Is Google DRM crippling culture as great as it seems?
We don't know
By Ashlee Vance in Las Vegas
Published Sunday 8th January 2006 00:23 GMT

CES Opinion Anyone the least bit concerned about DRM (digital rights
management) technology would likely have been put off by Google co-founder
Larry Page's ho-hum approach to revealing the company's new proprietary
media locks. And with good reason.

"We have our own DRM that we're using," Page said, during a keynote at CES.
"We'll be open to other things, but (creating our own) seemed like the
easier thing to do."

Google's DRM will make its first appearance as part of a new video
downloading service. Page revealed that customers will be able to buy TV
shows from CBS, NBA basketball games and a host of other content with Google
serving as the delivery broker for the video. This move mimics other
technology companies - most notably Apple - which have struck deals with
large media houses to send video over the web for a fee.

Along with the service, Google has also released its own, slick video

None of this is bad or surprising when examined from Google's perspective.
The ad broker has every right to push on with new businesses and use its
might, prestige and hype to secure prominent partnerships with the likes of
CBS. And, heck, if Apple and Microsoft can create DRM systems, then why
can't Google?

You can, however, see a crisis evolving for internet users and consumers.
Apple has a very locked down DRM system that revolves around iTunes and
iPods only. Microsoft has a lot of partners for its DRM, making it look open
and like a standard. Of course, the MP3 players and services that support
Microsoft haven't garnered near as much interest as Apple's rival offerings.
So, Microsoft isn't really a standard at all but rather a small, less closed
garden. Meanwhile, Real Networks comes off as a type of neutral player that
also has its problems by not being promoted on the iPod and by relying more
on a music rental service than a booming per song shop like iTunes.

Now, you can add Google DRM and Google Video to this mess.

We might be less nervous about Google's DRM revelation if it provided more
information on the technology. Page refused to say anything beyond the two
sentences above, and played off the whole DRM thing as no big deal.

We also can't locate much of anything about Google DRM on the company's
corporate web site or fantastic blogs. Perhaps your Googling skills are
better than ours, and we welcome aid.

Is Google DRM simply a mechanism for protecting the videos of its partners
and making sure they get paid for their content? Or is it much broader than

How will it work with Microsoft's DRM, Apple's DRM and Real's DRM? Will it
extend to music? If so, what will the limitations be on how often you can
copy songs or how many devices can store the tunes?

Google says that one of its corporate goals is to "do no evil." Hasn't it
just crapped all over that objective by entering the race to weigh down our
culture with cement bricks?

That last query may be over-dramatic. But, then again, it might not be.

Google has a long history of keeping its technology mechanisms and
intentions private. It won't say a lot about how Page Rank works. It's never
provided a policy on how it picks Google News stories. Heck, it won't even
let Register reporters visit the company's campus, and one of our staff
lives right down the street.

Having one of the world's largest and currently most powerful IT companies
announce that it has constructed a new DRM system and then not reveal a
single detail about the technology is just plain unacceptable.

Many of you ­ who have become obsessed with the god you call Googlor ­ will
no doubt suck down Google's DRM with pride.

Hopefully, some of you will be more careful and force the company to answer
a few questions first. CBS might make the TV shows, but we all share the

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