After Hours

DRM enforced on storage?


I just read an article tipping off unsuspecting consumers to Western Digital’s network storage problems.

Western Digital’s ‘My Book World Edition’ is specifically designed to make peoples life easier. The sales page tells people: "This storage system and all the files on it are always accessible when you need them, even when your local computer is turned off," and "Listen to your music while on vacation". It’s impossible to miss the box advertising the My Book as having enough storage for 250,000 MP3’s or 400 hours of DVD quality video. Now that all sounds pretty standard so what’s the problem?

Tucked away deep inside the Western Digital support site is a list of 38 types of media file that can’t be accessed via the WD Anywhere Access feature. The list is extensive and includes all popular file types such as AAC, MP3, MOV, WMV and WMA. So if you buy one of these how exactly are you going to "listen to your music while on vacation"? Western Digital claim this restriction is ‘Due to unverifiable media license authentication’. This really does raise the question of whose job it is to police the enforcement of digital rights. Should we be stopped from copying MP3 files to USB keys or memory sticks? Will software companies start blocking the transfer of media files over HTTP and FTP just in case they aren’t licensed?

I personally find this quite a controversial topic and see it as yet another move towards the mindset of "guilty until proven innocent"; I thought it was supposed to be the other way around.

70 comments
cathar.gnostic
cathar.gnostic

If it's true then my last purchase will be the last WD drive I ever buy. Mind you, if political parties commit suicide from being in power too long then I see no reason why a company who thinks they are a big player can't do the same. All good things come to an end, maybe it will be goodbye WD to your good times?

TechExec2
TechExec2

. Hey Western Digital! You need a lesson in common sense! What is up with you? Computer owners are your customers, not the RIAA. I didn't like you that much in the first place. Now, I like (and trust) you even less. I don't condone nor participate in music piracy. And, I don't have any patience for stupid companies. Microsoft tried to lock me out of my own computer with Vista's permanently broken WGA idiocy (I switched to Linux over that one). Now, you guys are trying to prevent me from accessing my own lawful data? Guess who's storage products I will not be buying in the future? Do you actually expect me to read the fine print before I buy storage products now? You WD guys are right up there with Rogers Internet. You WD guys deserve to get [i]THE LINK[/i]. BTW: Enjoy that RIAA Christmas card.

Falconeer
Falconeer

not to mention the fact that we've have had no less than 5 WD-HD failures in the past 5? months. Oh, let me spell that out . New drives to replace 2 year old WD's. Different locations, i.e. not power concerns and certainly not usage. I mean, how can you use them if they fail within about a year. Almost 'zip, nada, none' they boot 1 time a day and are used to run 'routine', s.a. exel, pp, word. Get my drift. Then shut down at the end of the day. Oh, and before I forget, thanks to China for providing us with useless equipment, not to mention toys. Damn, another ***** far east country we encountered some years ago...

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

But I have had the exact opposite experience from you =) The drives I replace left and right are Maxtor and IBM. Also on the same "light duty" schedule, hell 90% of our data is on servers, not the local machine... An average workstation here has maybe 76Gb on the drive... That number includes XP and Office of course.

Falconeer
Falconeer

That nothing is absolute? I can't even depend on myself screwing up every day. Never mind the guys I work with :)

JCitizen
JCitizen

Assuming you don't buy Maxtor, Seagate, or Western Digital: which are under the same roof? I think Hitachis are junk; maybe Toshiba, or Fujitsu? Just wondering!

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

WD and Seagate drives. That being said, the only reasons I like them is that I have a 10 GB WD drive still running, its about 9 years old now I think. Seagate I like because I own 4 in avrious stages of life, and none are dead yet. Maxtor I have had very, very bad luch with, same with IBM. Hitachi (post IBM branding) I have only used 2 drives (that I know of, several Dells could have them) and no Toshibas so I do not want to comment on these brands.

JCitizen
JCitizen

down load from the site for troubleshooting. I use them for all other drives as well. My customer experience matches yours to a "T". I suppose I don't have a right to complain about Hitachi's performance; it just so happens laptop manufacturers have a bad habit of installing their lowest performance models as a practical pricing strategy.

