Geek / Technical Politics/Government

Digital Restrictions Management

I’ve talked about so-called “Digital Rights Management” before, but I’ve noticed that it is coming up a lot on ZDNet. For instance, Sun is trying to come up with an open DRM, but I don’t care how open a system is if the purpose of the system is to restrict what I can do with music and movies. “I’ll bind your arms and legs to a chair, but I’ll tell you where I got the rope, how much it cost, and how much pressure I applied to tie the knot.” Thanks, but no thanks.

The latest I’ve read is We the Sheeple (and other tales of DRM woe). Basically, another ZDNet blogger didn’t think that DRM was that big of a deal, and so the author tried to make better arguments.

People will readily point out the dangers and health risks of smoking. It’s fairly straightforward and easy to understand. Smoke, and you get cancer. Smoke, and your family and friends will get sick. It’s easy to fight against companies that make so much money off of a product that is so dangerous to the public.

Copyright law, on the other hand, is confusing enough as it is. People in general don’t know an operating system from the company that produces it, and since DRM is tied so intimately with technology, most people won’t care enough to be up in arms about it.

There are some serious concerns, of course. DRM puts a lot of control into the hands of the copyright holders, which isn’t so bad in and of itself. What is bad is how overreaching it is. Fair use is still fair use, but just owning the means to circumvent DRM in order to do something protected under fair use is a felony in the United States under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA). Very clever. “Yes, you are allowed to play your music on any player you want. Yes, you are allowed to use a few seconds of audio for your class project. Yes, you are allowed to make a mix CD. No, you can’t copy the music from the original CD to do so.” Absurdly lovely.

Or how about when TiVo automatically deletes episodes of shows you haven’t had a chance to watch yet? Or when your new VCR isn’t allowed to tape certain shows because the television broadcast contains a no-copy bit?

Be a good little consumer and roll over.

Digital Restrictions Management: just one of the reasons I prefer to use a Free operating system.