Arguing about DRM

2 Comments
Posted November 13th, 2008 in Politics. Tags: , .

The following question about Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) was posed on Slashdot by laxcat:

Would someone please explain what exactly is wrong with DRM? If you have a problem with the concept of copyrights in general, then I can understand. But is there anyone out there that is cool with copyrights, but thinks DRM is bad?

I’m not trying to be an apologist for the corporations. I know they don’t care about the art or the artist, only money. That’s a given. But do they not have a right to protect their intellectual property? Are the detractors of DRM against the concept of intellectual property altogether?

The way I see it there is nothing wrong with the concept of DRM, only with the abuse of DRM. Is this a “slippery slope” argument?

I’m serious in my plea here. Someone please fill me in on what I am missing!

I couldn’t resist answering, and the ensuing discussion quickly became… lively.


Written by Dumb Scientist on October 03 2006, @03:25PM

You asked why some of us who support copyright don’t support DRM. I support copyright, but my problems with DRM can be summed up as follows:

  1. DRM never expires. Ideally, copyright is a legal device used to enrich society, to encourage artists to create works based on the understanding that they will be able to profit from said works for a limited amount of time. After this time period expires, the creative works get released into the public domain. Unfortunately, DRM’d files don’t do this- the music you bought on iTunes in 2003 will still be restricted in 3003.

  2. DRM will never work correctly without overly restrictive government controls. For example, let’s assume that “Brand New Hyper DVD” format is completely uncrackable- the disks can never, ever be decrypted and copied digitally. So what? Take your camcorder, aim it at the screen, and press record. Voila! Brand new copy without DRM. The only way to stop this would be to force all electronics manufacturers to include complicated measures to insure that they can’t be used in this manner- but the next “DVD Jon” would show up around two days later and crack these measures. The only way to fight this from a corporate/government standpoint would be to force all electronics capable of being used in this kind of pirating scheme to “phone home” on a regular basis to update their DRM software, and to ban all older electronics without this “feature.” See where this is going? Do you want to live in this society?

  3. DRM effectively turns your computer into a police snitch, working against you rather than for you. Just look at the Sony rootkit fiasco for an obvious example, or read up on the DMCA or broadcast flags or… you get the point.

  4. DRM adds an extra degree of complexity to playback, which constitutes another failure mode. A computer crash can often reduce a DRM’d music library to binary junk unless the user has been meticulous enough to save the mountain of data necessary to identify his/her computer as “the authorized playback device” of said music. Want to switch to a different computer, or swap out some hardware? Good luck- this will probably be interpreted as a “new computer” and your music won’t play. Want to play your music on another device like your car stereo or your portable music player? You’d better hope the music vendor was “gracious” enough to bless you with that kind of “privilege.”

  5. My fears of a world where DRM has taken over can best be summed up by the following short story. I’m terrified that this is exactly the type of world we will wake up to in, say, 2020 if things keep going the way they are…


Written by laxcat on October 03 2006, @03:51PM

The concepts you’ve listed are just example of unfair, poorly implemented, or downright Orwellian DRM. You fail to discredit concept of DRM itself. Are you saying that because DRM has potential for abuse, it should be banned altogether?

You, and all of the other detractors I’ve heard, fail to address the rights of the company to protect their own intellectual property. Do they not have that right? That’s the real issue I would like some answers on.

(Sorry to play such devil’s advocate here, but I really don’t think anyone’s thinking this through.)


Written by Dumb Scientist on October 03 2006, @04:03PM

I suppose my point is that DRM that isn’t Orwellian is useless. There will never be such a thing as DRM that allows free use of material that can’t be broken. Show me DRM that doesn’t involve tactics that I’ve described above, and I’ll show you a system that only annoys end users and presents only a minimal challenge to hackers. Once DRM is broken, even by one lone genius, the game is over for that format- the cracking program can be spread over the internet (or over the emerging darknet) and ordinary people can trade the resulting un-DRM’d files on their secure, encrypted, untraceable P2P network. The only way to stop this kind of digital piracy will be to get governments to pass restrictive laws regarding electronics, which is already happening…

In short, DRM without Orwellian tactics is useless from a corporate point of view. DRM with Orwellian tactics will destroy free society as we know it. I think we as a society have a choice- let digital content producers keep their business model and destroy our freedoms, or let the MPAA and RIAA wither away like the dinosaurs they are.


