Cory's excellent drm rant which he presented at Microsoft Research has now been wikified to allow people to comment and add to it. Excellent.

8 Comments

I'm not really sure how trackback works, but I liked the DRM talk so much that I put a link to your link to it on my blog.

I could not do better than to quote cubicledrone's post on slashdot on this point:

Articles like this one follow a familiar pattern:

1) The history of copyright, complete with exhaustive descriptions of the piano roll and the Monarchy.

2) A sob story about some poor honest member of the global audience who can't watch the latest Hollywood crap-fest because they don't have eight copies of it arranged so they are never more than 10 yards from at least two of them.

3) Ringing, strident statements about how Anything can be copied(tm) do you hear me??!?! WELL, DO YOU??!?!?!?!?!!?!

4) The argument then swerves into the ever-popular "in the future, the Internet will make copyright obsolete and artists will all live in a Utopian paradise where everything is free, free, free like the book they spent 4,000 hours writing which is at this very minute available on 4,000 warezzzzzzz sites for your convenience"

5) This is usually followed by the standard "books are worthless, music is pointless, art is disposable, inspiration is a commodity" argument which offers the idea that because something can be cheaply copied, it has somehow become worthless.

Throughout each of these discussions, there is always support for "well, we'll just copy it anyway" which is why this argument has long since lost even the remotest shred of credibility.

There is only one question that needs to be answered. Is there any set of conditions under which the "copy every last fucking bit on Earth" people will just pay for the fucking movie/book/CD/whatever?

Careful Trevor,

What I took away from Cory's piece was the claim (I think I buy it now) that being able to freely remix other content with as little friction as possible actually grows the economic pie for all and enables new services to come about for new players. One of the pillars of his position is that re-mixing has in fact been the norm rather then the exception. Larry Lessig uses this argument as well. Pretty compelling.

There is a place for re-mixing. But that doesn't mean that things should be given away for free. That just means that it should be easy to obtain permission to use copyrighted materials.

It may be true that re-using content creates a market for new companies, but it's also true that wholesale piracy creates new markets. Why? Because they're taking advantage of high-value resources developed by another person without paying for it.

We have to balance the goal of a vibrant economy with the requirement that creators be compensated for their work. This is why I believe the optimal situation is that in which everything is properly licenced, but the transaction costs of licencing and payments are very very low due to efficient use of technology.

Cory is taking advantage of an anomaly with respect to the e-book market: the fact that e-books have different 'features' than paper books. Thus, people prefer paper books in different situations than e-books. On top of this, e-books are not a comfortable reading experience yet. So he can give away his electronic versions, and the only people who will read the e-book and refrain from buying a paper book are geeks like me. Once e-paper is ubiquitous, I think we'll see a very different situation emerge.

Certainly, he has a point with regard to customer relations, and how DRM can wreak havoc with a customer's experience. But there is a fundamental problem of externalities here. It's true that no consumer wants DRM as an individual, but it's also true that collectively, consumers want to watch movies on their PCs easily, and movie companies are not going to sell them e-mule-ready DivX files. IMHO, DRM is the only way to get there, so that's what has to be done.

Now with regard to his cryptography arguments, I think they're all mooted by the simple fact that you don't have to give the key to the consumer if you have hardware DRM support. If you have a secure memory portion of a piece of hardware, in which you can keep secret keys and/or decrypted content, there's no reason DRM can't work. It all depends on the hardware.

With regard to his argument that companies have never had this level of control before, I say so what! Consumers have never had this level of power to copy and distribute and share before either! New situations beget new balances of power, so IMHO, here we are going to see a new balance emerge. Without DRM, consumers are going to get a lot less legal content into their hands, because companies will be loathe to give it away to be dropped into p2p nets. With DRM, consumers can't do whatever they please, but they do get the content they want legally.

In the end, here's my prediction: We will get government-regulated DRM. So those of you who want to fight for consumer rights, don't argue against DRM wholesale. Argue that particular DRM schemes violate legal and public policy interests. DRM will end up being hemmed in and limited by concerns for consumer rights, but I'm sure it's going to continue.

Dear Joi:

Here is what I posted to Purnelles' Chaos Manor blog:

Dear Jerry:

I sitting here watching the Today show about the Spaceship One launch -- with you in spirit and all that. I the meantime I grabbed a copy of Cory Doctorow's June 17th speech to Microsoft off Joi Ito's blog. C.D. dedicated this to the public domain, which might inspire me to make unkind analogies to Gresham's Law (bad currency drive out good), but while he's obviously an enthusiastic speaker, the whole thing is remarkable only for its lack of depth.

