The entertainment industry’s war on consumers

The consumer preview of Windows 8 is around the corner, and I’ve been reflecting about it’s Windows Store, the consumerisation of IT and how it affects us as consumers. I’m afraid I see dark times ahead of us.

Sure that downloading content from the comfort of your home is a convenient concept. But corporations are luring consumers to become cattle in a battery farm, where they milk consumers for their money to pay for services, but consumers hold no right to any goods. As consumers we don’t own anything but the limited right to consume content provided by these companies. So when we buy a song or a book, we don’t own a copy of the song or the book, but the limited right to play the song and read the book. If the corporation wishes to do so, they can pull out our right to such content.

The ultimate goal of the entertainment industry goes way beyond their claims to stop piracy. What they want is to remove from consumers any ownership claims over a copy of a record, movie or video game. Remember when we could go to a shop of used records to buy a hard-to-find album or movie? Well if it is up to the entertainment industry this will be a thing of the past. The first step is to remove the material objects out of the equation. How do they do that? By offering access to music, video and games as a service. However, “digital content as a service” is just one front of the entertainment’s industry war against consumers.

Even if we don’t subscribe to a service and instead buy records, movies and games individually, if we buy such content digitally, the content provider can ultimately revoke our rights to such content if we (allegedly) violate their terms and conditions (as ludicrous as they might be). But wait, there is more! Now the game industry is evaluating ways of taking this travesty one step further in the next generation of video game consoles by establishing an activation process between retail game copies (i.e.: physical “material objects” like a game disk or cartridge) and consoles. In practical terms this means that when you buy a game in a store, it will come with a code that must be activated against your video game console as to grant you the right to play that copy of the game with that console. So if you try to play that game in another console, the game will not load. If the video game industry finds its way to grasp their claws over the rental and second-hand games market, you can say goodbye to the renting and selling of used games. Even lending a copy of a game to a friend will be impossible. If this really happens with the next generation of video game consoles, I will proudly and openly condone all mods, hacking and tampering aimed to circumvent such system.

And now the software industry wants to join in as well. With Windows 8, Microsoft will also debut their new digital marketplace. Imagine being able to download and shop for apps and applications from one centralized location and having updates automatically pushed to your desktop. It sure sounds convenient (unless of course, this idea is against your political views). However, imagine a software you bought being pulled out of your computer automatically because you (allegedly) violated some obscure T&C agreement, or because “Microsoft doesn’t like it anymore”, or because the “computer says no”.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe that musicians, artists and video game developers should be rewarded for their hard work and should hold their right to their material. My problem is with cartels like the RIAA and the MPAA. Our intellectual property laws are a failure, which allow big corporations to bully and push consumers around. If I buy a CD, a movie or a book, why shouldn’t I be able to sell it a a latter stage to someone else? Why should I buy two copies of a game if I want to play online against two different “regions” in the world? The answer is GREED.


  • I find the idea of having updates automatically pushed to your desktop terrifying. It allows anyone to install anything they like on your computer. Your next update might include Yahoo toolbar, .NET, Quicktime or god knows what piece of shovelware that will ruin the performance and stability of your computer in the name of 'upgrade'.

    The very term is misappropriated. If I upgrade my processor it is faster, if I upgrade my RAM I have more RAM. If I upgrade software I usually end up with a slower computer and less RAM. Nothing goes up except the version number.

    • Well the idea is that new software versions would add new features. But you have a good point there about new versions silently installing software you don't want to (such as toolbars). I reckon this would quite an issue on data protection for EU citizens.

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