Vodafone Drop DRM for MP3

Vodafone Drop DRM for MP3Another one falls.

Vodafone have announced that they are switching their music catalogue from Universal Music, Sony Music and EMI away from DRM-protected music to MP3 format.

This makes Vodafone the first global mobile operator to do it.

Not only will these tracks but DRM-free in the future, but people who have bought DRMd tracks already will be able to change them to MP3 for FREE. Are you listening Apple? No DRM-dropping tax.

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RealDVD Brings Lawsuit From Hollywood

RealDVD Brings Lawsuit From HollywoodA strong sense of Deja Vu is flowing thick around the Digital-Lifestyles offices today as we hear that ‘Hollywood’ is to take legal action against Real Network for their DVD copying software, RealDVD.

Five years ago last month, the collected legal might of the Hollywood studios took a disliking to 321 Studios as they too had the temerity to create and sell software that allowed people to copy their DVDs.

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Is Silverlight the BBC iPlayer Silver Bullet?

Is Silverlight the BBC iPlayer Silver Bullet?We’re all aware that the BBC is planning to make their iPlayer compatible with Macs … and we even know that now that the BBC Trust has committed to make it work with Linux (shock horror).

Well if you’re like most of the tech population, you might be scratching your heads, wondering how the bleep they’re going to be doing it – given that the whole system relies on Microsoft technology to deliver any of it, and in particular the DRM. Especially as, to date Microsoft has steadfastly refused to deliver a media player for the Mac that has DRM built in.
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T-Mobile Launches Mobile Jukebox

T-Mobile Launches Mobile JukeboxT-Mobile has announced their new Mobile Jukebox service which lets roaming customers download purchased DRM-protected tracks to both their phones and their PCs for a quid a pop.

The service uses a mobile application which is available for downloading to a selected range of 32 T-Mobile phones, including 3G, GPRS, contract and prepay handsets.

Users can rummage freely through the 500,000+ track output of major record labels like Universal Music Group, Sony BMG Music, EMI Music and Warner Music International, and independent labels like V2 and Beggars Banquet.
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Universal in Dispute With Apple Over iTunes

Universal in Dispute With Apple Over iTunesUniversal, the planet’s biggest music corporation, has told Apple that it won’t be renewing its annual contract to sell music through iTunes.

According to an anonymous executive cited in the New York Times, the mighty Universal Music Group of Vivendi will now market music to Apple at will, leaving the company free to remove its songs from the iTunes service at short notice if pricing and terms can not be agreed.
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Apple And Record Companies Charged In EU iTunes Row

The European Commission has dished out formal charges to Apple and ‘unnamed major record companies’, accusing them of restricting music sales in Europe.

Apple And Record Companies Charged In iTunes RowThe EU alleges that agreements between Apple and the record companies are guilty of breaking European Union rules that prohibit restrictive business practices. It’s far from the first time that the EU and other Northern European Countries has got wound up about Apple and iTunes.

“Consumers can only buy music from the iTunes online stores in their country of residence and are therefore restricted in their choice of where to buy music, and consequently what music is available and at what price,” said Jonathan Todd, European Commission spokesman.

Apple And Record Companies Charged In iTunes Row“The statement of objections alleges that distribution agreements between Apple and major record companies contain territorial sales restrictions,” he added.

Promptly shifting the blame on to the record companies, Apple insisted that they’d tried to operate a single pan-European iTunes store accessible to peeps from any member state but were foiled by music labels and publishers imposing legal limits on the download rights.

The Commission first got involved back in 2005 after the UK consumer group Which? pointed out that iTunes purchasers in France and Germany were paying far less than us poor chumps in the UK (67 pence against 79 pence).

Apple And Record Companies Charged In iTunes RowApple and the record companies now have two months to defend themselves in writing or take part in an oral hearing which usually happens around a month after a written reply has been received.

This latest development is unrelated to yesterday’s deal between Apple and EMI.


