MLB rips off fans who bought DRM videos

Allan Wood (a baseball megafan who has written a book about Babe Ruth) purchased over $280 worth of digital downloads of baseball games from Major League Baseball, who have just turned off their DRM server, leaving him with no way to watch his videos. MLB's position is that since these videos were "one time sales," and that means that Wood and everyone else who gave money to MLB is out of luck -- they'll never be able to watch their videos again,.

MLB shut down the DRM server because they've changed suppliers, and now they expect suckers to buy downloads of games in the new DRM format. Anyone who does this needs their head examined -- using DRM itself is contemptible enough, but using DRM this way is just plain criminal.

Just got off the phone with a MLB customer service supervisor.

"MLB no longer supports the DDS system" that it once used and so any CDs with downloaded games on them "are no good. They will not work with the current system."

Great. Just effing great. ... As I told the supervisor, this is right in line with how wrong-headed and stupid and ass backwards MLB does everything.

I was told there is absolutely nothing MLB can do about these lost games. Plus, they said my purchases were all "one-time sales" and thus "there are no refunds".



  1. If this has happened to a lot of other fans, there might be grounds for a class action suit. Has anyone talked to a lawyer? If MLB doesn’t clear this up soon, that would be my next move.

  2. I believe VLC ignores all the DRM crud.

    VLC – the cross-platform media player and streaming server

    VLC media player is a highly portable multimedia player for various audio and video formats (MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, mp3, ogg, …) as well as DVDs, VCDs, and various streaming protocols. It can also be used as a server to stream in unicast or multicast in IPv4 or IPv6 on a high-bandwidth network.

  3. Thank God, being a Royals fan has finally paid off for once! We’ve had no games worth watching twice for twenty years!

  4. The WMP 10 format was quite clever, being a rats’ nest of encrypted DLLs in the player and an exchange of key pairs embedded in the file. However, it was inevitably broken: look for FairUse4WM and play the files using VLC. I can’t guarantee that this will work but it’s worth a go to preserve your investment if MLB aren’t going to honour it.

  5. DRM is the snake oil of the 21st century. It simply takes advantage of those that don’t know any better. It should be illegal, but since most legislators are also local snake oil distributors…

  6. thanks a lot for posting this.

    i imagine that fans who bought and downloaded games do not watch them very often and will likely get a rude surprise when they do decide to play their files/discs.

    while i pursue my refund — though i would prefer that mlb restore the page and i can see the games i want to see — i hope that word gets out to other fans and then they can raise a fuss also.

    (p.s. the book was about the 1918 red sox, not only babe!)

  7. “…but using DRM this way is just plain criminal.”

    IANAL but I suspect using DRM this way IS literally criminal. The come-on language on the MLB downloads says if you pay for a download you “own” it, and that you can relive the memories again and again.

    I think Mr. Wood should lawyer up. I suspect that a judge would be only too happy to slap MLB around for trying to withhold his legally purchased access to America’s Pastime.

  8. Well now this isn’t a case of broken DRM system, it sort of is, but this is more of a case that MLB obviously could care less about the fans, yeah, fans, you know, the people that they make their money from.

    Seriously, with less and less people even caring that baseball exists, you’d think MLB would try to not jack around people that actually cares about the game.

  9. Why make people pay for something once, when you can get them to buy it over and over again? DRM isn’t about protecting media from piracy, it’s about making it obsolete over time.

  10. If he knew he was buying DRM when he forked over his cash, I have no sympathy for his plight. You pretty much know sooner or later you’ll get screwed.

  11. Does anybody (more qualified than me) think that this would qualify under the abandonware or dongle exemptions under the DMCA?

  12. That’s funny, MLB’s own FAQ on the subject says the license will exist forever:

    “7. Do I have to obtain a license every time I want to watch the downloaded video?

