how DRM fucks academics

One of the cardinal rules of doing ethnography is that you keep everything. Normally, this concerns the physical world so you keep letters, receipts, photos, anything that you can possibly get your hands on. We’re all still trying to figure out what this means in digital land. During my work on Friendster, i was terrible about keeping records. I should’ve kept copies of Profiles; i didn’t. I should’ve kept copies of funny videos and other such stuff; i didn’t. I very much regret this, because so many of those Profiles were deleted and now i have no record of what all happened. But then again, i didn’t think i was doing research. Mistakes made, lessons learned.

So, now, i’m really doing research. And i’m trying to keep copies of things that i analyze. Of course, saving every webpage is difficult so i fully admit that i’m doing a poor job of this. But my bigger problem is that i want to keep copies of the video that i run across. The bulk of it is on YouTube locked down by DRM. Although there are ways of getting this out of YouTube, going from flv to something usable is a bitch on a Mac. And damned if i can get .flvs working on a Mac.

The thing that is going to kill me about all of this DRM bullshit is how it completely eliminates fair use. I should be able to keep copies of these videos and mark them up as artifacts. Instead, i’m locked out. Unfortunately, explaining the DRM problem to committees who want to know why you aren’t storing the artifacts is impossible right now. Gah. Frustrating.

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12 thoughts on “how DRM fucks academics

  1. Jacob Haller

    Wow, that is _not_ a good user interface. OK, here’s how I got it to work.

    1) Open flv_viewer_0.3.osx.

    2) On the screen that opens up, click on ‘Choose Folder’.

    3) Navigate to the folder that contains the video you want to watch and click on ‘Choose’.

    4) The videos in that folder should now have been added to the flv_viewer screen; they should be listed under ‘FLV List’.

    5) Click on the name of the video you want to view. It should start playing.

  2. Marco Fabbri

    Hi Danah, the patched (whitelisting bug) slogger mozilla extension is at . To save youtube videos I suggest using this GreaseMonkey script . To watch the downloaded videos VLC Player from VideoLAN ( ) is really nice; it is the swiss knife of video playing (you name a video format, VLC will be able to play it). In addition, using VLC, you can easily transcode the downloaded videos to other formats.

  3. Anonymous

    FLV is not DRM protected content; it is freely distributable (as far as I know there isn’t even a way to provide DRM with FLV format). Content is encoded into FLV rather than another format because flash player is the most widely used & available cross-platform browser plugin.

    FLV is one of many container formats for video. Container formats are file formats which package up encoded audio and video streams. FLV can wrap many different video and audio codecs (compression/decompression schemes), though FLVs from YouTube come only with the FLV1/MP3 video/audio codec combination.

    Other container formats include:

    ASF/WMV (Windows Media)
    MOV (Quicktime)
    RM (RealMedia)

    There are plenty of available FLV players for any platform, though VLC is, in my opinion, the best one out there.

    Apologies if that was too technical – I wrote the video encoder for a high profile video site very similar to YouTube and thought I would share what I learned.

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