Do Patents Stifle Innovation?

The Copyright Clause of the United States Constitution states that Congress shall have the authority to “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts”, and it specifies how Congress shall do so: “by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” See my article on what an indie needs to know about copyright for a primer on the topic.

Copyright, trademark, and patent laws were created to provide the latter in the hopes that it encourages the former. While anecdotal claims have been around for some time which insist that patents are stifling innovation, especially in the realm of software development, the prevailing view is that patents are good for innovation. Of course, that claim is also anecdotal.

Dr. Andrew W. Torrance and Dr. Bill Tomlinson simulated different types of patent systems, using PatentSim, which sounds like an MMO based around owning and utilizing patents. Based on their simulations, using different patent models, they found that the data “suggest that a system combining patent and open source protection for inventions (that is, similar to modern patent systems) generates significantly lower rates of innovation (p<0.05), productivity (p<0.001), and societal utility (p<0.002) than does a commons system.”

Read about the study at Patents and the Regress of Useful Arts.

Changing the US Patent system is tough, especially since so many businesses exist with an interest in keeping the status quo, but if promoting the useful arts and sciences can be more effective by NOT continuing with current practices, it sounds like “securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries” was an erroneous assumption on the part of the Founding Fathers.

Another Abuse of the DMCA

Jay Barnson of Rampant Games reported on yet another abuse of the DMCA. This time, the abusers are car manufacturers.

Modern cars are equipped with computers, which means repairs and auto work now require more than just hitting your engine with a hammer. It seems that in order for non-dealership service shops to fix your cars, they need to circumvent the encryption of your engine.

And of course, according to the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, circumventing “technological protection measures” is a felony.

The DMCA was passed under the impression that artists and authors would produce more creative works since without these protections they had no incentive in the modern age. What we’ve seen is security researchers barred from discussing research on computer security, which also discourages said research in an age when we need such research the most. What we’ve seen is Wal-mart, Best Buy, and a number of other major retail companies use the DMCA to prevent comparison shopping websites from posting uncopyrightable prices. What we’ve seen is the removal of public domain works from sites such as The Internet Archive. For a list of abuses as of 2003, see the Electronic Freedom Foundation’s list of abusive DMCA subpoenas and takedown demands.

The DMCA doesn’t require the accuser to demonstrate proof. No judge needs to be involved to allow overreaching takedown powers. If the accuser sends a notice to an ISP, the ISP needs to take steps immediately or be found at fault and liable for damages. If you upload a video you made to YouTube, and Viacom or 20th Century Fox sends a DMCA notice to YouTube accusing you of uploading THEIR content, you can defend yourself…after the fact. Most likely you will find that your video has been removed, even if it was completely original and under YOUR copyright. Imagine if Microsoft or EA managed to get your game removed from your servers by sending a DMCA notice to your ISP.

And now apparently the DMCA is being used to lock-in service work for car dealerships. Seriously? In this case, it doesn’t even involve a copyrighted work! It also discourages hobbyist car mechanics from tinkering with their cars. It’s disgusting.

So apparently after the DMCA gives all of these absurd powers away, we need laws to patch up specific abuses. Researchers can do research under an exception. If you’re blind and want to be able to listen to ebooks? You need an exception. Now there is a Right to Repair Act on the way to allow people to take their cars anywhere they want for service. Where’s the Right to Repair Act for everything else?

The public loses again.

Simplifying Copyright for the Modern World

Thanks to Scott Macmillan of Macguffin Games, I learned about an article by Cory Doctorow called Digital Licensing: Do It Yourself.

Doctorow suggests a fascinating idea: self-service licensing. Let’s say you create a game, and someone wants to create plush toys of the characters and sell them online. Technically, it’s illegal unless they get your permission. Disney, for instance, would want you to negotiate an agreement with their expensive lawyers…which requires you to hire your own expensive lawyer. Unless you’re a huge manufacturer and intend to sell to hundreds of thousands of customers, it’s not worth the expense and effort.

But you’re an indie. You don’t have an army of lawyers on staff. Your staff might consist of just you, in fact. So if someone wanted to make a plush toy out of your video game characters, and you had no problem with people doing so, even for commercial gain, but wanted to make sure you were protected, what could you do?

Your options used to be sticking your head in the sand, risking the dilution of your trademark, giving permission but worrying about what legal rights you might accidentally give away, or preventing people from making what are essentially derivative works without your consent. But why not just give them consent? After all, it isn’t your core business, and they’re taking all the risk. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could make an agreement with them without having to negotiate over the course of weeks or months?

