I have to admit when it comes to DRM (Digital Rights Management) my knowledge is pretty dismal. I always knew that it was meant to prevent piracy but not being a fanatic of music and movies, DRM was never in my priority list of things to learn. But when I tried to run the Star Trek WMV file I had downloaded from Amazon Unbox on the new PC using Windows Media Player, I was greeted with a dialog box informing me that I needed a license to play the file. When I clicked on a link to obtain the license, the dialog box simply opened the Amazon Unbox home page and then just left me hanging.
Since now I knew that Unbox movies were DRM protected, I decided to learn some more about what DRM exactly is and how it works. A quick check with Wikipedia revealed that DRM is really an umbrella term referring to various technologies to protect copyrights. In this case Unbox was using the Microsoft flavor. That means the movie is encrypted at source only to be unlocked by a separate key that is referred to as the license. The key is basically a file comprising various restrictions such as the number of permitted viewings, duration of validity, and other data. It is stored separately from the movie file under the user's profile and if everything is in order, Windows Media Player applies it to the movie (or music) file to decrypt and play.
Another notable feature of the DRM key is that it can be tied to the machine that it is downloaded to. That makes the movie viewable only on the exact machine that it was configured for, preventing users from simply copying the file to another PC (as I had done) and playing the movie there. I'm not sure what parameters are used to construct this exclusivity restriction, but I assume a number of items such as the BIOS, CPU, and the network card are polled to create a unique identifier.
Now I knew I had to obtain a new license to watch the Star Trek episode on this new PC and that meant installing the Unbox on the new machine. After downloading and installing the software, I imported the WMV file into the Unbox program and I had the file unlocked. The film was playing smoother now with fewer jitters but since this PC didn't have any speakers and the monitor quality was poor, I decided to use remote desktop from the original PC and watch the film that way. No luck, remote desktop just doesn't have the repaint power to handle a movie and I was back at the same position as before with lots of interruptions and jumps.
I knew it was time to replace that original PC with a more modern machine. I had been wanting to do this for some time anyways. I had just the PC and now was as good a time as any to upgrade. So I dismantled the old PC, scavenged as many parts as I could and tossed out its shell. I always dread upgrading PC's. Being somewhat picky about configuring the new machine exactly as I want, it takes me days to get a new box to a level I am comfortable with. But in this case once I had the new PC running at a tolerable level, I decided to give the film a try.
Having gone through the experience before, I copied the WMV file to the new PC, installed the Unbox program and attempted to import the file to acquire a new license for it. But that's when I hit yet another surprise.
I'll conclude the saga in part 3.