Digital Rights Management is bad for the economy, for artists, etc. and doesn't work anyway. Well, having spent more than two decades in the security/loss prevention business, I will be the first to say that no security system is perfect. The entire idea of security is to make violating it more trouble than it is worth. You trade time for safety. Any physical lock can be picked. Only two kinds of people trouble to learn the skill set needed to do so; locksmiths and those who want to overcome security. Those in in the Hacker tradition fit into the second category. Many of the early hackers became registered locksmiths simply to learn the skills needed to break into mainframe computer rooms so that they could access the systems.

Most security rests upon a very simple social contract to abide by the law. Moreover, everyone is presumed to know the law. "I didn't know" isn't an acceptable excuse. Doctorow's thesis makes violating the law not just socially acceptable behavior, but "cool"; something really smart people do to increase their status. Conversely, it tries to force, by social pressure, creative people to collaborate in their own robbery by accepting these rip offs as the status quo.

Much of what Doctorow mistakes for copyright law rests instead in the law of contracts. If I make something I have the right to determine under what terms and to whom it will be sold. The fact that some people don't want to meet my price or terms is their problem, not mine. As you know I am publishing a lot of material as "e-documents". They are offered at a price required to get them into the distribution system. Amazon determined that they needed to get a certain minimum amount per transaction or it is not worth doing. They are the pioneers in this business and I'll take their word for it. Even though this material was previously published in print magazines, there is some effort in preparing it for electronic distribution. It has to be re-editied, updated, the copyrights registered, metadata written, formatted and finally, my partner Leigh had to design "marketing images" those cute little thumbnail images designed to get attention and increase sales. Only the fact that I have a registered copyright in every article insures that I have any chance of getting paid.

Without that, How are we, as creators, supposed to live? I don't write articles without a market, and if people buy the right to publish it only once, they are not entitled to re publish it again. electronically or otherwise, without compensation. This was the entire matter of the Tasini case. I have a great deal of material to republish. The reason why is because the rates paid in all but a few cases. were not all that great. Editors specified First Serial Rights to keep the rates low. They weren't willing to pay for the full ride. If they wanted "All Rights" then they had to pay more, and when they did, I cheerfully signed those rights away.

Doctorow seems unaware of the huge library and corporate intranet research markets that exist worldwide for old articles. This never comes up. His approach is more consumer oriented. Billions of dollars is collected every year from libraries and private businesses for the use of these articles. Many of them are stolen. The publishers sold them to the aggregators who resell them to database providers and libraries. The rights holders whose work was stolen by their original publishers don't see any of this continuing stream of revenue,(these are rentals not sales). Fees are collected by subscription every year.

US Copyright law is actually much less restrictive than Doctorow imagines. It has no "Public Lending Right" whereby libraries pay royalties on the books they circulate and there is no "Droit Moral" which gives authors the right to prevent distortion of their work by users. The rights enumerated are the right to publish, copy, distribute, display,perform and to make derivative works. That last one is particularly important for writers. Doctorow, having taken this rather public positions which allows people to casually steal what they can't or won't buy, probably doesn't worry, as our friend Harlan does, about people trading his text work online, but how would he feel if some Hollywood producer took one of his novels and made a movie of it without his permission or consent? If you permit one then you also, by implication, permit the other.

He also makes the very basic error of confusing the purchase and possession of the physical object called a book with ownership of the content and license to do as he will with it. That is not, and never has been the case. Therefore the maker of a DVD does have the right to control where and how it will be sold. Pretending otherwise becomes not just an issue of the terms of access, but of morality. Condone casual theft of intellectual property and people will feel free to take what they can when they can in the physical world as well. That marches us towards anarchy since the only possible countermeasure is more law enforcement, more security, and less civility and respect for others.

Let me make a point about all of those articles. I did them for the money; to make a living. I did not write fiction instead because fiction would not pay my bills the way that trade journalism did. These old articles still have value in the marketplace, as proven by the pains that have gone into stealing some of them and making them available online for fees. I don't expect to get all of that money. Distribution is a cost, and in a capitalist society must be driven by fair profits for those who distribute. I do expect my share. So does every other writer who is a professional. Professionals get paid. Otherwise how are we to live?

Sincerely,

Francis Hamit

Dear Joi:

Here is what I posted to Pournelle's Chaos Manor blog:

Dear Jerry:

I sitting here watching the Today show about the Spaceship One launch -- with you in spirit and all that. I the meantime I grabbed a copy of Cory Doctorow's June 17th speech to Microsoft off Joi Ito's blog. C.D. dedicated this to the public domain, which might inspire me to make unkind analogies to Gresham's Law (bad currency drive out good), but while he's obviously an enthusiastic speaker, the whole thing is remarkable only for its lack of depth.

