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Day against DRM

  • 3rd Oct, 2006 at 3:03 PM

Day against DRM
Originally uploaded by Naufragio.

Today is the day against DRM.

Thousands of people around the world are spreading the word about Digital Restriction Management technologies. The interesting thing about the people building DRM systems is that they're doing evil. They may not think they're doing evil, after all they're generally good people, doing their jobs, feeding their families, and protecting their interests. It's not a big evil, but it is a subtle one. And that's why you shouldn't support them.

For decades, the music industry has been making money by selling records and tapes. This was a good business, because it was difficult to produce records, and it was difficult to get tapes into the hands of consumers. They made quite a tidy sum over production and distribution of art, which is a pretty decent living. But then came the Internet. And the Internet got big. Big enough that you're reading what I'm writing, even though we come from completely different backgrounds and are probably miles apart. The interesting thing about the Internet is that copying a song and sending it to someone else costs almost nothing. Zip, zero, zilch.

Now traditional media distribution houses are upset. The service they performed was valuable and the goods they sold were scarce. Nowadays, neither of those are true. People can record music in their garages, edit it on their computers, and publish it online. The digital medium has turned art from a scarce resource into an abundance.

So what do these companies do? They feel that they have to protect their existing business models so they try to push through laws that would make it illegal to provide abundance. That's like arresting farmers for planting seeds they've harvested from their own wheat. But this is wrong. People are now using the Internet to make and distribute art like we've never seen before. The proliferation of new songs, new pictures, new videos is just enormous. The creative community has exploded through sharing, some of it illegal, and we can all see what a vibe this has caused.

DRM is meant to put a stop to that. It's designed to have two components: one is the technology that monitors and restricts what you can do with the art that you've bought, the second is the legislation that makes it illegal to circumvent this technology. So only criminals will be able to give music to their friends. But criminals will do that anyway, laws won't prevent DVD duplication in Asia. They will, however, stop you from listening to music in ways some corporation doesn't want you to.

What can you do about it? Make it known that you're against DRM. Make it known that you're against proprietary systems that stifle the creative spirit. And only purchase open systems. Not just because it's the right thing to do, but also because they won't hold you hostage.


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
4th Oct, 2006 00:50 (UTC)
Yes, I do. However, I don't use it much.
3rd Oct, 2006 21:41 (UTC)
They may not think they're doing evil, after all they're generally good people, doing their jobs, feeding their families, and protecting their interests. It's not a big evil, but it is a subtle one.

subtle and insidious....
4th Oct, 2006 00:50 (UTC)
3rd Oct, 2006 21:48 (UTC)
Any events going on in Montreal for it?
4th Oct, 2006 00:50 (UTC)
Not that I know of. And none that Google seems to know about either.
4th Oct, 2006 00:23 (UTC)
Thanks for the clearly worded explanation!
4th Oct, 2006 00:49 (UTC)
You're quite welcome.
4th Oct, 2006 04:18 (UTC)
The Wheat... A random comment.
Actually, farmers have been sued for planting "from the bin" as seed companies have patented their genetically modified seed.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monsanto -- Look under the plantiff section. It can actually carry a prison sentence, according to the article.
4th Oct, 2006 05:10 (UTC)
Re: The Wheat... A random comment.
I'm well aware of Monsanto and how ludicrous their practises are.
4th Oct, 2006 05:38 (UTC)
Re: The Wheat... A random comment.
Apologies... wasn't trying to correct you. It was a proper analogy, I just read it wrong. Nice post, BTW.
4th Oct, 2006 19:24 (UTC)
I don't personally like DRM either. However, I'm not sure I completely agree with your description of its intentions. The large record labels want DRM to restrict how you can use music you buy from them, yes. Many of the DRM schemes are overbearing, annoying, etc. However, sharing copyrighted music is illegal. It was illegal before the Internet came along, so enforcing that particular restriction, while perhaps annoying, is somewhat to be expected. Removing rights that *were* previously enjoyed, such as the right to make a copy for backup purposes, or the right to play the music you bought on whatever device of your choosing, is obviously bad, and many (maybe even all) DRM schemes do remove some rights that we (as consumers) previously enjoyed.

All of this, however, is completely orthogonal to the "grassroots" media creation phenomenon you describe. DRM does not stop you or anyone else from creating some media on your PC and posting it on the web. You can post it in a non-encumbered format and grant permission to everyone to share it freely. DRM isn't stopping you from doing that, so I cannot agree that "DRM is meant to put a stop to that."

It is in fact my hope that grassroots media creation will someday eclipse the big media houses, so even though they'll still have DRM, it won't really matter since all the good stuff will be from grassroots people.
5th Oct, 2006 07:38 (UTC)
The problem with DRM is that it doesn't just affect one section of the media creation industry. It affects all of it.

Like you said, fair use rights are trampled upon, so you can't make new art out of old. No DRM scheme exists today that accounts for copyright lifetimes, effectively imposing eternal copyright. And with technologies like the MPAA's proposed broadcast flag and the U.S.C. DMCA, we can only assume that restrictions will be on by default.

Indeed, with several proposed laws, it may become illegal to manufacture a device that isn't encumbered.

I'd even like to argue that with digital media, although it may be illegal to copy out chunks of data to use in your own art, I can't say to myself that it's immoral. Just look at some of the incredibly fantastic remixing that DJs do, by sampling and introducing their own work. People will always make art, but when technology prevents art from being made, that's a damned shame.

So we have to convince people that sharing art is much healthier than having it hoarded away. And it looks like people are being convinced because they violate the law to do what they think of as the right thing.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )