Customers of Google Video, who bought music videos, TV shows or sports events on their website were emailed this week to explain that Google Video was now closing its doors and that the videos that had bought would no longer be playable. The digital rights management (DRM) technology built in to the downloaded videos will cease to operate and the files would be useless. The customers would be given some credit in lieu, but not a full refund on what was paid.
I have bought music from Apple's iTunes service which is copy-protected. What if iTunes were to fall on hard times and close down? Would my purchased songs stop working? As the Guardian says
, opponents of DRM have been handed free PR by Google's move - they can now point out that the service providers may revoke your licence to play your content at any time.
Oddly enough, the consumer is used to gradual obsolescence in their entertainment systems, whether it is vinyl records sitting on a shelf next to the VHS (or Betamax) videos, or the Playstation 2 games that won't play in the Playstation 3, or buying a film in HD when you already have the DVD, or the album one is urged to buy again beacause it has been remastered - as if it were incorrectly mastered the first time round.
The insidious thing about DRM is that you have the content safely stored on your computer; you paid for it and yet the licence issuer has gone out of business and you can no longer get permission to play your own content. Ironically, the person who stole the ripped content from a file-sharing site can continue to play the content with impunity, while the law-abiding customer is penalised.
It's like shop-bought DVDs that play endless, intrusive anti-piracy messages before the film to the person who bought the DVD, while the person who downloaded a copy from a news group only sees the film itself.