TechExec2
TechExec2

. No. I don't really buy Samsung. ;-) I've read bad things about their reliability. But, I do take a look at all drive makers from time to time. I've been buying mostly Maxtor and Hitachi (formerly IBM) and have had good success with them. They've been both fast and reliable for me. I know that some people complain about them. But, the truth is, all drive makers have quality issues from time to time. Now that the industry is consolidating so much, it is getting harder to be choosy about brand. I don't like what WD chose to do here, and I have generally avoided WD drives in the past, but I'm sure you know my post was a bit of a humorous rant. I don't make decisions about drives based on emotion. And, I will read the fine print if I have to in order to make the right choice. I'll resent it, but I'll do it. Those bastards! :^0

JCitizen
JCitizen

Seagate are all probably made under the same roof now! I got to admit it looks like Samsung is poised to take over the solid state drive market. Or at least I predict so; observing price reductions. Perhaps they do non-mechanical hardware better. I read good reviews at Amazon and Consumer's Union about Samsung's TVs, but they rate somewhere just behind Panasonic. TiggerTwo had that one nailed!

Tig2
Tig2

My end users could burn through a couple of HDDs a day- easily 2/3 of my calls were HDD death. We had good luck with Fujitsu for the most part. We DID get a bad batch but we were able to get it corrected.

JCitizen
JCitizen

I like Seagates but with Western Digital and Maxtor getting lumped into the same product line I was already thinking of shifting away from their HDD's, as I think they bit off more than they could chew. I looking at switching to solid state technology anyway. It helps to have a planned direction to go when contemplating questions like the ones brought up in this discussion. Once again thank you very much for your time!

raisch
raisch

Natch?

javier.gaona
javier.gaona

I bought a WD My Book World edition 1TB NAS device. I was in no way aware of this litimation but then again I don't use their "Anywhere" feature to access remotely from outside of my home. It works fine on the internal network EXCEPT for WD's insistence on using MioNet to control the device. MioNet REQUIRES an internet connection even if you don't plan on sharing anything outside of your internal network. If you don't have an internet connection, your shared drives are inaccesible for changes. You can read any files you've stored on the drives but you can move, delete, or add files unless MioNet is active and "Online." This is incredibly frustrating if your ISP is shoddy (as mine seems to be lately) and drops the connection. Add to that the incredibly slow transfer rate for files and the propensity for the device to become "disconnected" when it drops packets on bigger files or a large number of multiple files and it's incredibly frustrating. I'm keeping it but I'm never getting another one.

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

I would have torn the thing apart and canabalized the drives inside to put in something that actually worked right... You are a better man than I.

BlackDiamond
BlackDiamond

Hey, When mapping the share, use the option to "Connect using a different user name" and use the user ID of whomever the main account is to get around this? http://support.wdc.com/images/kb/share11.jpg That's how I access shares from four different PC's with the WD My Book that I use, not sure of the model I have, but it is NOT the model described in the article.

Gone Fishing
Gone Fishing

just put them in a archive file like a zip Or rename the file with a non protected extension mmf=my music file

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

with non-protected extensions is easy enough, and can be quickly scripted on just about any platform to be automated as well.

faradhi
faradhi

If I were Western Digital, I might do the same thing. Look at it from their perspective. There are already many cases where a company provided storage for 'pirated' media (napster) and were successfully sued even if that was not the intent of the technology. You can be held responsible if it is foreseeable that your product can be used for something deemed illegal and you did nothing to prevent it. I know I will get slammed for this, but WD is just protecting itself from lawsuits. This has nothing to do with WD agreeing or disagreeing with DRM. It has everything to do with staying out of court. I am sure WD worked with RIAA and other groups to ensure that their solution would not get them sued by those groups. I cannot blame them for it. In fact, I am glad they are taking steps to limit their legal exposure so that I do not have to pay for the costs of WD defending itself. And be assured, those legal costs would be passed down to the price of the HD. Just another perspective.

Lovs2look
Lovs2look

Wasn't Napster (the company) sued and not the hard drive manufacturers? I don't recall any (successful) suits againts Seagate, WD, Maxtor etc. for providing a product that was used to store questionable material. Napsters use of the product was what was bought into question, not the fact that they actually owned the hard drives, otherwise we would all be part of the suit as I own a hard drive too (actually several). Do you? And don't get me started on intel...

faradhi
faradhi

For not doing anything to prevent their product from being used to share music.

faradhi
faradhi

Until then, you are just being obnoxious for playing your music so loud others can hear.

shardeth-15902278
shardeth-15902278

They try to sue me for not doing anything to prevent people from listening to my car stereo when the windows are down?

raisch
raisch

If I commit a murder, I doubt the decedent's heirs can win a suit against the manufacturer of my weapon of choice. Disc drives don't "pirate", people do.

faradhi
faradhi

They were shutdown because other people used their product to do something illegal. So faulty or not, it has happened.

computech911
computech911

Since when did this whole idea of 'potential use' IMPLY illegal use? The reason why in Canada we pay about 40 cents on a CD-R to go directly in the pockets of the RIAA or w/e to suppliment the costs of piracy. And just for the record, NONE of these implentations by WD will limit piracy in any way. All this does is force a crippled product down the throats of unexpecting consumers who probably won't notice anything until the day comes where they want this product for something it refuses to do.

