Microsoft Responds to Criticism Over New DRM

There’s a response to a flood of criticism over a new Digital Rights Management (DRM) scheme called HDCP. Built into the upcoming Vista OS, the reports go, HDCP will intentionally make videos fuzzy or stop them from playing if the person playing them doesn’t have a monitor compatible with the new DRM. This is not exactly true.

In fact, new HDCP-protected high definition DVD’s will play on non-HDCP monitors, but it’s likely that the images will show as standard DVD images. Microsoft, however, isn’t doing this for the fun of it. They have to please the recording industry and they have to do their best to avoid angering consumers. That’s not easy, since they may have no choice in some matters that consumers will be unhappy with.

From Microsoft’s perspective, its attempt to comply with a DRM scheme developed by the consumer electronics industry is getting unfairly blown up into a nefarious plan that’s far from reality. “Articles saying that you will need new monitors with Windows Vista to play any DRMed content are not correct,” said Ken Birge, a spokesman for Microsoft. “Any DRM content that’s out there today, you’ll be able to play with any existing monitor using Vista.”

However, Birge confirms that new monitors will be required to support full playback of high-definition DVDs. “Next-generation DVDs will require HDCP for playback,” Birge said. “So that requires HDCP protection all the way out to monitor. As PCs become more of a home entertainment device, consumers are going to expect to play back next-generation DVDs. In order to do that, Microsoft has to require this HDCP support all the way out to the monitor. It’s very much following suit to what the consumer electronics industry has already done.”

Consumers, of course, always have the final say: If you don’t like the new DRM scheme, VOTE WITH YOUR WALLETS! If people refuse to buy discs with the new HDCP protection, then the recording industry will be forced to rethink their strategy and HDCP will join other schemes on the trash heap.

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