DRM: A Personal Story is another excellent article from ZDNet on the topic of Digital Restrictions Management.
The Digital Millenium Copyright Act was supposed to be legislation to update the copyright laws to protect copyright in an age of computers and one minute downloads. The biggest change to come from it was the idea that circumventing copy protection, no matter how simple and no matter what your intent, is now a felony. Unfortunately, technology talk goes over most heads, and when you mix in copyright, most people will have their eyes glaze over.
Well, this article makes it quite clear how DRM and the DMCA can affect customers adversely. Imagine trying to take a copy of a television program from your TiVo and copy it to your new video-playing iPod. It’s easy. It’s simple. It’s a felony.
And the fact that it is a felony is stupid.
Let’s ignore the fact that it is already illegal to upload a copyrighted file to a friend and that making it illegal to circumvent copy protection is just absurd overkill that doesn’t do much to discourage it anyway. What public benefit comes from turning your customers into felons just because they wanted to interoperate with other devices they own? You know, Fair Use? The reason why I am allowed to use my VCR to copy a television program for later viewing? The reason why I can take a VHS tape and convert it to DVD? The reason I can rip my music collection to OGG Vorbis or MP3 and play it on my computer? Why do my potential Fair Use rights have to be nullified simply because it would be illegal to take action to exercise those rights?
Who benefits? TiVo gets to keep its business model? Yeah, that’s nice. I can only watch a video on a device because that device makes it impossible to play the video on another device without requiring a law to be broken.
So, I will never get a TiVo. I will never get an iPod. I will never get a device that prides itself on being so proprietary and restrictive.
I would really love to read some decent pro-DRM articles, but any that I’ve found are just spreading Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. I really don’t believe that paying $15-$20 for a Dave Matthews CD and ripping it to my computer would actually bring about the downfall of the music entertainment industry. I really don’t think that the lack of a Broadcast Flag on television signals is going to destroy television. After all, the VCR didn’t bring about the ruin of the movie industry, even though the movie industry would have loved to have made the VCR illegal.