Copyright Placebo

by on November 23, 2005 · 2 comments

One of the most bizarre things about the DMCA debate is the way its advocates hyperventilate about the horrors that would ensue if anyone were ever allowed to circumvent DRM technologies, while conveniently ignoring the fact that many existing DRM technologies are as airtight as Swiss cheese. Ed Felten has a partial list of the ways that Sony’s MediaMax DRM scheme (for those who haven’t been following this closely, Sony uses two different DRM scheme, and this is the less spyware-like one) can be circumvented. And not a single one of these methods require any sophisticated “hacker” techniques–they involve such devious techniques as holding down the shift key while inserting the CD.

DRM advocates might counter that DRM acts as “guard rails” to encourage lawful users to obey the law, rather than locking up content to make piracy impossible. But if that’s true, why bring the law into it in the first place? MediaMax would be every bit as effective if the DMCA were repealed: casual users would still be deterred, while determined pirates are barely slowed down by the MediaMax DRM scheme.

As I’ve said before, the labels are in denial. Software like MediaMax isn’t an anti-piracy tool, it’s a security blanket for music industry executives. It won’t actually prevent people from infringing their copyrights, but it allows the record companies to feel like they’re “doing something” about the avalanche that’s overwhelming their industry.

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