Google and the evils of DRM

Last Wednesday Google shut down their commercial video service which let you buy or rent copyrighted videos. Unfortunately Google used a digital rights management (DRM) scheme that required Google to authorize, via the internet, the use of a video every time it was viewed – but since the service shut down this authorization can no longer take place leaving all videos purchased or rented unusable.

In other words closing the commercial part of Google Video has render thousands and thousands of purchases useless, unwatchable. And by way of compensation users only received a credit note which they can spend at any store that uses Google Checkout.


Ken Fisher at Ars Technica argues that the Library of Congress will now “have no choice but to consider the matter when they return to their triennial review and may granted exceptions to the anti-circumvention clause of the DMCA“. In any case it seems to me that if a heavy weight like Google has left their customers with a broken, worthless product because they pulled out of the market this presents a strong argument against DRM, since it leaves you, the customer, at the mercy of the retailer for access to your property.


Google have improved their refund policy: giving people a full cash refund in addition to the Google Checkout credit, plus letting people watch their video for another six months.

An improvement yes, but a solution no. It still doesn’t solve the problem that DRM is inherently anti-consumer – when a supplier decides to withdraw support, or goes out of business the video’s on your hard drive stop working. Google have demonstrated this wonderfully.

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