Tig2
Tig2

Read my response to Ed. I agree with you. I would like to understand WHY they took the step. For all I know, they weren't given a choice in the matter.

faradhi
faradhi

It is not WD that we should be boycotting if anyone.

faradhi
faradhi

I didn't state it to be fact. I was speculating on why they would implement the restriction. Further, just because one company chooses to have greater legal exposure than another, does not prove that the more cautious company is being over cautious or that the exposure does not exist. As for hard drive quality, my anecdotal evidence shows that as many Seagate drives have failed on me as have WD or Maxtor. Of course that means nothing without data to back it up.

jdclyde
jdclyde

Why pay for a product that limits your own legal fair use? Clearly not something I will be getting.

richard.moore4
richard.moore4

"Due to unverifiable media license authentication, the following file types cannot be shared _BY DIFFERENT USERS_ using WD Anywhere Access. If these file types are on a share on the WD My Book World Edition system and _ANOTHER USER_ accesses the share, these file will not be displayed for sharing. Any other file types can be shared using WD Anywhere Access." (emphasis mine) YOU can access the files, using some sort of user login, but no one ELSE can.

computech911
computech911

Even if the restrictions are based on a UAC basis it still does nothing but inconvenience legitimate users wishing to transfer files from a storage unit they paid for. So if my brother loads a bunch of killer MP3s HE has CREATED using fruityloops or w/e I can't access them on the sole basis that they are in mp3 format and therfore must be illegal pirated stolen mp3s crippling the music industry? If the consumer allows this type pathetic pandering to the RIAA to become standard practice by companies that offer products which have the 'potential' for unfair use of copyrighted material, believe me, this would only be the beginning.

Lovs2look
Lovs2look

Imagine if car companies HAD to hobble ALL cars to only go a certain speed because SOME people speed and drive drunk etc. The back lash would cause revolution. So WD assumes that cause I have MP3s that they MUST be illegal and can't be shared? Phooey to you guys...who else is offering storage that can be used??? Look out WD, this is the beginning of the end for you guys.

Ed Woychowsky
Ed Woychowsky

This is quite similar to the poem attributed to Pastor Martin Niem?ller. First they came for the Communists, - but I was not a communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, - but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, - but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me. If we do not standup now for what we believe in there will be no one left to standup.

faradhi
faradhi

You are right Memphis is an IT wasteland right now. But these things are cyclical. It will turn around. There is one other person (Old Guy) on the board that is from Memphis. He as been relatively inactive as of late.

Falconeer
Falconeer

authentically an IT person in Bartlett, TN... My gosh, I've returned to Memphis and found it to be a desert for IT. Anyways, I digress. The problem makes me so darn angry I want to switch to Linux, Mac, Solor5, or forbid, Betelgeuse, operating systems. Ya see, the companies we buy from want all the money they can get... at our expense. But, we can be the 'tail that wags the dog'.

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

that this is a CYOA on their part, but it still does not justify putting a flawed product on the market. But, since content is available remotley to users that can authenticate against its file\filter permissions, its not totally flawed, its like Windows Home Server crippled Version =\

Tig2
Tig2

I don't have to sing "The Impossible Dream". :D

Ed Woychowsky
Ed Woychowsky

Run the idea past one of the editors, like Mark. Also, repeat after me, "Sancho, my armor, my sword!" ;-)

Tig2
Tig2

I'll need to learn more about the DRM drive. I really would like to know if this is, as Faradhi suggests, something done to protect WD from legal headache or if it is something that WD voluntarily did to keep RIAA et al happy. The pre-DRM drive is really very good. It lives very happily in both PC world and Mac world and does exactly what it is needed to do.

Ed Woychowsky
Ed Woychowsky

TiggerTwo, Why don't you write a review of the pre-DRM drive and finish it with a mention of the DRM in the new drives?

