OK Go and DRM

by on August 16, 2006 · 10 comments

Adam’s right that OK Go’s music videos are awesome. You can check out other music videos here. “Invincible” is particularly good.

So I clicked over to OK Go’s blog and I saw this post urging readers to jump over to VH1′s site to vote for “Here it Goes Again” (the video Adam linked to yesterday) on VH1′s Top 20 music countdown. I did as I was told, and clicked on the link on VH1′s site to watch the video on “VSpot,” VH1′s free music video site. Instead of treadmill-video goodness, I was confronted with this helpful message:

We are sorry! Vspot does not currently have Digital Rights Management (DRM) support for Macintosh. Please see our FAQ for system requirements to view on demand and free video on Vspot.

The FAQ says:

The videos on Vspot are encoded using the Microsoft Windows Media 9 codec to ensure the maximum possible video quality. In order to offer you a broad selection of full-length music videos on-demand and free of charge, Vspot uses Windows Digital Rights Management (DRM) to protect the videos from unauthorized re-distribution. Unfortunately, Microsoft’s Windows Media Player Plug-in for Macintosh does not currently support DRM. When DRM support becomes available for Macintosh, Vspot will work to support Macintosh.

This is simply absurd. The video is available for download in unencumbered format from OK Go’s video site, as well as available on YouTube. So it’s not obvious who they’re trying to prevent from seeing it.

Indeed, the whole point of a music video is publicity. Bands make music videos so they’ll be played on MTV (and now the Internet), thereby driving sales of their songs. Hence, OK Go probably wants as much “unauthorized redistribution” as possible, because that means more people find out about the band and might buy their music.

The presence of DRM in this case hurts everyone: it hurts OK Go by reducing the number of people who will learn about their music. It hurts VH1, whose website is made less useful to potential visitors. And it hurts Mac users, who are excluded from using the site.

DRM advocates like to talk about how DRM reduces transaction costs for fine-grained transactions, thus enabling economically efficient price discrimination. But I think this sort of problem illustrates the flaw in this argument: the control provided by DRM isn’t so fine-grained in practice. Because of the nature of what DRM is trying to do, denying access has to be its default action. That means that if your particular operating system, device, or transaction wasn’t contemplated by the DRM designers, you’re just out of luck. As a result, a lot of mutually beneficial transactions are prevented, to everyone’s detriment.

  • http://weblog.ipcentral.info/ Noel Le

    ***The presence of DRM in this case hurts everyone: it hurts OK Go by reducing the number of people who will learn about their music. It hurts VH1, whose website is made less useful to potential visitors. And it hurts Mac users, who are excluded from using the site.***

    Man, you must have been absolutely intent on accessing the music from VH1 with your Mac. Most users would just go to another website. That would provide substitutional relief, unless you find some inherent benefit in getting music from VH1 that far outweighs other resources. You’re thinking is similar to: “I found an open parking spot, but wow, the spot is too small for my car, rather than simply park somewhere else I’ll examine and hypothesize how it would be beneficial to everyone if the spot was larger.”

  • http://weblog.ipcentral.info/ Noel Le

    ***The presence of DRM in this case hurts everyone: it hurts OK Go by reducing the number of people who will learn about their music. It hurts VH1, whose website is made less useful to potential visitors. And it hurts Mac users, who are excluded from using the site.***

    Man, you must have been absolutely intent on accessing the music from VH1 with your Mac. Most users would just go to another website. That would provide substitutional relief, unless you find some inherent benefit in getting music from VH1 that far outweighs other resources. You’re thinking is similar to: “I found an open parking spot, but wow, the spot is too small for my car, rather than simply park somewhere else I’ll examine and hypothesize how it would be beneficial to everyone if the spot was larger.”

