DRM and Me

I’ve had some bad luck with hardware this year. For the first time ever I had a disk fail in one of my computers. And then after getting my laptop rebuilt my iMac’s power supply went south and I had to get that machine rebuilt as well. When the laptop came back, I had to install all my old tools one by one, something I haven’t had to do for three or four years thanks to the wonderful Apple magic brain transfer function which makes imaging old machines into new machines easy and painless. For some reason, in doing all this work I didn’t reinstall Photoshop… until this weekend when I wanted to do some panoramas. Therein lies my story.

The install on my laptop went fine. I went to Adobe’s web site, downloaded the binary again and ran the installer. After all of that the app came up, asked me for my various keys and then made me hit a big blue Activate button and everyone was happy. However, I found working with the panoramas to be a bit painful, so I thought I’d fire the whole thing up on my iMac to take advantage of the 4GB of RAM and big screen. This time, I got to the big blue Activate button, and instead of warm happiness I got a message about how I had too many activations of the software.

No problem, I thought. I’ll just go to the web site and deactivate my previous installs the same way you can do at the iTunes Music store. Unfortunately, there is no such facility. Apparently Adobe expects you do know when your hardware is going to fail so you can preemptively make room for more installs on your Photoshop license.

I had only one recourse, I had to call Adobe on the phone, explain what happened, and get another key that allowed me to use Photoshop on the iMac. This all took only 10 minutes and went very smoothly, which just goes to show that Adobe at least does not hire the same incompetent drooling monkeys that Microsoft or EA do. Still, I don’t think this is good enough.

And this brings me to my philosophy about DRM. At my core, I don’t really care about Fair use, deep legal philosophy, or my inalienable consumer right to do what I want with a product that I have bought with my hard earned cash. Software piracy is a problem and people that work hard to deliver expensive applications and content have a right to try and control that content as they see fit. I think that there is a much more pragmatic ideal to be pursued here. And it is this:

If I have to call you on the phone in order to be able to use your software, then you have failed in a fundamental way to provide a decent out of the box user experience.

That’s all I have to say. Do whatever you want, just don’t make me call you on the phone.