Truth Serum – Digital Rights Management DRM

It’s time for an injection of that special serum into a subject that I’m sure is a personal one for many of you.  You don’t read very much about it but it affects everyone who owns an Xbox 360.  DRM, as most of you will recognize it, stands for Digital Rights Management.  It is a technology used by many publishers and copyright holders to limit the use of digital content/devices and in some cases restrict use altogether.  I’m here to say that it sucks especially when talking about how it affects some Xbox 360 owners.

Do you really own the things that you download from the Xbox Live Marketplace?  Is that really your copy of Rez HD that you purchased from the Xbox Live Arcade?  The short answer should be yes after you’ve obviously spent your Microsoft Points to obtain them.  However, the long answer is that instead you’ve been punked by the DRM system currently in place on the Xbox 360. 

No, you don’t own that content or rather you do until you have to replace your console through the repair process or some other reason.  Repairs, new purchase Elite data transfers…whatever the reason you’ve ended up with a new console, it results in being punked by DRM.

The DRM Chronicles

Downloads via the Marketplace or Xbox Live Arcade are tied to your console’s serial number and require profile validation in order to give you access to them.  It doesn’t sound like anything out of the ordinary until it’s time for you to use your content outside of that same console.  Once you try to access the content you’ve paid for by way of a friend’s console or a new/refurbished console, you’ll get a taste of how DRM is a pain.  When the content license tries to match itself and authenticate, it won’t.  It won’t unless you’re signed in to Xbox Live.  The more glaring issue and example of this is with Xbox Live Arcade titles.  DRM forces you back to trial versions of the game if you’re not signed in. 

No big deal right?  Some argue, “hey, I’m signed in all the time anyway”.  Well what happens if one day Xbox Live experiences some issues that prevent you from signing on?  What happens when you just don’t want to continue with the service or if you run into hard times and can’t afford your DSL service anymore?  You’re just out of luck and you can say goodbye to the money you’ve spent and the time you’ve invested in all your downloads.  For those of you with families, this is even more of a pain because no one will be able to access the content without you authenticating via Xbox Live sign in. 

Believe it or not there are moments and occasions when I simply don’t want to sign in to Xbox Live.  But I’m forced to now if I want to finish that last level of Omega Five or if anyone wants to do anything with Xbox Live Arcade titles I’ve downloaded.  I shouldn’t have to maintain a subscription to Xbox Live in order to have full access to content that I’ve paid fully for.  I’d like to look into an Xbox Original but what motivation is there for people who aren’t lucky enough to have their original console last? 

Why bother downloading content when there’s no solution to keeping ownership of the content?  Why updgrade to an Elite when you’ll get punked?  The DRM Chronicles sums up the basis of this problem for those out there who are experiencing this.  Xbox Support doesn’t have a unified solution to deal with this and I’m not sure if one will ever come.  Their suggested method of redownloading the titles from your history doesn’t work.  They’re not issuing Microsoft Points to correct the issue anymore.  And the last rumor of having them reassign your console’s serial number to the titles is still stuck between that rock and hard place.

I don’t know if this issue is being worked on but I do know that something needs to be done about it.  I know several people who refuse to purchase from the Arcade because of this issue and even more who are choosing not to purchase an Xbox 360 Elite as well.

DRM is a necessary evil for some parts of the industry but when it begins to restrict access on a level that it does with the Xbox 360, then it becomes a problem instead.  I shouldn’t have to pass an Xbox Live test in order to fully access content I’ve paid for. 

This has been a Truth Serum injection.  What say you?

Deacon About Deacon
They call me "The Velvet Voice". I like sunshine, games and large amounts of money. I'm a Microsoft Xbox MVP and an Author. Check out the book about my journey through the gaming industry Press X to Reload and The Terribly Terrific Travels of Timber Timmins on Support the site and buy 'em. Take a look at my About Me bio for more on me.


  1. Case in point. I downloaded seasons 1, 2, and 3 of Star Trek Enterprise, as well as the first season of Star Trek Voyager and both seasons of Jericho from Xbox Live Video Marketplace.

    However, after the second RROD replacement for my Xbox 360, when I attempt to access the shows that I paid serious money for, they are no longer available. Not anywhere. The episodes on my HD will no longer play, and attempts to play them generate a lovely error that the license for the product must be renewed… although there is no way to do so since the episodes (in fact the entire series) are no longer available on Xbox Live Video Marketplace.

    At least had I downloaded it from iTunes, it would still be resident on my PC’s hard drive and I could still enjoy the show I “purchased”.

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