Doctorow suggests some general wording that covers your obligations to your own trademarks and rights while also allowing others to understand what they can and cannot do and how you expect to be paid from their profiting off of your works.

The key part is simplicity:

Complexity is your enemy here. Two or three sentences are all you want, so that the idea can be absorbed in 10 seconds by a maker at three in the morning just as she embarks on an inspired quest to sculpt a 3D version from your logo using flattened pop-cans.

The secret to simplicity here is in the license fee, the payment schedule, and the enforcement regime.

What’s exciting is that such simplified, self-service licensing opens up potentially multiple market research opportunities! Someone can make plush toys and determine if they sell well WITHOUT you needing to invest in it. They carry the risk, and you can earn royalties if it works out for them. Someone else can do paper-craft, or craft some earrings, or create a movie, or make a painting, or any number of possible derivative works, carrying all the risk of seeing if there is a market for these things, and if it turns out that there is, you always have the option of doing something bigger with them.

Without self-service licensing, you have to dictate everything yourself. You need to prevent everyone from doing fun crafty things based on your work, but you also only have so much time to dedicate to your own business, which means less time to do anything that could potentially create new markets based on your work.

When I was younger, I drew pictures of Super Mario Bros characters. I tried to sell them at a garage sale and also at a shopping center. Now, keep in mind, I was a child trying to sell pictures I drew, and I had no idea that I was infringing on Nintendo’s copyrights and trademarks. Nintendo wasn’t going to do anything to me because they didn’t even know I existed. But if I had done it today, you could imagine that I would be using eBay or some website, which means the entire world could find me. Suddenly, my personal little craft is just that much more dangerous. Nintendo could shut me down if they wanted to. A lot of the creators of Nintendo-themed woodwork and art are only getting away with it because Nintendo hasn’t pointed their legal team at them. But if Nintendo had a self-service license, it would simultaneously protect their trademark while also allowing fans to create and sell crafts on a small scale. My Nintendo-themed drawings could be sold, legally and without harm, and Nintendo gets a small cut of any revenues I get.

Now, Nintendo might not care too much about the relatively small amount of money that would come their way through such a system, but what about you? Do you have fans that would love to create works based on your game? Wouldn’t it be nice if they were given a simple, safe way to do so? One that would give them peace of mind that they wouldn’t get sued by your company on a whim, and that also lets them kick back some extra money towards you?

And even if self-service licensing doesn’t appeal to you (although I would strongly suggest reading Cory Doctorow’s article to see a much better explanation since it might change your mind), the idea of simplifying your licenses in a Creative Commons way would only help. Copyright is confusing, and most people don’t know what it is, let alone why they should pay attention to your EULA. Why provide 37 sections of legalese when you could tell them what you expect in 4 plain-language sentences?

2008 Global Software Piracy Study

The Business Software Alliance, which is made up of mainly larger software companies and claims to be the “voice of the world’s software industry and its hardware partners on a wide range of business and policy affairs”, sponsored research by IDC. Their findings were released in the 2008 Global Software Piracy Study.

I take issue with a few parts of the 25 page report. For one thing, there is still a claim that every illegally downloaded piece of software corresponds to a “loss” for a software vendor. The report itself uses quotes around the word “loss”, which indicates to me that even the IDC can’t just outright claim they are real losses. A simple mental exercise will demonstrate how false it is. Do you know someone who downloads software illegally? If not, pretend you know someone who has downloaded hundreds of games, productivity software, and office software illegally. Now, tell me, if this person had to pay for each and every piece of software, would he or she have the money to do so? Most likely, the answer is no. Software isn’t like a physical product that can be returned, such as a car, so if this person were to be caught, I have a hard time believing that uninstalling the illegal software would restore these supposed “losses” to the software vendor.

The way they legitimize the claim that each pirated copy is a loss? By showing a strong correlation between piracy rates and the strength of the software industry in a country. Except I don’t think anyone doubts that losses occur overall, which is all that correlation shows. You could look at it as each pirated copy of software contributes to the whole, and the whole correlates with a weak software industry, but it is hardly a 1:1 causation.

But what’s even more bizarre is how software piracy “losses” seem to go up or down depending on currency exchange rates! Yes, the BSA claims that because the USD went down, piracy “losses” went up. Can we use triple quotes on that word?

