DRM Ignorance is Expensive

I recently became the reluctant owner of an Xbox 360. Limping along with my ancient Playstation 2-- I remember buying that thing on launch day way back in 2000-- was no longer viable in light of my Rock Band addiction. I've been avoiding a new console purchase for as long as humanly possible, but the version of Rock Band offered on the PS2 is almost criminally crippled: it offers no downloadable content, no band customization, and a barely-there practice mode.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at: http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2008/02/drm-ignorance-is-expensive.html

“Note that if your console hardware signature ever changes-- say, if your console fails and you get a replacement-- you’re in trouble.”

Not true. If your console fails, you send it in and get a replacement, but you don’t send in the harddrive, and all the old stuff works seamlessly on the new machine.

Maybe it’s tied to the harddrive?

“DRM sucks, but it’s unavoidable and arguably the future–”

True, DRM sucks. But I’m totally of an opposite opinion of the necessity of it.

The record industry had it’s best years when it was technically impossible to copy content. I’d even say that the whole industry was built on that, restricting technology.

Of course, content mediating companies want to keep it that way (the earth is still flat!). DRM is a last resort to delay progress.

The real wtf is: why are there so little DRM-free business models?

The games are tied to the console, not the Hard Drive so you have to go through a huge pain in the ass dealing with their horrible customer support line to re-activate the games on a new console after repaired. You’d think they would handle this for you as part of the whole process.

I hear PS3’s DRM is more lenient in terms of moving content which is surprising in that it is Sony…

Way to go on 5-starring that song, Jeff.

I hate DRM, simply because if I pay for something, I expect to be able to do whatever the hell I want with it. The Live account system works well, so it should be tied to that, and ONLY that. Why the hell does it matter what 360 you use content on if they have the assurance that you can only log on to one console with that Live account?!

Your profile says “I am me”. If “I” have paid for “this” then “I” have nothing to do with “the thing I am playing it on”, “I” am the owner.

Lock-ins force people to think down other avenues, I outright refuse to buy an iPoo’d because of its stupid DRM system. I’d rather by the CD and copy to my compy as MP3. Likewise, I don’t bother with paid Live content. I just wanna shoot people on COD4 =D

Hi Guys,

I should point out that a cable can be purchased from Microsoft that transfers and converts the DRM from console to console! All you need is the old hardrive and the cable and it will transfter, through USB to the new console.

Many stores in the UK offer this as a service and have a cable that can be used to tranfer your content when you upgrade or replace your Xbox 360… I did this when I upgraded from my 360 Pro to an Elite.

No problems :slight_smile:


I should point out that a cable can be purchased from Microsoft that transfers and converts the DRM from console to console!

Martin, as I’ve mentioned several times, downloaded content is tied to the Xbox 360 hardware signature (CPU, ethernet, etc-- the hard drive is removable and thus not a part of the signature) and the Xbox Live login the account was purchased under.

Buying and upgrading to an Elite is no different than getting a repaired console. All the same issues apply, transfer cable or not. See confirmation here:


I guess the salient point is that DRM is complicated and almost nobody understands it. I know I didn’t understand it until I was forced to take a crash course in learning it… sadly, this knowledge didn’t save me the $140 I had hoped it would.

Now that I revisit this and think a little harder, you are contributing heavily to the problem, and as someone with a little bit more steam than me, I’d much rather see you get in Microsoft’s face on this one.

DRM isn’t the way to go on anything. Software/Media companies wouldn’t have so many problems (problems, ha, I don’t see them going without food) with piracy if they weren’t such evil, moneygrubbing bastards themselves. Take, for instance, DVDs. At the time that DVDs came around, I think the average VHS pricepoint for a new relase was about $15. Now DVDs are nothing more than some mylar on a plastic disc, certainly much cheaper to manufacture than a big, clunky VHS complete with moving parts. Not to mention the fact that since everything is produced digitally, movie companies are probably saving billions on film, editing time, and special effects. Now, does this translate to lower prices for the consumer? Nope, not at all, as a matter of fact, a bigger profit margin through cheaper manufacture wasn’t enough, on average DVDs were at least $5 more expensive than VHS tapes. Why is this? Because the publishers knew they could get away with perceived value. DVDs are new and upcoming, and therefore inherently more valuable. The same thing is happening with Blu-Ray now. I wouldn’t hold my breath for the day that Blu-Ray movies cost an average $20 for new releases. I’d bet on $25 being the new standard price.

Now you take the software companies, who now have the option to distribute software via the internet. You would think that removing manufacturing/packaging/shipping from the costs would translate to the consumer, but nope, they cost exactly the same, except for Microsoft products, which actually have the gall to cost MORE(again, perceived value, not actual value). This is pure insanity. The free-market system as we used to know it is completely dead in todays hyperactive global economy. The same thing has been happening to gas for years. Oil companies are reporting record profits every year and shutting down refineries because they have so much fuel, but the price keeps going up and up, because the demand is completely fixed.

I don’t know what the solution to all of this is, but I know I don’t like it, and I know I’m not shedding a single tear over anyone in Hollywood who is losing their new mink coat because a 13 year old just downloaded their latest song rather than paying $15 to get a CD that cost $.05 to make and really only has that one good song on it.

Like Travis (a few comments up), I’ve been waiting for MONTHS now for other profiles on my console to be able to play games we paid for. Also like Travis, I blogged about it [1].

Unlike you (Jeff), I’m not OK with just re-purchasing that content.