    No. When you first try to play the video, a license will be distributed to you and stored by the player. Unless manually deleted, the license will exist forever and will be used when you try to watch the downloaded video on that machine. If you watch the video on a different machine, another license will be required.”

  13. As a baseball fan, I think this (DRM-crap on legally purchased MLB items) really sucks. However, since I first learned of DRM (from the BB gang), I’ve been berry berry careful of any and all purchases (whether ‘store-bought’ CDs, etc.), to make sure DRM is NOT included – I’ve even become somewhat of an ‘anti-DRM’ disciple, passing along the bad news to friends, and warning them of possible consequences ….
    Yeah, I think this guy does need some legal advice …


  14. Unusual Suspect @16, you misunderstand — the MLB clearly states that the license will exist forever, and it does. It says nothing about your technical ability to make the license actually display the content.


  15. Unfortunately, this is the kind of issue that’s a losing proposition for the consumer, unless something legal is put into place.

    If fans re-buy the content again (or just forget about the previous content and buy new games), MLB has no reason to treat fans better and other content providers may follow suit. They make their profits anyway.

    If fans don’t buy replacements and either stop watching or obtain their content from other avenues, MLB scream ‘piracy’ and demand that tighter restrictions are put into place. Since they have a monopoly on content, would-be customers can’t vote with their wallets.

    It’s a shame, and I don’t normally like this, but I think class action is the only realistic way to go.

  16. I’m told that MLB uses a different DRM service than it did a few years ago — and when they switched companies, all the old licensing keys were lost. Not being a tech guy, I would have assumed that the keys belonged to MLB and its indiviudal games.

    I believe that MLB’s claim that the license will go on your hard drive upon first viewing and then you are all set is a LIE. Even when the page was up a few years ago, I always had to log in to get a license even when I was playing a game for the 3rd, 4th and 5th time.

    And MLB supposedly gives you the opportunity to get a license on 3 separate compauters. Considering how often people upgrade their computers, it is only a matter of time before the files are kaput.

  17. Thingamadad @ #13, it’s people like you who make anti-DRM people look like kooks and assholes to the general public.

  18. @LochNess #22:
    How so?
    Thingamadad is merely stating what people should know by now. Captive, encrypted content you download has been around for almost 10 years now. It’s not like this sort of thing is brand new.

    Dealings and purchases with major media outlets are essentially deals with the devil. You should, by default, expect to get screwed at some point.

    Is it fair? No
    Is it ethical ? No
    Is it good business practice ? –Well, in the short term obviously yes because they’ve now got all these rubes’ money. In the longer term, no, it’s not. Maybe. Because like Star Trek or Star Wars or any other type of Fan, some of the MLB’s user base will bitch and moan and just ante up again in the end.

  19. I’m all for no DRM but as a media creator I’m a little fuzzy on exactly how you stop people from freely distributing your work product without it. Anyone have any ideas about that?

  20. That’s it! I’m canceling my account with And will tell them why too.

    @Automatt, how about a little trust to your paying customers? Why do you automatically think that they will misuse that trust?

    A lot of people are honest (I’d say the majority of people, but I have no figures to back that up, just a hunch), and are willing to pay for something that they want.

  21. @#23

    Of course people should know that DRM bites. The problem is that they don’t. If everyone knew what DRM was, no consumer would touch it with a ten foot pole. Or a credit card.

    Unfortunately media producers tend to use words like “secure digitally encrypted data format” rather than while making the (usually) true assertion that the media will at the very least be playable and the average consumer just figures whatever the DRM is named is another one of those nice-sounding but unimportant techno buzzwords.

  22. I don’t get it, why do you want to watch these videos more than once, surely you remember who won the first time?


  23. @#24 (Automatt)

    Of course even with DRM your work product still gets distributed freely. DRM doesn’t stop the pirates, it just screws paying customers.

  24. That’s weird, after reading this article, I went straight to my MLB folder with these videos to see if they still work, and all videos played just fine. However, I only have five games from 2006 and play them in WinAmp. Maybe this makes a difference?