It is fascinating to see how Russia, China, and even Brazil are lowering their piracy rates by a large margin, which corresponds with job increases, although it isn’t clear if there is a causation one way or another in those cases. It seems that developing countries are the ones where the largest increase in software piracy is occurring.

There is a section in which the study lists factors that help to lower piracy. A couple of these factors are described using words like “have been paying off” to indicate that we should expect that such factors were being used and were measured in their effectiveness. Most, however, use words like “will lower piracy” or “can have an impact”, which indicates to me that these are more wishful thinking and not necessarily based in any numbers. Most telling: one of those latter factors is Technical Advances, specifically Digital Rights Management (DRM).

At the end, the BSA lists their blueprint for reducing piracy. Most of the items are about stronger copyright laws and better and heavier enforcement of the laws. I’m not so sure I like a group of the larger, multinational software companies dictating how copyright laws should work better for them and less for smaller indie shops and micro software vendors, or for citizens at large. We live in a world where thousands of unique videos are created and uploaded to YouTube every minute. People create and have the protections of copyright, and haven’t had to worry about stricter enforcement, and I fear that stricter enforcement will be like trying to hold onto water more tightly. The bigger companies will survive if people are pushed to pirate software and other media more often, but the smaller companies and individuals might not. The BSA doesn’t have as much to lose, or “lose”, as the smaller companies do, yet they act as everyone’s voice. It worries me.

The one item I agree with and would love to push for: increase public education and awareness. Except I don’t like where the BSA’s focus lies. They seem to want to focus on educating the public about how valuable software is so that they won’t pirate it. They want to inform people that they should only obtain software legally. Basically, let’s teach the “consumers” how to consume the right way.

I want to see more people understand what copyright law is and how it helps them as creators. Again, more people create more new copyrighted works per minute today than they did decades ago. And most probably don’t even realize they own the copyright! Why? Because copyright law isn’t set in a single statute. It’s distributed through court case decisions, and only larger companies that can afford expensive lawyers can even hope to wield copyright effectively. It’s way too confusing for the average person, even though the average person is holding more copyrights than they know what to do with. THAT’s why there is a perception that copyright is a tool used by big business. Because only big business can hope to understand it well enough to use it! I think if more people understood how THEY can wield copyright to their advantage, they’ll respect the copyrights of others. If the BSA wants to treat smaller copyright holders as if they don’t count as anything but the general public of years ago, they shouldn’t be surprised when there is some grumbling from public’s ranks. We’re creators, too. You don’t hold a monopoly on copyright law. It’s ours, too, and it is not there to protect you or your business models.

Efforts by the Creative Commons to simplify copyright licenses is more of what I would like to see software developers do. I’d also like to see more focus on smaller companies and the effect of illegal downloads on THEIR bottom lines. Most people don’t care about the “billions” of “losses” that they can’t comprehend. They care about Joe Software Developer, who they see shopping with them at the grocery store. Let’s see his face in interviews, rather than some guy in a suit representing Microsoft, Apple, and Adobe.

If you would like to learn more about what copyright is and how it affects you, please see my article on What an Indie Needs to Know about Copyright

Spore’s Reception

The Brainy Gamer writes about Spore and the rush to judgement against it. It seems that after all of the hype, the critics think the game is quite lame. Basically, it’s too simplistic for people who are used to playing games that need all 15 buttons on a controller (even though those same “hardcore” people would whimper if set in front of NetHack). Will Wright has said that Spore was meant to be more accessible. Essentially, Spore is a casual game that you didn’t find on Yahoo! games or PopCap.

As Anthony Salter said:

Will Wright has created the ultimate casual game.

That costs $50 and requires a pretty hot computer to play.

It’s this schizophrenia that is driving everybody crazy.

He likes the game. Mike Abbott likes the game, saying “Approaching Spore as a game with its own utterly unique agenda; and accepting, even admiring, its insistence that this experience be accessible to gamers and non-gamers alike – both are pivotal to understanding what Spore is all about.”

Do I like the game? I haven’t played it. Apparently Spore has some crappy so-called DRM solution attached to it, and it’s definitely not available for Gnu/Linux, so my choice is to boot up Windows AND suffer this DRM crap, or play a different game on my preferred system. It’s too bad. If things were different, I’m sure I would have liked Spore, too, but I refuse to pay for a steak dinner delivered on a garbage can lid.

[tags] spore, game journalism, drm [/tags]

Google Chrome EULA is Sane!

