November 6, 2007

If You Purchased MLB Game Downloads Before 2006, Your Discs/Files Are Now Useless; MLB Has Stolen Your $$$ And Claims "No Refunds"

Great to see non-baseball sites like Boing Boing, Wired, Slashdot, Techdirt and others posting about this. Links in comments.

***

2nd Update: Baseball Think Factory has publicized the discussion.

Update: 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".

No refunds? As Lee Elia would say: "My fucking ass!"

My info has been submitted to some other MLB department which will review things and see what they can do about either getting me the games I paid for or refunding my $280.45.

So if you have downloaded any games prior to 2006, get those discs out and try to watch them ... then call MLB at 866-800-1275 and demand they refund your money.

***

MLB continues to steal money from baseball fans who have downloaded full games through its digital download service.

I have blogged about this problem twice this year -- April 5 and April 16.

Background: Beginning in 2003, MLB offered fans the chance to download full games to their computer at $3.95 each. When you attempted to open the media file -- either on your hard drive or after it was burned to a CD -- it connected with a MLB.com webpage to obtain a license. Once the license had been verified, the game would play.

From MLB's FAQ:
2. Why is a license used for my downloaded video?

All MLB.com Downloads are encrypted with Microsoft Digital Rights Management technology. DRM security requires a valid license before viewing the material. You must have Windows Media Player (version 10.0 or higher) downloaded on your machine to view downloaded video.

3. What is DRM?

Digital Rights Management is a technology that allows for the secure management of digital media. This security protects the content provider from unauthorized distribution, viewing and use of the material.
At some point during 2006, MLB deleted that essential webpage. Since then, none of the videos that fans purchased will play.

FAQ:
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.
This is a lie. Once MLB deleted the essential webpage, none of my CDs would play, even ones I had opened and watched previously.

Here is a screenshot (from last night) of what happens when I try to play a CD with a downloaded game on it:


By deleting the webpage and making it impossible for fans to watch the games they have paid for and downloaded, MLB has stolen $3.95 for every game from every fan. That must runs into the tens of thousands of dollars.

Since MLB started this download service, I have bought and downloaded 71 games -- many of them from the Red Sox's August-September 2004 hot streak -- which works out to a total cost of $280.45 (plus the price of the blank discs). Thanks to MLB, I now have nearly six dozen coasters.

When I contacted MLB in April, the people I spoke with expressed surprise at my predicament and claimed to have never heard of this problem before (naturally!). They said that MLB was overhauling its downloading system -- this was true -- and they told me to be patient because even though they had never heard of anyone with this problem, MLB was working on it.

More than six months have passed and nothing has changed. The essential webpage is still gone and my games will not play. I tried about 35 of them last night -- all with the same result.

And now MLB IS SELLING GAME DOWNLOADS AGAIN! Various 2007 playoff games -- and other games -- are available for $1.99. MLB is still using the DRM technology. Will the page fans use to watch these 2007 games be suddenly deleted in 2009?

Despite MLB's claim that I'm the only baseball fan on the face of the Earth with this problem, I know there are other fans out there who have been similarly ripped off -- because they read the April posts and either commented or emailed me.

I'm asking that if you also have discs that are now useless, call MLB at 866-800-1275 and complain.

It would also be helpful if some Boston or national sports media picked up on this.

Diehard baseball fans have paid tens of thousands of dollars to MLB to download games -- and MLB has pocketed the money and is now making it impossible for those fans to watch the games.

54 comments:

johngoldfine said...

I read your comments back in April... and the situation is no better now. You are obviously, rightly wicked steamed! Nothing like getting fucked over (and dealing with sales reps) to raise the blood pressure.

Spencer Brown said...

Let me say first that I never purchased any games and therefore I am not affected, nor do I have first hand knowledge.

However I am an IT guy and I have a feeling that this is not a deliberate theft, but just some IT screwup.

The main thing that has to happen here is to get this problem past the first level support and to someone who understands the issue and is willing to fix it (if such a person exists at mlb.com).

Just some advice: screaming and yelling about theft is not going to motivate them to work with you. Express it in terms of a problem to be solved. Engage the support person in the solution process. Say things like, "What do you think we should do here?" and "What's the next step to getting this resolved?"

