Digital Wrongs Management

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: I really hate DRM. If ever there’s a technology designed to drive customers away from legitimate music, film, and tv downloads, and back to bittorrents, then DRM is it.

I had an infuriating experience over Christmas recently trying to watch a movie I’d downloaded off LoveFilm. Luckily, I hadn’t paid money for the film: it was part of a special free Christmas offer, presumably dreamt up by their marketing team who were labouring under the misapprehension that, having tried the film download service for free, their customers would subsequently think that having been treated to such a wonderfully simple user experience, they’d be prepared to pay for that service in the future…

So, I’d downloaded my film before heading home for Christmas (rather slowly, I might add) and was all set to watch it on Christmas Eve. It started fine: I hooked up my laptop to the TV, connected to the Internet to acquire my licence, and after I’d downloaded an obligatory update to Windows Media Player, we were off. Sure, the picture quality was a little grainy (despite my having opted for the largest, highest quality download), but nothing too noticeable.

But then, foolishly, we decided to stop watching and come back to the end of the film later. I should have known that doing something so unusual and ridiculous as this would prove to be a mistake.

When I tried to start it up again, there was no sound, unless I restarted playback from the start of the film. Attempts to fast forward mostly resulted in the film continuing to run at some random inappropriate speed (with no sound). I decided that watching the first hour again wasn’t really an option, and tried to do something about it, but in retrospect it would have been a lot quicker than what happened next.

“Hmm,” I thought. “I’ve only got Windows Media Player 9. I wonder if upgrading to the latest version will solve the problem?” This was my big mistake. I installed WMP 11 only to find that this somehow invalidated all of my acquired licences, and left me no way to acquire them again. (Helpfully, Microsoft have a knowledgebase article about the problem, which I can’t find right now, that basically says “yeah, it’s a bug. Sorry”). So I “rolled back” to version 9, but this just did a fresh install of WMP 9 leaving me with no licences at all, and trying to play the file now would generate an “Unknown Error”. Hmm. Helpful.

Then, to add further insult, my new install of WMP 9 helpfully informed me that an update was available, and would I like to install it? When I clicked “Yes”, it started installing WMP 11 again. Thanks Microsoft.

After exhausting all possibilities with my laptop, I discovered that we could watch the rest of the film by copying it onto my mum’s computer via an external drive and re-acquiring the licences from there. I was even able to skip to the bit we’d stopped at.

And so, the entire process of getting the film restarted after pausing it took about 2 hours. I’m not sure it was worth it to be honest, and I don’t think anyone else was remotely bothered about seeing the rest of the film by that point, but I couldn’t let the technology beat me.

Thanks Lovefilm, but I think I’ll stick to DVDs from now on. At least my DVD player doesn’t have to connect to the internet to acquire a licence before it will let me play a disc, I’m allowed to pause films whenever I want, and the disc doesn’t “expire” in 24 hours either, (although I’m sure it’s only a matter of time…)