Yesterday I wrote about Chrome’s evil EULA terms, and posted a link to Tap The Hive about the news.

Well, it looks like Google fixed the EULA language.

Here’s an official response from Rebecca Ward, Senior Product Counsel for Google Chrome:

“In order to keep things simple for our users, we try to use the same set of legal terms (our Universal Terms of Service) for many of our products. Sometimes, as in the case of Google Chrome, this means that the legal terms for a specific product may include terms that don’t apply well to the use of that product. We are working quickly to remove language from Section 11 of the current Google Chrome terms of service. This change will apply retroactively to all users who have downloaded Google Chrome.”

And the new EULA terms?

11.1 You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services.

So it’s safe to use Google Chrome again. Probably about 10% of the population can breathe a sigh of relief now, and the remaining 90% can go on wondering what the big deal was, although I think that says more about a general misunderstanding of copyright than anything else. But that’s another post on another day.

What I like about Google is that the company occasionally acts like a startup. They occasionally say “Whoops! We made a mistake! We’ll fix it!” And they make bone-headed mistakes like copy-and-pasting legal language that doesn’t really say what they wanted the EULA terms to be…something indie game developers do all the time. Google moves quickly for being such a large company.

Now if only they can take their belief “in access to information for everyone” and apply it to AdSense/AdWords. Why do I have to be left in the dark with so much of the data not provided?

[tags] google chrome, eula, business [/tags]

Google Chrome EULA Is Evil?

So with all of the excitement about Google’s new web browser, someone decided to actually read the EULA and determined that it sucks:

11.1 You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. This license is for the sole purpose of enabling Google to display, distribute and promote the Services and may be revoked for certain Services as defined in the Additional Terms of those Services.

So by agreeing to the EULA and using Chrome, you are saying that while you still own the copyright of anything you create, such as a blog post or a file you wish to upload, you are also granting Google a license to those works.

If you use Chrome to upload your latest game build to a server, Google now has the right to redistribute it at no cost. Yes, you still have your rights, but then Google essentially claims those rights as well at no charge.

Is Google serious? The sad thing is, yes, Chrome is probably much faster and much more secure than other browsers, but if most people can’t agree to such terms, such as people at work, at school, and in certain professions, then what good is it? Why does Google need all of these rights? When they do finally make Gnu/Linux port, count me out. I’ll wait for a non-evil version, whether by Google or by someone else. For now, I’ll stick with Firefox. Last I checked, Mozilla doesn’t insist that it needs to mooch off of my business in order for me to use it.

[tags] google chrome, eula, business [/tags]

Corporations and Copyright

A few weeks back, Cliffski wrote about how some people complain about corporations and copyright as if they are all part of one big organization out to screw you over. He reminds you that not all corporations are huge, multi-billion dollar enterprises such as EA, British Airways, or Microsoft. Some corporations are as small as the local bakery or in the case of Positech Games and GBGames, one person in a spare room at home.

Cliffski doesn’t want you to paint all copyright owners and corporations with the same broad brush. Just because some companies are evil, it doesn’t mean that all of them are. Still, I wish he would be more consistent with his arguments. If you don’t argue that all copyright violators are the scum of the earth….well, you’re either with us or against us, it seems. I think the broad paint stroke shouldn’t be OK on either canvas, but that just makes me a terrorist pirate sympathizer to some people.

Still, I agree with Cliffski’s main point, that copyright isn’t evil, and corporations aren’t either. But when organizations such as the RIAA, the MPAA, and the BSA, musicians such as Madonna and Metallica, and companies such as Wal-mart, Best Buy, and Target use copyright law to abuse their customers and fans, what is a regular person supposed to think?

Copyright is a confusing topic for people who are familiar with it, so of course the lay person won’t know much about it. Copyright, trademark, and patent laws are usually thrown together as “intellectual property”, and the three are always being confused for each other. How many times have you heard someone say, “Oh, that’s a great name for a band! You should copyright it!” or “You write great poetry! You should patent it!”? How often were you the person saying such statements? By the way, I wrote an article on copyright law that should give you a better understanding than most people seem to have. You can find it at What an Indie Needs to Know About Copyright.

I don’t know how UK copyright law differs from US copyright law, but the purpose of copyright here isn’t to provide an incentive for the creator. The purpose is to promote the sciences and useful arts. Providing incentive is the means to that end. You’ll find people who supposedly support copyright who argue that it is there solely to protect the works of authors so they can make money, even though it isn’t the case at all. So there is confusion on all sides, it seems.