Digital Rights Management is bad for the economy, for artists, etc. and doesn't work anyway. Well, having spent more than two decades in the security/loss prevention business, I will be the first to say that no security system is perfect. The entire idea of security is to make violating it more trouble than it is worth. You trade time for safety. Any physical lock can be picked. Only two kinds of people trouble to learn the skill set needed to do so; locksmiths and those who want to overcome security. Those in in the Hacker tradition fit into the second category. Many of the early hackers became registered locksmiths simply to learn the skills needed to break into mainframe computer rooms so that they could access the systems.

Most security rests upon a very simple social contract to abide by the law. Moreover, everyone is presumed to know the law. "I didn't know" isn't an acceptable excuse. Doctorow's thesis makes violating the law not just socially acceptable behavior, but "cool"; something really smart people do to increase their status. Conversely, it tries to force, by social pressure, creative people to collaborate in their own robbery by accepting these rip offs as the status quo.

Much of what Doctorow mistakes for copyright law rests instead in the law of contracts. If I make something I have the right to determine under what terms and to whom it will be sold. The fact that some people don't want to meet my price or terms is their problem, not mine. As you know I am publishing a lot of material as "e-documents". They are offered at a price required to get them into the distribution system. Amazon determined that they needed to get a certain minimum amount per transaction or it is not worth doing. They are the pioneers in this business and I'll take their word for it. Even though this material was previously published in print magazines, there is some effort in preparing it for electronic distribution. It has to be re-editied, updated, the copyrights registered, metadata written, formatted and finally, my partner Leigh had to design "marketing images" those cute little thumbnail images designed to get attention and increase sales. Only the fact that I have a registered copyright in every article insures that I have any chance of getting paid.

Without that, How are we, as creators, supposed to live? I don't write articles without a market, and if people buy the right to publish it only once, they are not entitled to re publish it again. electronically or otherwise, without compensation. This was the entire matter of the Tasini case. I have a great deal of material to republish. The reason why is because the rates paid in all but a few cases. were not all that great. Editors specified First Serial Rights to keep the rates low. They weren't willing to pay for the full ride. If they wanted "All Rights" then they had to pay more, and when they did, I cheerfully signed those rights away.

Doctorow seems unaware of the huge library and corporate intranet research markets that exist worldwide for old articles. This never comes up. His approach is more consumer oriented. Billions of dollars is collected every year from libraries and private businesses for the use of these articles. Many of them are stolen. The publishers sold them to the aggregators who resell them to database providers and libraries. The rights holders whose work was stolen by their original publishers don't see any of this continuing stream of revenue,(these are rentals not sales). Fees are collected by subscription every year.

US Copyright law is actually much less restrictive than Doctorow imagines. It has no "Public Lending Right" whereby libraries pay royalties on the books they circulate and there is no "Droit Moral" which gives authors the right to prevent distortion of their work by users. The rights enumerated are the right to publish, copy, distribute, display,perform and to make derivative works. That last one is particularly important for writers. Doctorow, having taken this rather public positions which allows people to casually steal what they can't or won't buy, probably doesn't worry, as our friend Harlan does, about people trading his text work online, but how would he feel if some Hollywood producer took one of his novels and made a movie of it without his permission or consent? If you permit one then you also, by implication, permit the other.

He also makes the very basic error of confusing the purchase and possession of the physical object called a book with ownership of the content and license to do as he will with it. That is not, and never has been the case. Therefore the maker of a DVD does have the right to control where and how it will be sold. Pretending otherwise becomes not just an issue of the terms of access, but of morality. Condone casual theft of intellectual property and people will feel free to take what they can when they can in the physical world as well. That marches us towards anarchy since the only possible countermeasure is more law enforcement, more security, and less civility and respect for others.

Let me make a point about all of those articles. I did them for the money; to make a living. I did not write fiction instead because fiction would not pay my bills the way that trade journalism did. These old articles still have value in the marketplace, as proven by the pains that have gone into stealing some of them and making them available online for fees. I don't expect to get all of that money. Distribution is a cost, and in a capitalist society must be driven by fair profits for those who distribute. I do expect my share. So does every other writer who is a professional. Professionals get paid. Otherwise how are we to live?

Sincerely,

Francis Hamit

Speaking of music:

The book, "Playback: From the Victrola to Mp3, 100 Years of Music, Machines, and Money", by Mark Coleman, might be worth reading if you want to get into more details on the "piano roll" analogy.

It's one of many good analogies of how the development of what is now the record business has affected the business of creating music.

I think Cory's point is historically correct: using technology / law to open access, rather than restrict it, has created more opportunities for artists to get paid for their works.

(And, present day arguments about requiring technological / legal restricitions do seem to closely parallel past arguments against new technologies like piano rolls, radio, records, videotapes, and cable TV.)

I had this article open on our home computer, when my wife stumbled across it. She loved it, but mentioned that she got through the article without knowing what this mysterious "DRM" was ...

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I think I'll just borrow Joi's post:

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