  25. Michael @19: Funnily enough, it does:

    “If you watch the video on a different machine, another license will be required.”

    This would lead a reasonable person to conclude that watching the video on the same machine will use the same license.

  26. @#24 (Automatt): you don’t. You find a business model that works with it rather than against it.

    For software, that means charging for customising, installing and generally managing it for people.

    For music, it’s less settled, but one promising model is to charge for live performances.

    For other media, it’s even less settled; I guess the future will tell. It usually does…

  27. How about a DRM-based payment system?

    When the content gets revoked, you revoke your money: a message is sent to the bankers to let them know the little electronic bits you gave to the company are no longer worth anything.

    The lawyers say “the value of a thing, is what that thing will bring”. Therefore, if the value of the content is zero, it should bring zero, shouldn’t it?

  28. “I’m all for no DRM but as a media creator I’m a little fuzzy on exactly how you stop people from freely distributing your work product without it. ”

    You’re statement implies that with DRM, you can stop people from freely distributing your work.

    You can’t. DRM does not stop people from distributing your work and the salesmen who say it does are selling snake oil.

    So your question should be: “As a media creator, I’m a little fuzzy on how you get people to pay for my work, even though they can get it for free?”

  29. Looking at what Redsock has said, I think I can see part of the problem. If he has the files on CDs, the player *might* either need to write something to the file itself (the spec I read suggests that this could be the case) or the player regards a CD as a removable drive or somesuch and requires validation every time they play. The answer might be to copy the files back to a hard drive on a machine on which they have previously been played, if possible, and capture them to another file – WinAmp might do this but if not I’m sure there’s something around that will.

  30. I have a bunch of videos I purchased when the Red Sox won the WS in 2004. I have valid licenses for all but one, which I cannot get to play due to this stupid move by MLB. I will definitely be looking into using FairUse4WM to preserve my other files.

    I also don’t think I’ll be purchasing any DVDs from them this time around.

  31. Last year I experienced the similar frustration with my music store. After paying for dozens of music files, I can’t play them on my iPod that doesn’t support Microsoft DRM. But the sales representatives disagreed and insisted these files can work in iPod. How to do it? Three steps:
    1. Prepare a blank CD,
    2. burn all WM files into it
    3. rip them into mp3

    I put the name of songs in a P2P program, and all my problems were solved forever. I looked so silly to “illegally” download what I paid

    MLB just gives another great lecture why we shouldn’t buy DRM product. How silly to pay for what’s even more “inferior” than pirated products, paying for a shit that is too good to protect rights of copyright holder, not that of consumers.

  32. Well I guess they’ve finally realized that this needs to be taken care of, and that it won’t just go away, which is what I really think they were hoping would happen. I got this email today. I have not contacted them yet so who knows if this is actually going to work out for everyone.

    Dear Valued Customer,

    It has come to our attention that a small subset of our Digital Download customers are unable to access and watch certain games that they purchased prior to 2007. is committed to ensuring that all non-functioning Digital Downloads that were previously purchased are again made available at no additional cost to our customers.

    If you are unable to view any Digital Download game that you purchased prior to 2007, please contact Customer Service by either (1) sending an e-mail to listing the games that are no longer accessible, or (2) by calling 1-866-800-1275 to speak to a representative.

    We will then send you an e-mail containing information on how to re-download and access these games. Please note that all Regular Season games will be available, in the originally purchased format, and all Postseason games will be made available, in the same format currently used on

    We regret any inconvenience, and value your continued support.


  33. While that email is great I am still trying to recover two games from the 2004 playoffs. The policy they mention in this email “We will then send you an e-mail containing information on how to re-download and access these games. Please note that all Regular Season games will be available, in the originally purchased format, and all Postseason games will be made available, in the same format currently used on” is just not happening. After four more weeks of complaining they are now telling me it will be at least three more weeks.


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