Apple And EMI Cut High Quality DRM-Free Music Deal

Apple And EMI Cut High Quality DRM-Free Music DealIt wasn’t the bonanza of Beatles songs that some had hoped for, but Apple has just announced that all of EMI Music’s vast catalogue of digital music will be available for purchase without digital rights management from the iTunes Store from next month.

The DRM-free tracks from EMI will be encoded at a high quality 256 kbps AAC encoding – making them “virtually indistinguishable” in audio quality from the original – but at a higher price of $1.29 per song (compared to 99c for 128bps downloads).

Users wanting to ‘upgrade’ their library of previously purchased EMI content to the higher quality DRM-free versions can do so if they’re prepared to fork out 30 cents a song.

Apple And EMI Cut High Quality DRM-Free Music Deal“We are going to give iTunes customers a choice — the current versions of our songs for the same 99 cent price, or new DRM-free versions of the same songs with even higher audio quality and the security of interoperability for just 30 cents more,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO.

“We think our customers are going to love this, and we expect to offer more than half of the songs on iTunes in DRM-free versions by the end of this year,” he added.

Apple And EMI Cut High Quality DRM-Free Music DealKeen not to miss out on the quote-fest, Eric Nicoli, CEO of EMI Group, piped up: “EMI and iTunes are once again teaming up to move the digital music industry forward by giving music fans higher quality audio that is virtually indistinguishable from the original recordings, with no usage restrictions on the music they love from their favourite artists.”

Using the new DRM-free EMI downloads, users can enjoy the tracks without any usage restrictions that limit the types of devices or number of computers that purchased songs can be played on – something that was celebrated by a guy called Eric Chiu posting on the Engadget site who gleefully commented, “My BitTorrent Engine is ready to fire on full cylinder… Demonoid and Piratebay, be ready for the new era of EMI Music.”

EMI Music

Sky Anytime on PC: One Million Films In A Year

Sky Anytime on PC downloaded its one millionth film on the 14 January neatly marking its first year of operation.

The Sky Anytime on TV service is the renamed Sky By Broadband service, which delivers select Sky’s TV content over a broadband connection to a PC.

Sky Anytime: One Million Films In A Year

Figures for the film downloads could have been larger if Sky hadn’t had to pull the service back in September after their chosen DRM-restriction system, by Microsoft, was cracked.

We’re assuming that the million films that have been downloaded have been paid for, making it a pretty big bonanza, given the films are a wallet-emptying £3.95 each. Once subscribers have paid up, they’re given access to it for seven days, but are restricting to 48 hours viewing window after the first viewing.

Dawn Airey, BSkyB’s managing director of channels and services, was keen to say her piece about it … “We’re delighted that customers have taken to Anytime with such enthusiasm. Sky Movies is the UK’s most popular movie service and we’re able to use broadband to give customers more flexibility in how they watch. The fact that in this first year we’ve already seen 1m movie downloads is testament to customers’ willingness to embrace new technologies and get more from Sky.”

Sky report that the service has gained a quarter of a million registered users in its first year of operation.

Big Brother’s DRM Nightmare

Big Brother's DRM NightmareBackstory
Forgive me. I forked over money to Channel 4 to become a paying Season Pass sucker for the Celebrity Big Brother live stream.

My dearest, a less-than closet BB fan, persuaded me to watch CBB on the launch night – something made all the more peculilar by the fact that I don’t watch TV anymore (apart from The Simpsons at 6pm on Channel 4, of course).

Big Brother's DRM NightmareTo be frank, by the end of the program I was grateful to her. The sight of the fantastic disdain of Ken Russell made it worthwhile in itself.

What got me reaching for my credit card was the sheer hilarity of seeing Jade Goody enter the house – post her journey through crowds of frantic screaming BB fans, proceeded by her 50-yard car drive and obligatory press photo pose – to a house with three grumpy, quiet people who didn’t jump up and down when they saw her enter. It couldn’t have been further from her expected truth.

Her face was priceless – well, I thought it was at least worth £5 to see it for a while longer, showing a mixture of confusion and pain.

