Google Gouges Customers

Here’s a cautionary tale for both sides of the disagreement. In case you haven’t heard, Google decided to stop their Download To Own / Download To Rent (DTO/DTR) video site. That’s OK, because companies stop selling products and close divisions all the time.

The pain point comes when you compare the name of the service, Download To Own, with the reality: you can only watch downloaded videos through the special Google Player. When the service stops next week, the player goes away. A good overview can be read in The Register.

Here’s your lesson in Digital Rights Management technology: you only have access to your purchased (Download To Own, remember) electronic products as long as the seller allows you access to your products. In this case, you must use the Google Player to view your own purchased videos so Google can restrict copying. Unfortunately, groups restricting your rights to your own files can restrict or eliminate viewing, as they will next Wednesday when the player goes dark.

Let’s stop calling DRM Digital Rights Management. My new term? Digital Rights Manipulation. You buy, they manipulate.

For Google, this is another black eye that chips away at their “do no evil” statement. I don’t know how they define evil, but effectively taking away products sold to customers seems to be one definition. The deep pockets at Google can buy off unhappy users (they’re offering a few dollars per sold video but only through Google Checkout) and even fight off a class action lawsuit if it comes to that. But they can’t buy back good feelings after cheating even a few customers.

For buyers of electronic content, this new lesson reemphasizes that when you buy restricted content, meaning any type of Digital Rights Manipulation, you lose. Sometimes you lose sooner, or sometimes you lose later, but you, the consumer, always loses. You can sometimes win in Las Vegas, but you can never win against Digital Rights Manipulation.

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