Multimedia Tools

Adobe to add DRM to Flash video?

I imagine video remixers around the world are holding their collective breath today in hopes that Adobe will not go ahead and include Digital Rights Management (DRM) encryption in the new version of Flash servers.

One of the great byproducts of the emergence of powerful, free and easy to use media production tools like Jumpcut, iMovie and Windows Movie Maker is the emergence of the video mashup. Someone posts a video, perhaps to a video sharing site like YouTube, DailyMotion or a similar site, which then gets captured by someone else, remixed and recut to create something new.

Flash video is one of the technologies that is making this easy to do. The vast majority of video sharing sites are using this relatively new video protocol which, up until now, has been DRM free, unlike many other streaming media technologies like Real and Windows Media which have had DRM encryption fro quite some time. Ironically, the new version of Real Player includes a video download tool that allows you to download and save Flash video, but not Real video. Go figure.

Remixing is nothing new. But in a digital age, video remixing is becoming a powerful tool of both expression and media literacy. Seth Schoen at the Electronic Frontier Foundation makes a great point in his article:

Before we understand how to read media messages, we must first learn how to speak their language — and we learn that language by playing with and remixing the efforts of others. DRM, by restricting the remixing of Flash videos, stands to bankrupt a rich store of educational value by foreclosing the ability of students and teachers to “echo others” by remixing videos posted online.

There is another angle to this story. The fact that Adobe can use this new tool to effectively lock out any client side player except for an Adobe player. I don’t imagine Adobe would be so stupid as to shoot themselves in the foot and do this. One of the major reasons we are currently looking at purchasing a Flash server at our institution is precisely because it is much more platform neutral than Real, Windows Media or Quicktime. But corporations have done sillier things in the past in an attempt to control a market.

This will probably be a minor annoyance in the future as workarounds and hacks will become available should Adobe follow through with the plan to do this. But still it puts a hurdle in the way of remixers looking to build upon previous works to create new forms of art and express themselves in new and interesting ways.

CC BY 4.0 Adobe to add DRM to Flash video? by Clint Lalonde is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.