Big Brother's DRM NightmareIt appeared that finally Endemol had got a quality production team behind this one, lead by an intelligent director.

Hence my giving money, enabling this rubbish to make huge profits for those concerned.

__Using DRM … it _does_ suck
Once I’d registered and paid for it, the first surprise was not to be sent a direct URL to access the stream. Instead the process is long and painful as you have to drag yourself through the Channel4 site to find the stream.

Here’s a run down of the hoops they get you to jump through …

*Deep breath now* –

Big Brother's DRM NightmareNavigating through their home page to the CBB page; click on the “Watch 24/7″ link; then the “Already own the pass” link. This pops up a new window with a form requesting sign up detail (despite the link being specific about already owning a pass).

After some searching you’ll notice, at the top of the window, a single word link for Login; which, once clicked, you’ll be asked for your email and password.

Finally the video player appears – hurrah!

Don’t be fooled, the agony isn’t over yet, this is where the DRM pain begins.

Despite having logged in a number of times already, you’re told that you do not have rights to play the content.

Big Brother's DRM NightmareClicking Yes takes you to yet another Web page, grandly entitled License Acquisition. Here you’re requested to login _again_.

Once you’ve bashed the keys in the right order, you’re requested to “wait a moment,” as the licence is “obtained”. Eventually you’re offered to click the Play button.

Finally, finally you get to the steam.

That’s bad enough to do once, but adding insult to injury, the worst of it is that each and everytime you want to watch a stream, you’ve got to go through this bullshit.

Summary – DRM Don’t Work
From the experience above you can see that the current version of DRM – Microsoft’s naturally – just doesn’t work for the consumer.

Big Brother's DRM NightmareIt’s not from lack of trying on their part either, Microsoft have been plugging away at their DRM solution for many years and, we have to assume, this is their latest as to get to view the streams, there’s a requirement to ‘upgrade’ your Windows Media Player to the latest version.

We also have to assume that Channel4/Endemol and Microsoft worked together to get the Big Brother streaming working. Say what you want about Big Brother, but it’s a high profile TV ‘event’, so important for them to have it working correctly.

Even after all of this effort, the end user experience is truly atrocious, so bad, that you feel anger every time to access the stream, and let’s not forget, people are paying for the privilege of being insulted like this.

With the difficulty of this process, it’s no wonder that people still try to get their content from file sharing networks to avoid DRM.

DRM-Interchange Alive And Living In Korea

DRM-Interchange Alive And Living In KoreaAs we’ve been covering for ages, Korea is super forward in many things electronic.

Now they’re leading in their treatment of DRM – making different DRM schemes interchangeable.

DRM systems are used to restrict what people can do with their digital media, normally audio and video. This pleases the content owners considerably, but consumers are finding it frustrating that media they are buying on one service will not play on all of their portable music players – eg music bought on iTunes cannot play on a non-iPod player.

By making DRM system interchangeable, the hope is that everyone remains happy – the content owner, because the content stays ‘protected’ by the DRM and the consumer because they have the freedom to move it to any playing device they have.

DRM-Interchange Alive And Living In KoreaThe Koreans are achieving this by the EXIM standard for online and mobile music service. EXIM stands for Export/Import which was developed Korea’s Electronic & Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI) and INKA Entworks. It should be wide reaching as up to 90% of online music sites and 70% of portable music devices deployed in Korea at the moment use DRM solutions based on the EXIM standard.

What differentiates the Korean mobile music market is that all phones sold since 2003 have a USB connector, which is used to transfer music they download via their computers, to their mobiles. This is sometimes called sideloading.

DRM-Interchange Alive And Living In KoreaSK Telecom, the largest mobile provider in Korea as finally agreed to open up their handsets and service to allow music from third party services to be used. Until now only content authorised by SK could be loaded onto their phones.

James Ahn, CEO of INKA Entworks, was clearly excited at the prospect, “SK Telecom’s decision to implement the EXIM standard is an important milestone because of its dominant position in the mobile phone services and online music services markets. We’re happy to have SK Telecom as a partner.”