Turn back the inevitable "there's something wrong at your end" dismissal by saying, "I am doing the same thing I always did" and "I know XX other people who have the same problem". If you have another computer that shows the same problem that's even better.

Good luck and I hope this works out for you.

redsock said...

However I am an IT guy and I have a feeling that this is not a deliberate theft, but just some IT screwup.

Not deliberate, perhaps, but done with absolutely no thought to how it would affect any customers. Or deliberately saying, as I got the distinct impression from the supervisor I spoke with, "only a small number of people will complain about this, so who cares".

Everything I have been told makes it crystal clear this was not an IT screwup. They could presumably fix that. They are telling me that MLB changed systems and the old one is now obsolete.

Just some advice: screaming and yelling about theft is not going to motivate them to work with you. Express it in terms of a problem to be solved.

I was quite calm, but firm. The stuff about how lame MLB is and how this is pretty much theft was not my main point. But I did want someone to hear it.

If you have another computer that shows the same problem that's even better.

The MLB supervisor said they had received a "minimal number" of complaints about this.

A guy named Chip commented on this back in April. Maybe he'll return.

***

The supervisor said that MLB took down the old system in September or October 2006. When the Sox signed Dice, I went back and ordered two of his WBC games. These discs do not work. Judging from that timeline, MLB was selling game downloads with the old system months after they had removed the old system from their website. Now, THAT is theft.

***

If anyone out there has any discs with games on them, try them out and let me know what happens.

redsock said...

And so the nice little collection of 23 Red Sox games from August 24 to October 2, 2004 -- pretty much every game they won in those five weeks, I think -- is now gone.

Thanks, MLB. Thanks a lot.

redsock said...

And who can guarantee that the system MLB issuing now -- as it sells more game downloads -- won't be thrown in thegarbage in two years and fans spending their money right now will be left with nothing.

While MLB pockets the dough and says, "Sorry, no refunds."

Colin said...

The wonders of technology. Right now I'm reading a facebook discussion by two NY high schoolers who claim Boston sucks and use classy lines like Jew fag and retort with oral sex remarks. The future of America ladies and gents...I'm fucked.

chris said...

Ugh, that's terrible.

If you don't get it resolved, I'm sure there's a way to illegally strip the DRM off the discs.

Spencer Brown said...

Hey I've got a great idea.

Get the geek press on your side.

Send this story to The Register

http://www.theregister.co.uk/

CNET News

http://www.news.com/

Groklaw

http://groklaw.net/

not to mention engaging the EFF

http://www.eff.org/

Craig said...

You should post your story to the consumerist blog. Also they have a number of good suggestions for dealing with situation like this

ish said...

Youk wins the 1B gold glove this year. Coco doesn't win one, which is too bad.

Gold Gloves:

1B: Kevin Youkilis
2B: Placido Polanco, DET
3B: Adrian Beltré, SEA
SS: Orlando Cabrera, LAA
OF: Ichiro, SEA
OF: Torii Hunter, MIN
OF: Grady Sizemore, CLE
C: Ivan Rodriguez, DET
P: Johan Santana, MIN

ish said...

NL Gold Gloves:

1B: Derrek Lee, CHC
2B: Orlando Hudson, ARI
SS: Jimmy Rollins, PHI
3B: David Wright, NYM
OF: Andruw Jones, ATL
OF: Carlos Beltran, NYM
OF: Jeff Francouer, ATL
OF: Aaron Rowand, PHI
C: Russell Martin, LAD
P: Greg Maddux, SD

This was Maddux's 17th Gold Glove, the most by any player in MLB history.

There was a tie in the voting process, apparently, so the NL has four outfielders awarded.

winchou said...

Fairuse4WM is your friend:

http://forum.doom9.org/showthread.php?t=114916

I used this on WMV files I purchased, and then switched to a Mac, so I stripped off the DRM with this tool, and the files can now be viewed with QuickTime player on my Mac. No DRM. And since I paid for and own the media files, I do believe I am covered by Fair Use laws (the same laws that allow us to record, say, music on old cassette tapes).

winchou said...