In my case, it’s mostly an issue with XBL Arcade games. I’ve paid for a LOT of games that my daughter and wife both like to play (neither of them play any games that ship on media). Once my console went belly-up and I got a replacement, their profiles could no longer play those games (they appear in Trial mode)… note to other commenters, this is with the same hard drive – the license is tied to the console’s ID.

Not only can they not play those titles, but my profile can’t play them either unless I’m connected to XBL. No problem as I’m typically connected, right? Except when the service is suffering outages as it did over the holidays. Then, nobody can get at those titles. Their compensation for that downtime? Another XBL Arcade game. Ironic.

I’ve called a few times and never get past “we’re working on it, should happen in 2-4 weeks”… that’s been the case since October. I’m a Microsoft developer, manage development for a .NET shop, a former MVP, and usually a fan of their stuff – but this issue disgusts me.

I can honestly say it just makes me all-around grumpy about the Xbox 360. I certainly won’t be buying any more XBL content until it gets resolved and I don’t play it as much these days because it’s irritating to think of the “locked” content we’ve paid for that’s sitting there and can’t be used.

This is the company that makes SQL Server – but I’ve been waiting for them to change the console ID on my XBL account for roughly five months now.


Lock-ins force people to think down other avenues, I outright refuse to buy an iPoo’d because of its stupid DRM system. I’d rather by the CD and copy to my compy as MP3.

As I stated above, that’s exactly how you can use iTunes. It is then just a rather comfortable media center with built-in ripping support, automated ID-tag-filling*, and with the iPod being a portable version of the very same media library you have on your computer. No DRM involved whatsoever. You can even retrieve the mp3-files back from the iPod if you have it formatted as a volume before putting your stuff onto it.

As some other readers have pointed out, I agree that DRM sucks, but I don’t think there is a necessity of it.

I have original copies of programs for which I use a cd of hacked key-free versions or simply smooth “copy”-installs to avoid the terrible hassle of mantaining the boxes, the keys, and some times even having to call a number to be given a code which is tied to the system where I’m installing it. Some times, a pirated version is the only simple and easy way (just download) to test a software to decide whether you want to buy or not.

It shocks me that a person like you so worried about the user experience is willing to allow DRM. DRM is the opposite of presumption of innocence. In the end, only the righteous purchasers will suffer DRM.

[Excuse my English, it’s not my native tongue]

To paraphrase: at least the rapist uses lube, and is gentle?

You disgust me.

I completely agree with you, Linus.

I don’t want DRM. DRM is just a way of penalising people who legally purchase content, and creating a nothing but a minor hurdle to those who want to get around it, the people it’s targeting. You said it yourself Jeff: “DRM sucks”. So, then, vote with your wallet. There’s no use bitching about something with your mouth, then handing over money, implicitly supporting it, with your hands.

Sole purpose of DRM is to get money out of your wallet. Why complain? Only way to make providers be friendly to users is to not buy anything from a company that uses DRM until they understand that being friendly brings more income than being greedy. Using DRM and paying for it only motivates companies to lay more restrictions and promote more ridiculous laws.

“the iPod being a portable version of the very same media library you have on your computer”

Yes, which you can’t play anywhere else. I have an ever growing collection of Creative Commons liscenced music and I have to keep two copies of it on my iPod so I can share it with people - one that play’s and one as plain files.

Wow, one big long advertisement asking people to bow down, bend over, and buy an XBOX 360. DRM is not the future if we don’t accept it, and the terms we are offered are not acceptable. You may think so, but you are a bad person for doing so. The number of replies you’ve posted in the comments trying to defend your decision are telling.

The only way I was able to get any traction (not GREAT traction, but traction of some nature) was to email Major Nelson (Larry Hyrb - http://www.majornelson.com/) directly with my myriad confirmation numbers and a summary of my tribulations. That at least got my issue escalated to someone who sounds like they can do something about it. (It also got me the contact info directly to that support person’s desk, so I don’t have to wade through the phone tree and request a supervisor, etc.)

They even had an open letter to Microsoft about this in Official Xbox Magazine (http://www.oxmonline.com/article/features/presses/six-resolutions-microsoft-2008).

Maybe more people need to raise a stink to Major Nelson and others like him. This seems to be one of those problems that everyone is vaguely aware of but no one really cares until it directly affects them, at which point it’s too late.

If MS do the repair/exchange they will automatically transfer the ‘licence’ for DLC to the new box. However, if you upgrade to an Elite or get your retailer to swap the broken console (like I did) you don’t have a chance of getting it sorted.

I’ve been chasing MS since May '07 to get 5400MSP of content ‘moved’ to my new replaement console and I’m losing the will to live.

The biggest problem I found with the whole DRM thing on the xbox is what you have to do to transfer the content across after a hardware replacement. after numerous conversations with xbox live support they tell you that in order to transfer the content you have to create another xbox live account in order for them to refund the points to.

You actually have to create another xbox live account (which of course means having to create a second email address specifically for this purpose) to re-download the content with. How stupid is that?

The one positive side to the whole thing is that you do get the points back rather than the actual content so you can decide to spend them on something slightly different this time.

I would also just like to mention that xbox live support is absolutely terrible. It’s the worst support i’ve ever had to deal with and that includes my utility companies which previously seemed to set whole new levels of incompetence.

A bit of advice I can give that might prevent a few wasted months of dealing with xbox live support is that in order to refund points to a new xbox live account you first have to have tried downloading content from the marketplace otherwise the refund will fail and they’ll advise you to create another new account. I had created 4 accounts (and waited 5 days between each one as advised) before I spoke to someone who knew this.

Hehe, anyway, I love the damn 360. In my opinion it’s currently my favourite of the three console but microsoft sure know how to mess up every product.