Only a few days after TVNZ officially launched its ondemand site for downloadable content, users have discovered how to remove the Digital Rights Management (DRM) that prevents some downloaded material from being viewed after seven days, the television company admits.
TVNZ’s site, which offers downloadable TV programmes and films, utilises Microsoft’s PlaysForSure DRM for Windows Media. By using a utility called Fairuse4wm, users who have paid for and downloaded content can strip off the DRM that prevents them from viewing some content where the licence expires after seven days and which ties that content to a single machine.
The principal architect for TVNZ’s interactive technology group, Ade Krzyzewski, confirms it is possible to remove the DRM in this manner. He says it’s the reality of today’s technology and adds that TVNZ was aware prior to the launch of ondemand that the DRM could be removed.
While he can understand viewers being frustrated with the DRM, Krzyzewski says the limitations were placed on TVNZ by the production houses making the material in the first place.
“We don’t own the content,” Krzyzewski says, referring to the pay-per-view material. However, despite being sympathetic towards users fed up with DRM requirements, Krzyzewski says TVNZ is willing to enforce the restrictions.
“It’s a matter of balancing two interests, trying to ensure the best for both producers and viewers,” he says.
Krzyzewski questions if it’s worth the $2 savings considering removing the DRM is potentially illegal and the content can be easily relicensed.
Once the DRM licence expires, the file remains on a computer — it does not “self-destruct”, Krzyzewski says. The only thing that happens is that users’ ability to view the file goes, unless they re-license it for watching for another seven-day period.
He is also at pains to point out that around 90% of content on TVNZ’s
ondemand site is free and without DRM.
“We have also tried to make sure that as many people as possible can access the content even if they don’t have Windows through the use of Flash-based media players,”Krzyzewski says.
Asked what counter-measures if any TVNZ is planning to take, Krzyzewski says the broadcaster has to wait for Microsoft to release a patch for PlaysForSure that’ll stop Fairuse4wm from working.
However, Microsoft released patches last year to that end, but the authors of Fairuse4wm were able to circumvent these and the program continues to work today.
There are other measures TVNZ could take to prevent users from cracking DRM restricted content, but Krzyzewski describes these as “draconian for viewers” and says the broadcaster is unwilling to implement them.
But, if the situation gets out of hand and paid content is cracked on a regular basis, it may undermine the business model of ondemand for TVNZ.