DRM as a competitive threat to free software?

A Day Against DRM post. I posted another at Creative Commons.

Critiques of Digital Restrictions Management fall into about 10 categories:

  1. DRM causes various product defects
  2. DRM usurps people’s control of devices they own
  3. DRM discourages tinkering and understanding technology
  4. DRM discourages sharing
  5. DRM curtails various freedoms people would otherwise enjoy
  6. DRM encourages hostile behavior toward consumers
  7. DRM encourages monopoly
  8. DRM is technical voodoo
  9. DRM is business voodoo
  10. DRM presages more forms of attempted control, each with additional properties similar to those above, increasing the probability of a dystopian future.

Eventually I may link the above bullets to the relevant posts on DRM I’ve made over the years.

Defective By Design, a project of the Free Software Foundation, coordinates the Day Against DRM and various other anti-DRM actions. It is pretty clear that several of the problems with DRM listed above, particularly 2-5, are inimical to the FSF’s values. I sometimes think the linkage to core values of software freedom could be made stronger in anti-DRM campaigns, but these are not easily packaged messages. I also think there’s usually a missed opportunity in anti-DRM campaigns to present free software (and maybe free culture) as the only systemic alternative to creeping anti-freedom technologies such as DRM.

I began writing a post for Day Against DRM because I wanted to pose a question concerning DRM’s competitive threat to free software: how significant is it in today’s circumstances, and how significant in theory?

In today’s circumstances, the use of DRM that does not support free software platforms by popular media services (currently Netflix is probably most significant; DVDs with DRM have always been a problem) seems like a major barrier to more people using free software.

In theory, it isn’t clear to me that DRM must be a competitive threat to free software adoption (though it would remain a threat to software freedom and nearby). If a mostly free software platform were popular enough, DRM implementations will follow — most obviously Android.

However, I would also hope the dominance of free software would create conditions in which DRM is less pertinent. I would love to see enumerated and explored the current and in-theory competitive threats to free software posed by DRM, and vice versa.

2 Responses

  1. […] Still, it would be nice if libraries were to participate (even more, I know many librarians do) in anti-DRM activism, such as a Day Against DRM, which is today. Also see my Day Against DRM post from last year. […]

  2. […] have similar complaints about Defective By Design campaigns. Speaking of which, their No DRM in HTML5 campaign is highly […]

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