Why I Hate DRM (Example 147,000,000)

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I am really late to the party, but since I saw my first series in 2007, I’ve been crazy about Doctor Who. My Netflix queue is almost entirely old Tom Baker stories, and all four New Who series. (The remainder is mostly MST3K, if anyone was wondering what kind of stuff I like to watch in my spare time.)

I’m still working my way through the New Who, and since I don’t have nearly as much free time as I’d like, I’m only up to Gridlock in Series Three, which I’ve been watching through my Roku whenever I get the chance.

Because I knew it would be a few weeks or even months until I was ready to watch them, I programmed my DVR to catch and record all the new episodes of the Fifth Series, set it to hold them until I deleted them … and then accidentally deleted them.

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“No worries,” I thought, “I’ll just buy the season pass on iTunes and watch them that way.” So that’s what I did.

Now, usually, I watch a show in chronological order, especially modern series that have story arcs that unfold over the course of an entire season, but I love how you don’t have to watch things in order to enjoy Doctor Who. I know from experience that the writers reward you if you do, but everyone on Reddit has been talking about how great Matt Smith is, so last night, I decided to meet him. I felt a surge of excited anticipation as I woke up my iMac, made sure Rivet could see the /iTunes/TV Shows/ directory, and turned on my Xbox. I browsed to The Eleventh Hour, hit play … and got an error message that the Xbox couldn’t play back the protected format.

Son. Of. A. Bitch. F**ked by DRM, again.

So listen, I know that a non-zero number of you are laughing at me, and I realize that I should have thought about this ahead of time, but I want to use this as yet another example of DRM screwing an honest, paying customer, who could just as easily have gone to the seedy underbelly of the Internet to acquire these episodes without paying anything to BBC.

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Gabe Newell says that there are people who simply won’t pay for anything, ever, and people who would pay for things, but turn to pirates because they offer better customer service. As a creator and as a consumer, I want people to be compensated for their work, so I always pay for things, because I believe it’s the right thing to do.

In this case, as in so many others, if I had downloaded these episodes in any other way, I would be able to watch them however I want, without restriction, but because I was honest and did things the so-called “right” way, I’m limited in ways that pirates are not. DRM did nothing but frustrate me, and punish me for being honest.

I would never suggest engaging in conduct that is outside of the law, but speaking of Pirates and their Bays, I searched some popular torrent sites – purely as an intellectual exercise, mind you – for the episodes that I bought and paid for through iTunes. There are tens of thousands of seeds for all of them … clearly, the DRM I’ve fallen victim to isn’t doing anything to stop people from watching Doctor Who without paying for it.

So what do I do? I’ve already paid for the season pass on iTunes, and my iMac has a wonderful screen (even if the sound is … well, what you get out of a computer), so there’s that option. I could buy some cables to plug my iPod into my television, but I’m not interested in investing any more money into this endeavor than I already have. I could seek out some way to strip the DRM from these files, which is technically illegal but that’s going to take more time than just torrenting them would. Not that I would ever consider or advocate breaking the law.

I’m not entirely sure how I’ll end up watching these shows, and I’ll keep looking for options so this isn’t just a $40 lesson in how not to acquire digital media. I do know one thing for certain, though: I’m done buying or renting movies or TV shows from the iTunes store; it’s just not worth the hassle.

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