  • dennis parrott

    Noel – you are missing the point. the layer of CRAP that VH1 slapped on OK Go’s video was TOTALLY UNNECESSARY. the video was unprotected. why did VH1 feel a need to protect something that was unprotected??

    all that VH1 is accomplishing is alienating a portion of their userbase by cooperating with Microsoft’s crude attempts at platform lock-in. why commercial websites (who theoretically at least) want to achieve the broadest user base & capture the most eyeballs use proprietary plugins and multimedia formats is completely beyond me. it is really hurting their business with mac users and linux users (don’t get me started about how far the linux flash player is behind the current pee-cee release…).

    as we roll into the age of MS Vista and start to see Microsoft and others try to tighten their grip over the “user experience” (just who is “trusted” when you have TCPA running anyway?) and people will force this issue to a head if significant numbers of them exit the Windows building for other platforms (and i really hope we do!).

  • dennis parrott

    Noel – you are missing the point. the layer of CRAP that VH1 slapped on OK Go’s video was TOTALLY UNNECESSARY. the video was unprotected. why did VH1 feel a need to protect something that was unprotected??

    all that VH1 is accomplishing is alienating a portion of their userbase by cooperating with Microsoft’s crude attempts at platform lock-in. why commercial websites (who theoretically at least) want to achieve the broadest user base & capture the most eyeballs use proprietary plugins and multimedia formats is completely beyond me. it is really hurting their business with mac users and linux users (don’t get me started about how far the linux flash player is behind the current pee-cee release…).

    as we roll into the age of MS Vista and start to see Microsoft and others try to tighten their grip over the “user experience” (just who is “trusted” when you have TCPA running anyway?) and people will force this issue to a head if significant numbers of them exit the Windows building for other platforms (and i really hope we do!).

  • http://okgo.net j

    if it makes you feel any better, i’ve been told that vh1 will have vspot open to mac users within a couple of months. i can only imagine this means that the drm has been updated, not that it’s been removed. though maybe not. i assume that the drm is something that was imposed upon them by the labels, not something that was self-inflicted, and maybe with the labels suddenly playing ball with youtube, that will change.

  • http://okgo.net j

    if it makes you feel any better, i’ve been told that vh1 will have vspot open to mac users within a couple of months. i can only imagine this means that the drm has been updated, not that it’s been removed. though maybe not. i assume that the drm is something that was imposed upon them by the labels, not something that was self-inflicted, and maybe with the labels suddenly playing ball with youtube, that will change.

  • enigma_foundry

    Man, you must have been absolutely intent on accessing the music from VH1 with your Mac. Most users would just go to another website.

    Well, there just needs to be one dedicated individual to go there and correctly configure their *nix system to read those files, and post to the right newsgroup, and other users, for example those who use free software will all know how its done.

    The motivation for doing so? Love of a challenge, obtain the respect of your peers, these all feed into progress, and freedom.

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com eee_eff

    Man, you must have been absolutely intent on accessing the music from VH1 with your Mac. Most users would just go to another website.

    Well, there just needs to be one dedicated individual to go there and correctly configure their *nix system to read those files, and post to the right newsgroup, and other users, for example those who use free software will all know how its done.

    The motivation for doing so? Love of a challenge, obtain the respect of your peers, these all feed into progress, and freedom.

  • thephantommilk

    hmm… you know, Ok Go and DRM have a long history. If you search the New York Times website for an Op-ed by Damian Kulash (Ok Go’s lead singer), you’ll see.

    anyways, I’m pretty sure this is something that would be in the “contract” or whatever makes the deal between record labels and vh1 for airplay, etc.

    I don’t think its something that can be helped by anyone, really. they’ve all got it into their heads that DRM is needed, so that’s what’ll happen until they all figure out the reality.

  • thephantommilk

    hmm… you know, Ok Go and DRM have a long history. If you search the New York Times website for an Op-ed by Damian Kulash (Ok Go’s lead singer), you’ll see.

    anyways, I’m pretty sure this is something that would be in the “contract” or whatever makes the deal between record labels and vh1 for airplay, etc.

    I don’t think its something that can be helped by anyone, really. they’ve all got it into their heads that DRM is needed, so that’s what’ll happen until they all figure out the reality.

Previous post:

Next post: