DRM: harmful. Just say no

published Jan 12, 2007, last modified Jun 26, 2013

Slashdot asks a question about Digital Restrictions ("Rights") Management. Here's my statement.

If digital media was available for sale at a reasonable price, but subject to a DRM scheme that allowed full legitimate usage (format shifting, time shifting, playback on different devices, etc.) and only blocked illicit usage (illegal copying), would you support the usage of such a DRM scheme? Especially if it meant a wealth of readily available compatible devices? In other words, if you object to DRM schemes, is your objection based on principled or practical concerns?

For starters, let me clarify a thing: this is the stupidest question I've heard throughout the year.

If this "ideal" DRM you're implying on your question did really comply with everything set forth in your initial assumption, it'd still be useless for me.

Why? Because I like to do lots of things with, say, music I have. Remixes and megamixes. Sharing it with my friends. Things that, by definition, encompass "illegal copying". And that's just a corner example, I could recite ten more.

By definition, Digital Restrictions Management is about creating unnatural obstacles to these kinds of uses. These unnatural roadblocks translate into my direct and unwavering unhappiness. Therefore, it sucks.

The whole notion of others controlling things and knowledge in my power is absurd. We as a society tolerate it only because:

  1. we all recognize there's (some) value in monetary incentive (the jury's still out on the real benefits of the incentives, though); and
  2. we have too many politicians bowing to people in power.

Unnecessary nuisances should be treated exactly like unnecessary laws: shot upon sight.