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

In what way was WD "not given a choice"? There is always a choice. This would have been researched before production began, so they chose to sell a limited product. Lets be honest, this is basically simple web/ftp server in an enclosure with storage and content filters. I would bet they spent more R&D trying to find ways to protect their filters and permissions then they did on the rest of the software. "So how do we solve this? Because unquestionably, we should be communicating absolute displeasure on this. But to whom and how remain questions to be answered." This part is not so easy, as there is no single organization/person we can point a finger at and say, "You are the heretic!" and then proceed to burn at the stake. There is a chain that contains the RIAA, copy write lawyers, congress, vendors selling DRMed products, vendors developing DRMed products, and consumers buying DRMed products; the chain is long. The first step is letting companies know that we do not want their DRM. Boycott only the DRM products, that way they can see exactly what factor is causing the revenue loss. Speak out against DRM to all your friends and family, educate, research, vote... At this point, DRM is beginning to be spun in to DRE (Digital Rights Enhancement), to appear to be a desirable trait. Classic marketing. The answer is that we (as a populous) have to answer RIAA lobbyists with votes and money, vote against pro-DRM politicians and refuse to by DRMed tech. not easy, not cheap, and only effective in large numbers.

Tig2
Tig2

I guess that the question, to me, is WHO to speak out to. I would like to understand what the driver was for WD to go down this path. Was it a business decision made independently? Was it a decision forced on them? Who owned this? How do we go about discovering who the bad guy is? I would be happy to promote and participate in a boycott of WS over this. But if the choice was not theirs, I would be vilifying the wrong people and the culprits would never be taken to task. So how do we solve this? Because unquestionably, we should be communicating absolute displeasure on this. But to whom and how remain questions to be answered.

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

"*Due to unverifiable media license authentication, the most common audio and video file types cannot be shared with different users using WD Anywhere Access. A list of the non shareable file types can be found here." But I agree that it's sleazy that they otherwise advertise that you can ?Listen to your music while on vacation?. Personally, if I were to purchase this unit based upon that and later found that I was unable to remotely access my media files as advertised, I'd return the unit as defective.

TheGear
TheGear

It's all very nice that they reveal it on the web site, but what do they say on the box? Can you tell that this feature is a part of the product you're about to buy?

Ed Woychowsky
Ed Woychowsky

When you walk into Circuit City and look at the box are the limitations on the box itself. Or, is this like software agreements, ?By opening this box you agree to ?? kind of arrangement? Nice, get home only to find out that the device is crippled by DRM that it won?t be usable for the purpose that I bought it for. Will Western Digital pay the mandatory restocking fee? I was considering getting some kind of NAS for backups, guess I?ll look at Linksys, Buffalo or a cheap Linux box. Wonder when Western Digital applies this ?feature? to their internal hard disk line?

blarman
blarman

Western Digital is treading a VERY dangerous road with that advertising. False/Misleading advertising claims are not based on technology, but perception of how the technology works. And if your first inclination is that it allows you to do something and then you find out later when you go to use it that there are numerous restrictions about how you can use it that effectively reduce it's value, you will likely win the case. IMO, Western Digital is going down the wrong path here. It should not be the responsibility of hardware/storage manufacturers to dictate what you use the device for. That is a policy decision for the consumer and the consumer alone.

Justin Fielding
Justin Fielding

I recently brought a 2TB Buffalo for storing server/vm images. No complaints so far. It isn't the fastest NAS around but that's not really important to me.

Tig2
Tig2

I have a 250 GB My Book that doesn't have this little feature. While I don't have it set as NAS storage, my partner and I both use it for backups for our various computers. So far, no problems. I think that DRM is totally out of hand. I hope that this is not a sign of things to come.

JCitizen
JCitizen

what corporation or another, and in those cases I try to stay off the soap box, and keep it personal. It can get very impractical in such actions if one gets too radical; as you have so correctly pointed out.

shardeth-15902278
shardeth-15902278

Make sure you check the who-owns-who list. (And hope you never need to boycott Kraft, as you'll have to subsist on Dirt and Rainwater). :)

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

I have refused to purchase Sony since long before the root kit fiasco. They produce second quality electronics, mark them up, and then refuse to recall known bad products. (Case in point, I bought a Sony receiver, apparently this model would randomly over heat, and either fry the circuits or catch on fire. I heard about this from Best Buy.) For HT I use Marantz and Paradigm. For TV I use my computer monitor (Samsung), but have owned several Toshiba TVs. Camera: Olympus There is so much choice out there now, and since the death of the cd Walkman, Sony can only really compete in the TV market. Sony is the only company I despise more then Symantec.

