taken, and it was promised a rep would get back to me for more detailed support.

And sure enough, someone did contact me via email. We tried some further troubleshooting (including updating Windows Media Player), but still no go. Simultaneously, the MovieLink folks emailed Microsoft about my problems, and a Microsoft engineer began working with me. I can’t stress enough how nice and patient these folks have been, but three days before my movie is set to expire, there’s still no resolution to my problem. The Microsoft guy sent me some instructions that finally made the DRM folder on my hard drive visible, and now he’s looking at a screenshot I sent him to determine what to try next. The MovieLink guy offered to refund my money for the movie, but if I accept that, I can’t take advantage of the $.90 offer again, even though I technically never did in the first place (sue me, I can be cheap). So the movie sits on my laptop, waiting for their server and my laptop’s software to say I can watch it. I think it’s going to die before I get to watch it.

So I’ve got two tech support people helping to figure this out, a movie that I paid for that’s about to expire, and an even greater skepticism of DRM than I had before, especially in a library setting. Triple bah humbug.

But you know that’s not the end of the story, right? I downloaded the new version of Rhapsody, which is really nice. It’s a Flash app now, which means more functionality. I really like it, but every time I open the app, I get an error message that says my Windows DRM software has been corrupted so Rhapsody can’t play the track. Not that I’ve asked it to play a track, mind you. And I can stream music just fine, although I haven’t tried burning anything yet. I assume that if I was to try the new “pay as you go” plan to put whatever music I want on my MP3 player, it would fail miserably.

My laptop is officially crippled through no fault of my own, and let’s not forget that this is a relatively new laptop. I think I’m even up-to-date on OS patches. How must the average user feel going through all of this? Why does average user have to go through this? All I wanted to do was watch a movie and listen to some music! Quadruple bah humbug.

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Tracked on May 29, 2005 11:41 AM