There was an interesting article on TechCrunch the other day highlighting the fact that Google has closed it’s video marketplace.
If there ever was an example of why DRM’ed files are a bad idea then this is it, a key statement in emails sent out to previous purchasers / renters is:
After August 15, 2007, you will no longer be able to view your purchased or rented videos.
So, plain and simple. Movies that people purchased will no longer be playable because the Google video store won’t be keeping its DRM system going. The notion of purchasing to permanently own doesn’t really apply when DRM is in the equation.
This situation happens because Google’s video DRM requires an internet connection so that everytime you play back your purchased or rented movie it calls back to Google’s servers to check you have rights to play it back. Now that Google have disabled their DRM server there’s no way for your video files to be checked so basically your purchased video files become useless.
It’s true that Google are compensating people by giving vouchers for use with Google’s Checkout payment system, there may also be the possibility of an actual refund, but many people are unhappy about the fact that their purchases will no longer play and that there is nothing they can do about it. At least nothing legal anyway, it’s not difficult to see why users having made purchases through this system and having their fingers burned might just decide to get it by some illegal means instead.
"Why is Hollywood more important than users?"
Back in February 2006 BoingBoing.net published an article called "Google Video DRM: Why is Hollywood more important than users?", in it the risks of Google’s then newly launched video store was described and how it was a real break in tradition for Google who have always tended to put the interests of the user first. In the article the author, Cory Doctorow, asked:
The question is, why has Google done this? There’s no Google customer who woke up this morning looking for a way to do less with her video. There’s no Google customer who lacked access to this video if he wanted it (here’s a tip: enter the name of a show or movie into Google and add the word "torrent" to the search, and within seconds Google will have delivered to you a link through which you can download practically everything in the Google DRM catalog, for free, without DRM.
The article proposed the unlikely event that if Google went bust that the DRM system would stop working, although the situation is far from that they did foresee what would happen if Google closed it’s video store doors.
Maybe Google gets it after all?
Reading the previously mentioned Boing Boing article gives you the strong impression of how ill-received the Google video store was by fans of Google. But I wonder if dropping the Google video store, despite being disappointing and frustrating for many, is actually a blessing in disguise? Given the dangers of DRM systems perhaps Google just needed to drop this venture and move on to what they are really focused on and put it in the past? The closure is a bit of a harsh move but if they’re going to stop perpetuating the DRM juggernaut then they might as well do it swiftly.
There’s obviously growing competition between the likes of Google and Microsoft. Whereas Microsoft has put itself whole-heartedly behind the DRM / Proprietary software juggernaut, Google on the other hand has focused on embracing Open Source software through things like Google Apps and Google Pack software downloads. Perhaps the Google store closure just highlights the difference in mindset between Google and Microsoft? Maybe they are not turning so evil as some people have accused them of becoming?
Cory Doctorow finished off his article on Boing Boing by saying:
There’s no way Google can win the DRM wars. The end-game for the entertainment companies is to use the sweet lure of content to turn Google from an unmanageable giant into a biddable servant, dependent on long-term good relations with its licensors to preserve its customers’ investment in its video.
The only way Google can win this game is not to play at all. The only way Google can win is to return to its customer-comes-first ethic and refuse any business-arrangement that subverts its customers’ interests to serve some other industry’s wishes.
I think he nailed it good and proper.