JCitizen
JCitizen

I really appreciate the feedback though. Happy Holidays! (EDITED)Your choices look very logical; probably the same focus I would use in those situations. I have no brand loyalty - only what most recently is rated well. Now days any good brand can go bad very rapidly, unfortunately.

Tig2
Tig2

Camera- I went Nikon HD-DVD- Sony does Blu Ray, I don't do Sony Television- Bought Panasonic Home Theater- BOSE, of course Personal Computer- I love my Mac! The bottom line will be to ask yourself what it is that you want and what you want it to do. Then take a hard look at who the market leader is. There is no one right answer.

JCitizen
JCitizen

I asked techexec2 this also; say maybe Fujitsu or Samsung?

Tig2
Tig2

Anyone who thinks that rootkits are a good thing probably doesn't need my money. I cheerfully avoid all things Sony.

JCitizen
JCitizen

And in their case - I'm not coming back.

Lovs2look
Lovs2look

It'll happen...I wonder how much time and effort WD will throw at the technology behind this. Probably a simple content filter which will be cracked by some who know how, and who have far more time on their hands.

shardeth-15902278
shardeth-15902278

If their regular drives are selling like hotcakes, and their DRM drives are rotting on the shelves, they'll stop making the DRM drives. The people at the top understand the whole supply/demand/profit thing, and they are really big fans of profit. (Not to mention you stand a much better chance of getting your friends and family to participate in an effective surgical strike, vs an all-out GlobalThermoNuclearWar) against WD.

Lawhead
Lawhead

I admit that WD is selling a nice 'looking' product but there are other NAS units that don't have DRM. DRM is a sensitive topic for storage vendors. If they build restrictions (eg, DRM) into their products, customers will soon find out about it and look elsewhere for a similar competitors products that doesn?t have the restriction. A bit off topic, but could you imagine if Sony added DRM to their DVD burners which prevented you from burning MP3's, AVI's, etc to DVD? Very few would buy the product and eventually Sony would either change the product or drop the lost leader. Unless a vendor has a monopoly in the market, customers will be able choose the appropriate product that will meet their needs - and avoid bad/restrictive products.

dnox1978
dnox1978

i don't like this because it will probabely stop my own work toso i think we have to boycotting WD if they don't remove this function, it?s like Windows vista that is stopping me from playing and editing my own HD movies in full quality from my own hdcam, becose of DRM/HDCP, i don't like then stop me from dowing what i want whit my own material..

Justin Fielding
Justin Fielding

If this thing is on the shelves then it will probably sell anyway. This product is aimed at your 'average' consumer who will have no idea about the limitations and won't find out until they try to share a home movie with their family. If the filtering was smart and the Digital Rights were checked (you would need to be able to give yourself Digital Rights for homemade content) then they could possibly justify it. The fact that it bans all content based on its file extension is what makes this unacceptable to consumers.

Ed Woychowsky
Ed Woychowsky

Nothing drives home a point like having a product that sells like an Edsel.

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

This way they know exactly why they are loosing money.

shardeth-15902278
shardeth-15902278

Just boycott the drive with Built-in DRM. It sends a simpler message for the execs to decipher.

computech911
computech911

We can't mess around with this... The answer from the tech community needs to be swift and direct. Any company in the future that is going to move forward on these types of nazi DRM limitations on generic storage devices needs to know the affect on it's business first. Seems actually quite absurd that a company would risk large profits with a consumer base that has been proven to be anti-drm. What sort of kick are they getting from RIAA anyways? Transfer restrictions on storage devices will do what Starforce did for video games. RIP Western Digital.

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

500 GB usb My Book and its fine and dandy, no DRM. The world book is another product all together. As for signs of times to come... I would bet it will get alot worse before it gets better. All we can hope for is that musicians will wise up and start using the net to sell their own music instead of letting the petrified model currently in place eat all the potential profits. This may mean fewer over-paid, under talented super starts, but it will mean whole generations of musician/buisnessmen looking after their own interests, and producing their own music. Personally, that idea makes me happy. In the long run, the quality of music can only go up as music once again is made for the artist and litener, and no for the studio exec and Madison Pusher.

Ed Woychowsky
Ed Woychowsky

Perhaps a boycott of Western Digital will get them to, pardon the pun, change their tune.

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