Western Digital has launched new My Book hard drives that limit the user's ability to share files.
The company ships a range of My Book drives with Anywhere Access technology – software that's designed to enable PC users to access their files from a network. Western Digital has applied a huge quantity of digital rights restriction technology to prevent users of the drives sharing unauthorised files, including music and video clips.
While Anywhere Access software currently only works with Windows systems, Western Digital's actions could have ramifications across the computer industry. Western Digital is the world's second largest hard-drive manufacturer, after Seagate. Most of the world's hard drives are built by just a handful of companies.
Unfortunately, the implementation of the technology to protect copyright also sees sharing of popular file formats completely restricted - even if the files to be shared are created by users themselves.
When announced, the company trumpeted Anywhere Access as, "simplifying access to digital content and breaking the barriers of physical proximity to that content".
It allowed users with compatible drives to access content held on that drive remotely over the internet, or at least, that's what was promised.
Western Digital declared its software would: "Enable friends and family to share digital content such as photos and documents anywhere in the world without the hassle or insecurity of having to upload it to a third-party site."
Not so. The restricted solution forbids access to 30 different file formats, mainly video and music formats.
Digital activists say it is the latest step in a so-called war on copyright theft that is damaging consumer rights, the BBC reports. Peter Brown of the Free Software Foundation told the BBC: "DRM is bad for society because it attempts to monitor what we do and how we live our digital lives. It is asking us to give up control of something which gives us some degree of democracy, freedom and the ability to communicate with a large group of people."