Yes, DRM Matters!!!

I have never really gotten into the whole debate over Digital Rights Management, or “DRM,” as it’s usually called. In general, I’m not against the concept: if a product has value and is “for sale,” it’s within the rights of the salesman to take steps to ensure the item is used properly. So long as the technology was unobtrusive, it didn’t bother me. Recently, I’ve been reconsidering. Read on for more.

In general, it’s not unheard of or unacceptable or even uncommon to offer something conditionally. For instance, I think everyone agrees that when you rent a house, the landlord gets to keep a key and specify that you can’t have more than X people living in the house. When you get a driver’s license, you agree to follow a set of rules on the road.

I had no problem agreeing to Apple’s EULA with OS X, promising that even though I owned the software, I wouldn’t install it on non-Apple hardware. I have no problem agreeing to buy an application and install it only once on one computer. I don’t mind having to “activate” software over the internet. So I’ve always thought of myself as not being very “into” the DRM battle. These things didn’t and still don’t bother me, because they don’t limit me from doing things I ought to be able to do.

Recently, I went to a friend’s house to help him backup his data. He had purchased all of his music from Apple through the iTunes store via iTunes on Windows, and here he was – committed to iTunes, period. In fact, his “protected” music was no intrinsically tried to iTunes. Same goes for his older Windows Media (WMA) files. They weren’t something he could copy to Linux or a Mac. They were tied to Windows. And it occured to me: this is precisely what I was trying to avoid! This was why I encoded all of my music and MP3 and Ogg Vorbis. This was why I never bought songs online. This was why I converted so many of my old documents to PDF or OpenOffice.org XML. I had saved myself from ever going through this nonsense.

Now, many will saw I’m just slow and I’m realizing what many have known for ages, but the fact is, it doesn’t always register until you experience it. Why do we put up with this? Why do we buy things that destroy legitimate use in order to prevent mass piracy that .001% of users might engage in? Why is is acceptable to buy music that limits the platform and method by which we can play it? Why do we accept our own data – whether it be file formats (such as MS Word documents), or media formats (such as copy-protected DVD) that prevents us from accessing our data?

It’s important to distinguish between software limitations and rights management. It’s fair to ensure you paid for software before you can use it. I’m not for thievery, I’m not for mass piracy, I’m not for chaos and anarchy. It’s not legal to buy a DVD and copy it for all your friends, and it shouldn’t be permitted. But it shouldn’t be restricted by software. I don’t believe everyone has a right to free music. But I don’t think it’s fair that if I buy a CD, I can’t rip it.

DRM affects EVERYONE.
You may not see it: perhaps your iPod just seemlessly works for you.
You may not feel it: you pop in your DVDs, they play.
You may not notice lock-in: everywhere has Microsoft Word, so I can save all of my data here.

But we’re all experiencing it slowly, as we become more and more dependent upon technology that controls and limits. DRM Day was yesterday, and I’m going into this year heads up about DRM.

4 Replies to “Yes, DRM Matters!!!”

  1. I agree with you.

    Regarding DVDs btw, it’s not illegal to rip them or make a backup, but it’s illegal to break their locking mechanism with DeCSS (or whatever it’s called). Without using this library to unlock the DVDs you can’t do anything with them. And they have outlawed this action.

    So basically, it’s like MPAA telling you: “it’s perfectly ok with us to drink from this can of Sprite but you are not allowed to open the can”. 😉

  2. Just don’t buy that stuff. There are enough sources to buy music online as ordinary mp3s without DRM. Some of them, like eMusic, are a lot cheaper too.

  3. In what I am about to say I am definitely going out on a limb, as they say, and realise that most people, with possibly a few exceptions, will not agree with everything I say. More especially since I am going to extend the concept anent life as it pertains to the subject matter of the article to which I am responding beyond the much cherished human concepts and the prevailing thought systems of the time in which we live as these are held steadfast to by humanity as though their conceptualisation is irrefutable and absolute. This, I realise, is not going to make me popular with those who dogmatise this aspect of human life and who refuse to consider the possibility and the feasibility of anything else. These people do not think for themselves, but have others think for them in blindly accepting the prevailing system as the sole system that is viable and indeed, as already posited, possible.

    It is my considered opinion that several of the analogies you use or parts thereof, as you utilise the Law of Correspondences or Analogy, are too generalised to apply effectively in this instance in the DRM debate.

    Most of us realise there are certain rules and even regulations pertaining to renting a property, etc. However, a lot of these rules and regulations are for all intents and purposes reasonable. The same, however, cannot necessarily be said of those of which apply to DRM. Reasonableness, as with so much of which pertains to human life on this ostensibly backward planet, has been thrown out the door in a concerted effort to artificially restrict the freedoms and the rights of the inhabitants of this planet in a paradigm of control, manipulation and extortion for profit in an extreme capitalistic society of which has effectively destroyed true democracy and is continuing to do so at an increasing and distinctly alarming rate.

    Humans would virtually cut their own throats or sell their souls for the sake of unessential business and government profit at their individual cost and peril. By unessential, I suppose I should clarify, I mean profit gained from unnecessary stipulated conditions applied to goods and services. This is a planet comprised of weird inhabitants. The way modern society is going, the consumer-citizen will not be able to do anything because all rights and freedoms except for a miniscule basic set of rights and freedoms will have been taken away from them by business and government. If you think this is an unrealistic prediction and a nonsensical utterance of an irrational as well as fanatical alarmist or conspiracy theorist, then I encourage you to look carefully and fully at what’s happening in the present to have an idea of where things are heading.

    Let’s face it, copyright, trademarks, IP and DRM are purely human concepts. As such, they are not absolute in life but relative to their adoption as a specific system within the culture of a planetary civilisation and any society therein. In effect, they’re an artificial creation, even as is a monetary system. That humanity at large makes of them a form of absolutism is humanity’s misguided assumption and detrimental mistake. Although such systems may be developed on this planet, they’re not essential for society’s existence outside of the adopted system. In fact, they only become a requirement of a specific system and where the inhabitants of that society or world do not abide by the established laws of society or if these systems are imposed by the authorities in business and government as a means of control, manipulation and extortion. I don’t deny anyone the ability to make money in order to live in the world, even though as I’ve said I don’t believe in a monetary system or even a bartering system for that matter, but I do take exception to those systems of control. manipulation and extortion whereby people’s natural rights and freedoms are subverted by a corrupt, selfish and greedy system.

    In contradistinction to the oft espoused and erroneous human thinking, no creation, no technology and no idea can be owned by anyone. All such things are an outcome of the nature of the Universe and of life itself. No human can claim any of these as their own to laud over any other human in a system of control, manipulation and extortion. It’s actually impractical alongside being preposterous to assume and to out picture otherwise.

    So long as the computer user holds to a genuine ethical standard, the computer they have purchased with its hardware and software, plus any additions thereto, should be free of any illegitimate restrictions of usage. I would even go so far as to say that no restrictions should be built into a system even if the purchaser of the system have a propensity to break copyright law. I for one do not want any person, business or government to tell me what I can or cannot do on or with my computer or for these category of people and institutions to use some form of programming to build in restrictions as to usage of hardware or software on a machine I have purchased. To me, if not to the vast majority of people, these built-in restrictions are tampering with hardware and software and are unethical practices themselves. I, for instance, should not have to contact Microsoft to convince them that I am doing nothing illegal with my system in order to obtain a key to unlock a system that has been locked and thereby is unusable because I happened to add or change hardware too frequently. To have to do this is absurd, irrational and utterly stupid. Humans can think as they please, but it is wrong and manifestly unjust. There are other ways and means to deal with pirating and the like.

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