Google Music’s Deactivation Fiasco and the Failure of “Anti-Piracy” Systems

Google Music’s Deactivation Fiasco and the Failure of “Anti-Piracy” Systems

May 18, 2012

Google Music users have recently run into an issue where they were hitting the maximum of ten devices activated for the service. Now, how are people hitting this limit? Who really has 10 different devices to use Google Music on? I would struggle to hit that limit, and I’m some kind of arch-nerd!

Well, the problem is actually that for users who install new ROMs on their Android phones, downloading and activating on the new install often means adding a new device is added to the account, though it’s really just the same device. Google does let users deactivate devices from their account, but only 4 per year.

Why this arbitrary limit? Apparently the media companies they are now in bed with are concerned about people activating many devices on one account, and don’t want many devices being switched in and out. Because if they could activate and deactivate at will, then music piracy would run rampant! Because it isn’t already!

The limit has temporarily been lifted due to user complaints. The solution seems to be either identify devices by IMEI, so that reinstalls of system software don’t take up the limit, or to perhaps do a blanket deactivation, as with iTunes accounts – just have a button to deactivate all devices at once. Or, just eliminate all limits, because seriously, this is likely only putting a very small dent in the ‘problem’ of music piracy. In fact, this seems like a rather novel way to share large collections of music.

It’s funny that this story comes out this week, after all, Diablo 3 ran into issues where trying to prevent piracy was affecting legitimate users. The official servers were overloaded with users trying to sign on right at launch, even for singleplayer play, because all characters were stored on Blizzard’s services. Yet, reports are out that the game has already been cracked, allowing anyone who pirates the game to play without being required to log in.

Gabe Newell once said that the way to beat piracy is to be more convenient than piracy. It’s why Netflix is so popular – it’s affordable and extremely convenient for its huge library of content. Some giant companies just still don’t get it.