BTW -- did a quick double-check, and yes, I can still replay the last four games of the 2004 ALCS. Still fun to watch! Fairuse4WM, IMHO: legal. Good luck.

Justin said...

I haven't downloaded any games (except one). I was actually scared something like this would happen after I downloaded that one game. I wanted to be able to watch these games anytime anywhere, without having to have the internet at hand.

If redsock isn't able to resolve this, perhaps some legal action is in order. I would also continue to post info on forums (Red Sox related or otherwise) and write to newspapers and news sites. Spread the word, and perhaps MLB.com will start caring.

MLB.tv has improved slightly, and I'm debating on whether to renew my subscription.

L-girl said...

Spencer Brown and Craig have good ideas. You should follow up. I would if I were you.

L-girl said...

Just some advice: screaming and yelling about theft is not going to motivate them to work with you.

Allan is not a screamer or yeller. He may be venting frustrating at JoS, but he doesn't approach the reps that way. Take my word for it, he couldn't have done anything differently on his end that would have made one iota of difference.

L-girl said...

I can still replay the last four games of the 2004 ALCS. Still fun to watch!

They always will be!

James said...

Have you gone to the better business bureau? This is exactly why they exist:

http://welcome.bbb.org/

They should help you get a fair shake.

Dopewerewolf said...

If this has happened to a lot of other fans, you may have grounds for a class action suit. Have you talked to a lawyer? If MLB doesn't clear this up soon, that would be my next move.

Andy K said...

Your story is on BoingBoing...
http://www.boingboing.net/2007/11/07/mlb-rips-off-fans-wh.html

paralox said...

I know this may come off as rude, and the last thing I would want to do is kick you while you're down.

That said, this is *exactly* the kind of thing that happens when you use DRM.
You tried to buy it the right way, and they screwed you.

I bet you won't feel so guilty about downloading it on bittorrent now will you?

If you got those games pirated, they would call you a thief, but they are the thieves!

I always warn people not to buy(rent) music from DRM encumbered music stores, and people never want to listen, until they can't burn it onto cd or they can't play it on their mp3 player.

redsock said...

No problem.

I'm a HUGE bittorrent fan -- and have downloaded hundreds of gigs of concerts and studio outtakes.

I do not feel guilty about this at all. It is free -- no one is making any money and they are mostly all bands on whom I have spent a fair amount of money in the past (and will likely spend money on in the future).

There is a BT site that has some of the DS and CS games (demonoid.com), but when I went to it, I got this webpage/message:

"We received a letter from a lawyer represeting the CRIA, they were threatening with legal action and We need to start blocking Canadian traffic because of this. If you reside in Canada, that is the reason you are being redirected to this message. Thanks for your understanding, and sorry for any inconvenience."

So if anyone else wants to DL those games and send them to me, I'll be quite happy.

Now, I would rather buy a DVD of a game/series for the quality and pretty packaging, but if the game was not otherwise available, I have absolutely no qualms whatsoever about downloading it however I can.

Frank said...

I got screwed on this too.

I bought the 2004 Sox-Angels ALDS, mainly because I could not watch game 3 live and missed all the fun.

I also bought the ALCS and WS, but have since purchased the DVDs when they came out.

I'm out over 50 bucks, and quite frankly, this sucks....

Dennis said...

had a similar experience with mlb.com and their "customer service" in 2005 re: automatic renewal of streaming games. billed me $80 with no refunds for unwanted service. went all the way to the commissioner's office to have some flak-catcher tell me it wasn't their problem. would still like to get my $80 out of mlb's ass. anyone have any ideas??

L-girl said...

would still like to get my $80 out of mlb's ass. anyone have any ideas??

I recently had a similar problem with another company's automatic renewals, but I did get my refund. Since you have already followed it all the way up the chain, my advice is probably not useful.

After my complaint and request for a refund, they cancelled my account (which I had requested *before* the auto renewal). Cancelled the account - but no refund. So I was paying for service I didn't even have.

I wrote a letter - paper letter, followed up by email - to the company's CEO.

