Right Symptoms, Wrong Diagnosis

by on May 20, 2006 · 4 comments

David Levine points out a post from James DeLong last week in which he identifies a real problem but comes up with a peculiar diagnosis:

Once of the risks of the P2P culture’s ethics–”it’s our music and we have a right to steal it”–is that consumers will end up worse off. Content creators, to obtain any return on their investment of time, energy, and money, will be forced to partner with particular hardware makers or distributors and tightly tether content to the specific channel. The result would be a loss of flexibility and interoperability.

You mean, like, the iTunes Music Store, which won’t work with non-Apple devices? Or Google’s video store, CinemaNow, Moviebeam, and MovieLink, none of which will easily play videos on an ordinary HDTV?

Every DRM scheme works by “tightly tethering” content to a specific platform. A few of them, such as CSS and Microsoft’s Windows Media, at least allow some third party licensees under the tent, but every single one of them contributes to “a loss of flexibility and interoperability.” DRM is the reason that you can’t play DVDs on an iPod, or iTunes songs on high-end stereo systems.

It’s not clear to me what DeLong thinks we ought to do about the growing balkanization of media technologies. As far as I can see, we’re currently trying all of the anti-piracy measures he supports: the courts are shutting down Grokster and company, we have the DMCA on the books, and the recording industry is suing thousands of individuals engaged in file sharing. If, after all of that, we see continued balkanization of media technologies, might that be a sign that our approach is wrong?

  • http://www.blindmindseye.com MikeT

    DeLong doesn’t understand the technical issues involved with “open DRM.” He seems to have an almost “magical” view of software development like if we just make the laws flexible and strong enough, open DRM will naturally happen. There are complex technical issues involved that he just doesn’t care to understand, such as where this DRM will be implemented in the device. Pure software DRM is flexible, but easily cracked. Adding a strong hardware component makes it very proprietary. Then you have to choose application-level, or OS-level.

  • http://www.blindmindseye.com MikeT

    DeLong doesn’t understand the technical issues involved with “open DRM.” He seems to have an almost “magical” view of software development like if we just make the laws flexible and strong enough, open DRM will naturally happen. There are complex technical issues involved that he just doesn’t care to understand, such as where this DRM will be implemented in the device. Pure software DRM is flexible, but easily cracked. Adding a strong hardware component makes it very proprietary. Then you have to choose application-level, or OS-level.

  • enigma_foundry

    This is yet another post that continues the long held tradition of the fascists at the PFF and TLF of ignoring the First Amendment problems inherent with legally protected DRM schemes.

    I have nothing against DRM if it is voluntary and not protected by statist powers that are inherent in the DMCA.

    When DRM becomes legally protected from being cracked and prohibits my implementation of the source code I may chose to compile on my own computer, that is where DRM crosses the line into land that infringes my First Amendment rights…

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com eee_eff

    This is yet another post that continues the long held tradition of the fascists at the PFF and TLF of ignoring the First Amendment problems inherent with legally protected DRM schemes.

    I have nothing against DRM if it is voluntary and not protected by statist powers that are inherent in the DMCA.

    When DRM becomes legally protected from being cracked and prohibits my implementation of the source code I may chose to compile on my own computer, that is where DRM crosses the line into land that infringes my First Amendment rights…

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