Digital Rent-a-Center Management

I make a brief appearance in a DRM protest video noted by Boing Boing today.

Kent Bye did a good job turning his footage into two minutes of watchable video. At least I don’t look or sound as stupid as I could or should have and his choice of backing music is good and appropriate.

One of the opposing comments on Bye’s blog:

As a consumer you have a choice of who to purchase from; and you must abide by the rules set by who you buy from. If you don’t like those rules don’t buy.

In my view the protest was about informing consumers of reasons they may want to exercise their choice to not purchase DRM content. I don’t think anyone was calling for making DRM illegal.

A brief quote about the inability to transfer rights to DRM content was also misunderstood by come commenters. The point I wanted to make is that consumers are getting a substantially different deal with DRM media than they have gotten in the past, indeed a substantially worse deal.

Only desperate or stupid consumers would lease a home theater from Rent-a-Center. DRM media should be seen in the same light.

Valleywag weighs in (flyweight!) with a sarcastic comment:

With all the hoopla in the tech world over trivia like censorship or the turning of political dissidents over to oppressive foreign governments, it’s good to know that this weekend, brave protesters picketed the San Francisco Apple store for that most basic of human rights — the right to play all kinds of music on the iPod.

Yes, plenty of room to talk with recent posts entitled ‘Google bachelor watch: Larry and Lucy “kissy-faced” in Maui’ and ‘Girl sues MySpace because boys are too hot’ … regardless, Valleywag critically misses the point that DRM and more generally copyright are free speech issues. I find the U.S. policy of encouraging intellectual protectionism abroad appalling. If you don’t think such will be used to further censorship in oppressive states (and supposedly non-oppressive ones) you are sorely lacking in the cynicism department. Go read the recent Bruce Perens essay Is DRM Just a Consumer Rights Issue?. I’ll also repeat two of my favorite sentences in the history of this blog under the subheading What Would Brezhnev Do?:

The Soviet Union took information control to extremes, including prohibiting use of photocopiers by scientists. I suspect that had the USSR survived to this day, the KGB would now be furiously trying to make Digital Restrictions Management work so as to gain access to a few of the wonders of computing without permitting open communication.

I could go on for awhile about why DRM is a bad thing, but in addition to the above I must briefly mention that DRM is deadly for long term data preservation, stifles innovation, is a security threat and doesn’t even prevent copying, the fantasy that it could with just the right legal backing leading to regulatory ratchet.

On the specifics of the Apple protest, see Seth Schoen’s writeup.

In closing, another zinger from Tim Lee:

I think the fundamental disagreement here is one about technology, not philosophy. Attaway believes that the flaws and restrictions imposed by DRM are temporary—kinks that will be worked out as more sophisticated technology is developed. If that were true, Attaway’s argument would have some merit. But the reality is just the opposite: as the media world becomes more complex, the flaws of DRM will only become more glaring. DRM is technological central planning. Centrally planned economies become less efficient as they grow more complex. For precisely the same reasons, centrally planned technologies perform worse as they become more complex.

3 Responses

  1. […] The children’s fable is about DRM and digital copying, without mentioning either. […]

  2. […] I don’t have anything new to say about DRM, so see Digital Rent-a-Center Management from June. […]

  3. […] 6/20/06: Linksvayer clarifies his thoughts on this matter on his blog The point I wanted to make is that consumers are getting a substantially different deal with DRM […]

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