I said I was paying for a nonexistent account. I pointed out that an "all sales are final" clause in a Terms of Service is not a license to engage in fraudulent business practices. You can't steal from your customers - charge whatever you want to their credit cards - then claim "all sales are final".

I threatened a lot of bad PR on my blog and with letters to local media, and they gave in.

MLB is a much bigger company than this place was, so you have a steeper hill to climb.

I'd look for a watchdog agency of some sort, and complain to them. When Time Warner Cable refused to give me a refund that was due me, the Public Service Commission of New York State got them to do it. You need some sort of consumer protection agency, possibly through your state.

Good luck, I hope you get it.

the_other_steve_jobs said...

simple.

thepiratebay.org

and thousands of sites just like it. When you get downloads from them, they never stop working.

L-girl said...

When you get downloads from them, they never stop working.

But that in no way solves the problem with MLB.

redsock said...

In addition to Boing Boing, Wired has also posted about this. As has Can't Stop the Bleeding.

I also spoke with a writer from the Los Angeles Times this morning.

redsock said...

i am familiar with thepiratebay and similar sites. but it is rare that any baseball games show up at those sites -- and even rarer that it is a game i am looking for.

redsock said...

Eric Bangeman at Ars Technica also wrote a story about this.

redsock said...

See also: Slashdot.

Ryo said...

I bought the 2004 ALDS and G4-G7 of the 2004 ALCS (for the non-Fox feed/different camera angles/no commercials), though I haven't dragged them out in quite some time. When I unearth them after my upcoming move, I will most definitely harass MLB (because WOW does this piss me off) since I PAID for the damn games.

Also, I am an attorney, and while IP isn't my area of specialty, if any sort of groundswell of pissed off MLB customers begins, I'm happy to look into class-action lawsuits on this.

redsock said...

Tech Dirt begins: "It's really amazing how far Major League Baseball goes towards pissing off its fans."

Download Squad calls MLB's action "the biggest bonehead move since Bill Buckner's error in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series".

Ryo said...

You know, the more I think about this, the more I think affected people should write letters to their state Attorneys General to get the ball rolling. I know you're in Canada -- is there an analogous person in your province? Or perhaps you can write to the AG of your former state.

I know bad press is a great avenue, but legal pressure may be more effective.

redsock said...

Or perhaps you can write to the AG of your former state.

That would be New York -- which I suppose is handy since MLB's main offices are in Manhattan.

redsock said...

AOL's Fan House too.

"The unfortunate side effect of all of this is that you're only able to watch the games when and how MLB wants you to. ... And because MLB switched DRM providers in 2006, any file bought before then tries to access a web page that no longer exists ... meaning that file is completely unreadable and nothing but wasted space on a hard drive."

redsock said...

Link at Digital Media Wire

Ryo said...

Hmmm, interesting, I just logged into my MLB.com account, and under "My Downloads" I see:

ACCOUNT MANAGEMENT - MY DOWNLOADS

You have not purchased any products


News to me, since I have.

New York AG is a really good place to start. I'm in Massachusetts. I'll think about this tonight, maybe poke around a bit on lexis-nexis.

chris said...

I'd be happy to download any red sox games, but I only see games 1, 6 and 7 of the cleveland series on demonoid, as well as the buchholz no hitter.

chief said...

Wow, I'm impressed with the play this is getting - it's great. DRM is awful and this one of the best examples of why. As several people at Slashdot said, "thanks MLB."

Also, loved this from the Wired article: "Currently, the only solution is to move to Pittsburgh and become a Pirates fan, so that you never want to watch the same game twice."

Kevin M said...

I wish everyone would know that with DRM, you are not buying a product, but renting it where the owner can take it from you at any time, with no warning. Buy a book, no DRM, you get full rights, forever. 'Buy' a DRM download, and something in your home is taken away without any warning and then the Owners (not you) say 'buy it again' (and again when we switch to a new DRM). DRM is anti-consumer. (google 'defective by design')

redsock said...

Wow, I'm impressed with the play this is getting - it's great.

Don't fuck with the Sock!

Seriously, this shows that complaining can get traction and, hopefully, results.

TjL said...