Written by Blakey Rat on October 03 2006, @06:00PM

Ok,

  1. Stop saying “Orwellian.” I read Slashdot a few minutes each day, and I probably end up seeing the word “Orwellian” about 40,000 times a week. Criminy.

  2. (or over the emerging darknet) Huh?

  3. What about video game piracy? You might consider video games too locked-down, but I don’t think anybody disputes that the DRM on Xbox, PS2 and Gamecube games is a bad thing. Without it, you’d end up with another Dreamcast– a console that loses tons of sales because the games are easily-duplicated and ends up in the crapper. The only restriction Xbox/PS2/Gamecube DRM really institutes is “you can only play this game on the console it’s published for with the disk it’s shipped on,” Is that “too strict?” Really?

Sure, video game DRM gets broken very quickly, but since 95% of video game buyers either are honest, don’t know about the crack, or don’t know how to apply the crack, the system still works. I’ve seen no evidence that a DRM crack distributed over the net (“dark” or otherwise) will significantly defeat the purpose of DRM.

The problem is that almost all the people on Slashdot rallying against DRM are really rallying against “DRM that prevents them from getting free music, TV shows, and movies.” Nobody here gives a crap about the DRM on console games, or the DRM on PDF files that gives the creator of those files more freedom than they would have otherwise. Or the DRM that allows only signed device drivers to run so your computer blue-screens less often.


Written by Dumb Scientist on October 03 2006, @10:03PM

1. Stop saying “Orwellian.” I read Slashdot a few minutes each day, and I probably end up seeing the word “Orwellian” about 40,000 times a week. Criminy.

Don’t look at me, laxcat started it. :)

2. (or over the emerging darknet) Huh?

I might’ve used that term incorrectly, but here’s the start of wikipedia’s entry for darknet: A Darknet is a private virtual network where users only connect to people they trust. Typically such networks are small, often with fewer than 10 users each. In its most general meaning, a Darknet can be any type of closed, private group of people communicating, but the name is most often used specifically for file sharing networks.

What I meant was that, despite a common belief that “most people can’t crack this, so it’s safe,” it only really matters if one person can crack DRM, because that crack (or, equivalently, the un-DRM’d media that the crack produces) can (and will) be spread over the internet to everyone who wants it, and there’s not a damned thing any government/corporation can do about it. The Man can try to track them down, but each time they bring down a P2P network, a new one will rise up in its place– more efficient and more untraceable than the last.

3. What about video game piracy? You might consider video games too locked-down, but I don’t think anybody disputes that the DRM on Xbox, PS2 and Gamecube games is a bad thing. Without it, you’d end up with another Dreamcast– a console that loses tons of sales because the games are easily-duplicated and ends up in the crapper. The only restriction Xbox/PS2/Gamecube DRM really institutes is “you can only play this game on the console it’s published for with the disk it’s shipped on,” Is that “too strict?” Really?

This is a serious concern of mine, not just about video games, but about digital media in general. Namely, I believe that DRM is impossible to implement without serious negative consequences. Without DRM, how will media companies guarantee that their hard work will result in a profit, so that investors will give them money to make the next round of movies/games/music?

A naive answer would be to say that if you offer people high quality, unencrypted media at a reasonable cost, X% will take the high road and legitimately buy the product. While this is probably true, I doubt that the revenue would support anything remotely like today’s huge media conglomerates– not even at the marketing “sweet spot” which perfectly maximizes the product of the price times the audience size times that elusive X% factor.

On the other hand, is that really a bad thing? Maybe one reason that lots of modern movies, games and music are sequels or dismissed as “generic and uninspired,” or “pandering to the lowest common denominator” is that companies are making them for the sole purpose of generating a profit rather than for the love of the craft. Perhaps reducing the profit incentive would actually increase the quality of the media available, though admittedly at the loss of quantity.