If you were to write a poem on a napkin, you would own the copyright to that poem. Many people are surprised that it is so simple to own a copyright. You just create something! Bam! It’s yours! Perhaps because most people don’t think about copyright in general, it never occurs to them that they can own the copyright to something and NOT make money from it. When most people think of copyrights, they think of best-selling books or blockbuster movies or hit songs. They don’t think about the struggling author or the garage band or the amateur film director with maxed out credit cards. They don’t think about the personal blog or a custom song for a lover or a love note on a windshield. Even though they might not have a profit motive, these works can be protected by copyright as well.

Years ago, Jay Barnson wrote about his personal experience with his pirate story. He worked at a now-closed game development company which created some popular games. While he estimated that the infringement rate was around 30%, which I’m sure seemed high at the time, these days we’re seeing companies reporting that more people will play games illegally than purchase a legal copy. Reflexive estimated over 90%, and even Linux Game Publishing recently announced its discovery that more people made support requests for an illegal copy than for a legal copy.

Now, only major companies are playing with the numbers to make you think that each infringement represents a lost sale. Most people know that while infringement might be high and should ideally be nonexistent, it isn’t as if 100% of the illegal copies would be sales if the illegal option didn’t exist. Still, major corporations actually try to convince you that it is true.

Is it any wonder that most people don’t respect corporations in general? The major corporations act as representatives for all corporations, and people generally don’t like being accused of crimes before they’ve committed them. And if they don’t respect the corporations, why would they treat the copyrights these corporations wield any better, especially when they don’t understand what the heck copyright is in the first place?

Is copyright infringement a problem for corporations, including the indies? I would say so. While it isn’t 1-to-1, Reflexive’s experience indicates that taking measures to prevent illegal copies results in increased sales. And I think from that same experience, we can see that not all copyright infringement comes from freeloaders who will do anything to screw hardworking people over.

The economist from Freakonomics argues that everything comes down to incentives. If you accept this idea, then of course there is an incentive for people to get their games for free rather than pay for them. If it isn’t too much effort, and there isn’t a risk of getting caught or of dealing with repercussions, then a lot of people will probably do it, too. What’s strange to me is that publishers will make the legal option less and less appealing by piling on draconian copy protection and all sorts of features that their customers don’t want. Doesn’t such a practice give people an even greater incentive to get the illegal version that doesn’t have all of the junk associated with it?

I’m afraid that major corporations have conditioned people to expect such treatment as normal. Politicians want your computer to blow up if it has allegedly infringement material on it…even though copyright law is so complicated that it is very possible that the average computer owner won’t know what constitutes infringement. Laws are passed making it illegal for you to do things that were perfectly legal for you to do before, all because the MPAA, RIAA, and BSA don’t want you to be able to do them so they can charge for the privilege. After all of this, is it any wonder that people complain about “the corporations” and copyright?

Yeah, it’s a problem that people don’t think of the mom & pop store down the street as a corporation even though it is one, and yeah, it is a problem that people don’t understand copyright and how it works, but let’s be serious. If you think that they reached their conclusions, faulty or no, outside of the experience they have from major corporations, you’re deluding yourself.

As an indie, I know I’m going to have to deal with my customers’ perception, regardless if they are the right ones. I have to build my own reputation and hope that a company such as EA or Valve or Positech doesn’t do something stupid to reflect badly on the industry as a whole. Sony’s rootkit fiasco probably put people off buying music CDs, at least those from Sony, and even if it didn’t, I’m sure it didn’t help make the RIAA look better. It is sad when The Pirate Bay provides a better value than the legally purchased product, and the more that happens, the less likely someone will have an incentive to buy, especially from the one-person corporation with no legal department to provide disincentive.

[tags] indie, piracy, business, copyright [/tags]

Happy Independence Day!

July 4th is the day that Americans celebrate independence from England and the decision for the United States to find its own way in the world.

For revenge, GirlFlash decided to host Mini LD48 #2.

also, sorry if I am interrupting anybodies Independence day plans, but I’m English and this is how I get even =p

I won’t be participating. Well, maybe I’ll participate. It feels like a challenge.