A) This totally sucks and reflects EXACTLY why DRM is such an abomination. Had you bought these on DVD, they would be yours forever.

B) This is totally AWESOME because it will help draw attention to the fact that DRM sucks and explain WHY it sucks.

Ofer said...

Hey Allan, is there anything in particular you want downloaded? I'm coming back to Toronto for 2 days tomorrow night, so if there's something specific I can download it and bring it.

chip said...

"A guy named Chip commented on this back in April. Maybe he'll return."

I'm still here. And I'm still screwed out of watching games I legally purchased.

Steve said...

You might also want to send a letter to Red Sox management and send carbon copies to the Red Sox PR department and local news media and ask if the Sox support the MLB's position. Indicate that unless something changes, you will not be purchasing any more games and that you will not be able, in good conscience, to recommend to your friends and family that they purchase any games.

Daniel said...

I completely fail to understand the complaints. I bought several 2004 games after the World Series was over and before I learned that the DVD box set was going to be released. Every single one of them continues to play from my hard drive, just as MLB says that once you've acquired the license, you are good to go from that PC forever.

I also just burned a copy of the Bloody Sock game, to see if there would be any difference, as the author claims that his burned discs don't work either.

It played fine.

I'm not defending MLB but I have no idea why I have no problem at all and others do.

Laughing Man said...

Re: Daniel

It just goes to show how fickle computers are. When MLB decided to use DRM for the downloads, they were only thinking about protecting their pocketbook.

Would it work properly on everyone's computer? What happens in ten years when people switch to their fourth computer? What's our plan when we switch systems? Apparently, these are questions they didn't ask one another when they were so quick to roll out downloadable games to make that money.

The decision-makers were probably people who knew very little about how their product would work.

S.D. said...

You might be interested in the news story we posted tonight reporting MLB's solution -- updated downloads to replace any from 2006 or before. http://www.paidcontent.org/entry/419-mlbam-switch-breaks-licenses-for-thousands-of-video-downloads-fix-now-b/"

L-girl said...

You might also want to send a letter to Red Sox management and send carbon copies to the Red Sox PR department and local news media and ask if the Sox support the MLB's position.

This is a good idea. I'd skip the local media, except for the folks you have a relationship with, like Edes, Ian Browne or Art at Projo. But writing to the Sox is definitely a good idea.

ozonepilot said...

if you use a proxy server,you can access the files on demonoid.com.....from canada!!!! you won't get that message!

techiescum said...

I can agree with all this and it is still going on. I purchased two games back in 04 and neither of them work now. This year I thought I would give them another shot, seeing the Sox won again, but they screwed up again. I purchased 8 playoff/WS games this year and I can only download seven of them. I keep getting the run around from them saying they will escalate my call or forward to a supervisor. It has been since 11/13 when I made my purchase and today is 12/5 and I still can't get to one of my new games or my two games from 04. They suck.

BFox said...

I've been tracking this story since it arose last year. It's now March and it's apparently lost a lot of traction since there hasn't been a lot of activity/news on any site since last November. I had the same experience. And MLB.com eventually was able to restore some of the download links, but only a small fraction. Other links are dead and no amount of complaining (whether by email or phone) is doing any good. It's a lost cause. My only comment is that it's surprising given the level of service on this issue (as well as the blackout rules, the DirecTV episode, etc.) that MLB thinks it has a gold mine with its MLB "Advanced Media" properties. It's just more evidence that MLB must consider fans to be like smokers who will tolerate any amount of abuse to get their fix. What's next after this so I can further be embarrassed to admit I spend my money on this MLB junk?

sgigantesq said...

I too, cannot view my Yankee RedSox playoff game I purchased back in about 2002. The first problem is that the Commissioner of MLB is is a Demented Polish Used-Car Salesman from Milwaukee, who was miffed that his Braves were stolen (Ha, they were Boston's team, and Milwaukee was a brief stopover)and decided to buy a replacement franchise when they were cheap. While I know the aforementioned phrase was redundant a plurality of different ways, MLB is run by the most incompetent of people...Senior citizen white guys who are half way on their way to alzheimers and have no clue how to run a lemonade stand, let alone a "business" like baseball