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The DRM Genie Just Won't Go Back into the Bottle

Another milestone has been reached in DRM lameness:  Western Digital, which I considered, at least until today, to be the clear leader in the hard drive wars, has instituted DRM on its hard drives:

Western Digital's 1TB MyBook external hard drives won't share media files over network connections (UPDATE: Don't install the "required" client software! See workaround below). From the product page:

"Due to unverifiable media license authentication, the most common audio and video file types cannot be shared with different users using WD Anywhere Access."

It doesn't matter what the files are: If you try to share these formats over a network, Western Digital assumes not just that you're a criminal, but that it is its job to police users. You see, MP3, DivX, AVI, WMV and Quicktime files are copy-protected formats.

Here is the list of 30 file extensions the hard drive won't let you share.  It does not matter if those mp3 files are just dictation files you created yourself using an MP3 recorder -- you still can't share them.  Really lame.  Why WD feels the need to get into the business of policing this stuff is beyond me.  Can you imagine the product meeting.  Gee, I think we should jump into the DRM fray, even though we don't receive a dime from the media companies and it will really piss all of our customers off.  Corry Doctorow also comments.

Posted on December 9, 2007 at 11:28 PM | Permalink


Warren, Both links go to WD's info page.

Posted by: Rob | Dec 10, 2007 5:55:17 AM

Oops, lemme rephrase that: the Corry Doctorow link goes to WD's info page.

Posted by: Rob | Dec 10, 2007 5:58:19 AM

It looks like the software allows remote access. WD is probably afraid they will be sued by the music and movie industries if their software makes file sharing too simple.

Posted by: Reformed Republican | Dec 10, 2007 7:26:17 AM

The way I read it, the drive ITSELF is not crippled in any way.
Some remote file sharing software that ships with it (and that you might have to pay extra for) IS.

Posted by: Jens Fiederer | Dec 10, 2007 7:29:37 AM

Isn't that special.

And WD used to be a premier name in discs.

How sad.

Thanks for the warning--I'll be very careful not to buy WD ever again--even if they NBC on this issue.

Posted by: Larry | Dec 10, 2007 8:30:39 AM

Considering they provide information for working around their software to use a non-DRM interface, I really think they are just trying to cover their own asses. Blame the lawyers.

Posted by: Reformed Republican | Dec 10, 2007 9:45:53 AM

Larry - you should say that if they change their policy you WILL by WD again - that's the way to influence their decision-making

Posted by: Libertarian | Dec 10, 2007 10:15:17 AM

I have no direct experience with this but how long will it take for someone to build a file name extention converter. It's not possible to actually read these files before sending them. You could rename them to ".fu2" and the software nazis should let them by. You could do the rename almost transparently with the right code.

Wouldn't this create a big opportunity for those companies that won't play ball with the media companies?

Posted by: tim | Dec 10, 2007 4:05:40 PM

Reformed Republican and others--That used to me my mode forgive and forget....but what has been happening more and more often is that poisoned stuff gets resold, they get better hiding the fact that it is poisoned, and on top of that I have gotten old with all that implies.

Less paper work for me: You piss in the well, I cross you off my list. Then I don't have to remember.

(Same reason I have a life-long policy of not lying--I don't have to remember who I told what.)

Yes my policy is harsh and unChristian. But so is cheating me, and that is what WD seems to be doing.

Posted by: Larry | Dec 10, 2007 5:01:56 PM

Liberterian: You have identified a principle that not many can see. Make station wagons too expexpensive for the soccer moms, the soccer moms will buy "SUV" and "light trucks" and "minivans".

Install a punitive tax, people with money to protect will find ways to protect it.

Mandate network censorship, people will install, discover, and use "proxies".

Install stuff that keeps people from using the equipment they bought for the purpose for which they bought it, they will figure out "work arounds".

Posted by: Larry | Dec 10, 2007 5:56:56 PM

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