Blog Post

MLBAM Switch Breaks Licenses For Thousands Of Video Downloads; Fix Now Being Offered After Outcry

Major League Baseball Advanced Media hit into a triple play with its recent switch to a new player for video downloads. Turns out the new system worked only with videos from 2007 forward; fans who purchased games in 2006 and earlier quickly discovered their purchased downloads were invalid. One of those fans, baseball historian Allan Wood, knew how to reach BoingBoing; his account set off a wave of bad publicity that could make steroids look good, especially since it included a customer service rep’s explanation that there was nothing MLB could do.

But it turns out that MLBAM can something after all. I just got off the phone with MLBAM spokesman Matthew Gould, who said fans who purchased games with the now-broken licenses will be able to get every game replaced free of charge by versions with the right license. (That doesn’t make up for the cost in time, and in some cases, materials like CDs. MLBAM might want to consider a credit towards one or more new downloads, too.) How did the usually cautious MLB end up in this mess? Gould: “In this case, we determined the previous product in this market was suboptimal.” They rushed to get the new product up before the end of the season, but, said Gould, “unfortunately, that transition was inelegant and we

8 Responses to “MLBAM Switch Breaks Licenses For Thousands Of Video Downloads; Fix Now Being Offered After Outcry”

  1. I have been trying to get a straight answer from MLB customer service for ten months. My games still won't play and I've been told a dozen different lies by their reps. There must be tens or even hundreds of thousands of customers involved in this mess. I have been told that it will be several months more before I am able to recover the games I paid for and I've been e-mailing and calling customer service (sic) since February of 2007. MLB initially said it was my fault for updating my mediaplayer software. I think they are still hoping this will go away and I don't believe they actually have a"fix" for the problem. Every time I call I gat a different story from them. We need a class action lawyer!!!

  2. Bob Murphy

    I am not going to argue about whether or not drm is the right technology for today. I will state I have had made two purchases using drm one from mlb and one from Walmart and both no longer work. Too easy to jump to conclusions here though?

    That said I would like to note that even though mlb wrote a wonderful email on 11/9/07 to many of it's customers and Staci above states that "MLBAM is rushing now to post details about the replacement videos" I still am unable to play the two videos I downloaded from 2004. Maybe I am misunderstanding what "rushing" means.

    Bob Murphy

  3. Michael Chermside

    Christopher Levy:

    I agree with you that modern DRM technology would have made it POSSIBLE for MLB to have done this transition without such a painful disruption to their customers. However, I'm apparently one of the "anti-DRM crowd in a swivet" because I still believe this is "one of the top examples of why DRM can’t be trusted".

    Observe that after this was posted to Boing Boing, Wired, Slashdot, Techdirt, and others MLB finally woke up and took notice, then resolved the problem. But surely you don't believe that they would have done so without the media pressure. If so, they would have done it sometime between April and when this whole thing broke to the media.

    The lesson here is not that DRM makes it impossible for the licensor (MLB in this case) to make a change in technology. The lesson is that DRM makes it impossible for the individual purchasing the content to be in control of the process. If MLB had been some small company that had gone out of business, then no one would ever have gotten their content back. If MLB had not begun to get slammed in the media, then no one would ever have gotten their content back.

    For the licensor of the content, DRM makes a lot of sense, but for the purchaser of the content it introduces significant risks (not to mention annoyances and technical headaches) for essentially no benefit.

    — Michael Chermside

  4. MLB's response is not acceptable.

    They have made no announcement about this debacle. They have shifted the responsibility of finding out about this mess to the customers. The only way (right now) a fan would know about this is when he or she tries to play one of the now-defective discs. There is a new error message that pops up.

    MLB has yet to step up and take responsibility for its screwup.

  5. Hey Chris,
    I saw your URL at the bottom. you are what cannot be trusted. I've heard these lies from the DRM industry for years, and we're not going to believe you now.

    I think the comment is educated and exactly what the situation called for.

  6. Staci,

    I think your comments about how "DRM can’t be trusted." are antiquated and unnecessary.

    DRM can be trusted. Thousdands of businesses worldwide use it on a daily basis with great success.

    "Decision Makers" that don't think through the transition of technology can't be trusted. I am sure if you look deeper into this sitaution you will find that nobody planned the transition or there was a break with the relationship with their provider or they just made a simple mistake.

    Don't hang this problem on DRM because the DRM didn't make the decision that broke the videos. The "Decision Makers" at MLBAM did.


    Christopher Levy