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Bad Experiences with MLB’s DRM

The Joy of Sox has been writing about a problem with Major League Baseball’s DRM scheme. Boing Boing, Wired, Slashdot, and Techdirt have also picked up the story.

Apparently fans who purchased digital downloads from MLB have discovered that MLB has changed its DRM scheme.  Fans who downloaded complete games from MLB had to log in through an MLB web page to verify that the download in question was being viewed on the appropriate, licensed computer.  MLB has now removed this page, making those downloads unviewable.  Apparently MLB does not know when the problem will be fixed.  This means that those who purchased the downloads have been denied the benefits of their bargain.

This illustrates one of the most significant problems with DRM.  Consumers who can’t view their downloads have no effective self-help.  Circumventing DRM controlling access to a copyrighted work is generally illegal. Even if there were some legal basis for circumvention, consumers can’t accomplish it easily because it’s also illegal to sell technology that makes circumvention possible.  Assuming for the sake of argument that this legal state of affairs is unlikely to change, one wonders whether some kind of consumer protection action against MLB becomes the best possibility for remedying this situation.  If MLB sold these downloads with the promise that purchasers could always view them after complying with the DRM protocol, and then fails to make good on that promise, isn’t this garden variety consumer fraud?  If so, perhaps a consumer class action or state attorney general suit will be forthcoming.