Anyway, Independence Day is not only an excuse for grills, a day off from the day job, and time with friends. It is also a great time to reflect on what it means to be an indie game developer. Indies exist in many industries. Indie film, indie music, indie TV shows, indie books, and indie poetry all exist. Indie games are a natural addition. What drives people to forgo steady incomes and decent benefits and go indie? The urge to create something can be quite strong, and an indie might know that that something won’t get created unless he or she does the creating. The major Hollywood studios won’t green light all films, and the major game publishers won’t make all games. For quite a lot of people, these aren’t hurdles. The film or game will get made anyway. Funding comes from MasterCard and Visa. Sleep can be optional on some days. Poor substitutes for the high quality production equipment can be used to great effect. And the film or game will be finished.

The indie life. It’s exciting, it’s emotional, and it’s full of drama. There can be lean times. There’s the potential for great success, and there’s the risk of losing it all. But would you trade it for anything else?

If you’re already doing your own thing your own way, you probably have your own independence day to celebrate. If you’re still supporting your efforts through your day job as I am, then perhaps you’re looking forward to creating your own independence, and hopefully sooner rather than later.

Happy Independence Day!

Digital Rights Management’s Victims: The Customers

From The Day the Music Died, I learned that Microsoft is pulling the plug on the servers used for verification of their MSN Music service. Even Wired repots that Microsoft is pulling support for MSN Music DRM.

So what happens on August 31, 2008? On that day, Microsoft will turn off the servers that they maintain for the sole purpose of validating that the songs that people have already “purchased” through MSN Music are still theirs to play. Those people (hereafter “the victims”) will not notice the change right away. The victims will only notice it when they purchase a new computer, or when they upgrade the operating system on their current computer, or when the hard drive in their computer dies and needs to be rebuilt/reinstalled. At that point — transferring the music files they have “purchased” to another drive or a new computer — the Microsoft music player running on the victim’s PC (like iTunes, but all Microsoft-y instead of Apple-y) will make a call to Microsoft’s validation servers to verify that the music files were legitimately purchased. This call will fail, since the servers are not responding, since Microsoft has intentionally turned them off. The Microsoft music player will then conclude, incorrectly but steadfastly, that the music files were downloaded illegally and that the victim is a filthy pirate, and it will refuse to play them. In this case, the left hand knows exactly what the right hand is doing: they’re both giving you the finger.

One of the arguments against so-called digital rights management is that if the software developer goes under, you no longer have access to your supposedly purchased products. As a counter argument, it has been suggested that companies such as Microsoft, Apple, and Valve won’t be going away anytime soon.

And we can see that it doesn’t matter if they are still around. You are paying them and hoping that they don’t just decide one day to cut you off. In this case, Microsoft has given up the old and replaced it with the new, but hasn’t given you a way to transfer what you already paid for.

What should you do if you want to keep your music? As Sony advised its users to do when it closed down Sony Connect, you can burn CDs of your purchased tracks and re-rip them. Of course, this degrades sound quality because it forces the music through the encoding process twice.

When the only legitimate sources for music and software are saddled with DRM, is it any surprise that people search for a better product from illegitimate sources? I know that the people selling me music, movies, and software would love for me to pay them again and again for the same product, but where is my incentive to do so? What value do I receive in return for being a paying customer, doing things the right way, especially when illegal sources are providing a superior experience for me? And dealing with the hassles of DRM would make so much more sense if it actually prevented such illegal sources from existing. Since it doesn’t, it sounds like it is more about control of the customer than anything else.

Will we see a similar thing happen with Valve’s Steam? There are already anecdotal reports that people have been wrongfully banned from the service, cutting them off from access to the games they paid for. Will Valve come out with Steam 2.0, offer up the same products on the new service, and then cut off the old service with no way for existing customers to transfer their existing purchases? I doubt it, but then, you would think Microsoft wouldn’t have done it either. Regardless, the customer finds out who is in charge of his/her machine soon enough.

The EFF sent an open letter to Microsoft about this issue.

While this announcement has directly affected MSN Music customers, users of other Microsoft products (particularly current and prospective Zune customers) are deeply concerned as well. Your customers are forced to ask, “If Microsoft treats its MSN Music customers so shabbily, is there any reason to suppose that it will treat other customers any better?”

World famous chef Gordon Ramsay commented about British chefs who expect praise and awards for just showing up, “but don’t give enough attention to anything to do with the customer. But it’s really all about the customer. No one should ever forget that, no matter how great their sauces are.” Why should it be any different for any other industry?

[tags] digital rights management, msn music, business, video games, steam, valve [/tags]