What would this do to movies? Would it result in films with lousy special effects because of the lower budget? I doubt it- just download and watch “Star Wreck, In the Pirkinning”. It’s a free film made by a couple of guys in their basement in their spare time. Say what you want about the acting, the special effects are incredible.

Would music be worse? Audio recording equipment is expensive, certainly, but why couldn’t a group of bands pool their resources and buy one awesome sound stage, then share it?

On the other hand, video games seem to require a huge investment of man hours… I think that the quality and quantity of games would actually suffer under a system like this. I’m not sure though.

Nevertheless, I must stress that I’m not anti-DRM because I want to download free music and TV shows and movies. Granted, I do that, but that’s mainly because there is no legal way for me to obtain DRM-free media at a reasonable cost. I would gladly pay $2 to $3 per TV show if my payment would increase the likelihood of the show’s success. In fact, after downloading Firefly, I bought the DVD set just to encourage the creation of Serenity. What I’m not willing to do is support a company that’s under the delusion that DRM is acceptable.


Written by Blakey Rat on October 04 2006, @08:06AM

I know what a “darknet” is, I just didn’t know there was “the emerging” one. I guess I’m not in the loop.

Regardless, as I’ve argued, it still doesn’t matter if everyone *can* get the crack instantly as long as 95% of people don’t use the crack for whatever reason. The DRM still works. The whole Darknet thing isn’t going to “take down” DRM, it’s just an annoyance that has to be accounted for by the media companies.

Maybe one reason that lots of modern movies, games and music are sequels or dismissed as “generic and uninspired,” or “pandering to the lowest common denominator” is precisely because companies are making them for the sole purpose of generating a profit rather than for the love of the craft.

No, it’s called “nostalgia.” Movies, games, and music have always been that way. You’re just forgetting the 10,000 Pac-Man knock-offs, the 200 Doom knock-offs, the 50 Final Fantasy knock-offs and remembering only the good and original games. I’m sick of this “quality is worse” crap wasn’t treated as a fact by Slashdot instead of just an opinion by grumpy aging programmers.

I’d like to see some proof that movies/music and games are worse than they have been in the past. But all I see every year is, “record number of games sold! Halo 2 best-selling console game ever! record number of movie tickets!” That tells me that the quality is either unchanged, or better, than it was in the past.

Nevertheless, I must stress that I’m not anti-DRM because I want to download free music and TV shows and movies. Granted, I do that, but that’s mainly because there is no legal way for me to obtain DRM-free media at a reasonable cost.

Right, you and the other 20,000 people on Slashdot. “I’m pirating not because I just want stuff for free, but because there’s no legal way for me to get it! Because, in my delusional world, DVDs, CDs, cable and satellite TV don’t exist!” Christ. You’re not fooling anybody.

If you REALLY wanted to enact change and do the whole, “civil disobedience” thing, maybe you should, you know, make a sacrifice and not download the pirated materials, huh? Maybe I’d have a teeny bit of respect for your position if I knew you weren’t just a freeloader. Unfortunately, I wager 90% of the people in this thread rallying against DRM are just in it for free music and movies, yourself included.

All you want to do is break copyright law easier, you don’t give a crap whether the law changes to something more reasonable or not. It’s the same reason ma***uana never will be legalized. Not because legalization is a bad idea, but because the vast majority of the people promoting legalization are all stupid, high, on other drugs, or self-defeating in some other way.

What I’m not willing to do is support a company that’s under the delusion that DRM is acceptable.

First of all, after that last sentence I quoted, I wouldn’t be one to judge whether other people are delusional or not.

Secondly, you’re not willing to support a company that uses DRM and yet you agree that the video game industry would suffer greatly if they didn’t use it. So… you think nobody should buy videogames? You never addressed that one. But obviously you don’t think DRM is all that bad if you’re not against its use on videogames.


Written by Dumb Scientist on October 04 2006, @02:00PM

Regardless, as I’ve argued, it still doesn’t matter if everyone *can* get the crack instantly as long as 95% of people don’t use the crack for whatever reason. The DRM still works. The whole Darknet thing isn’t going to “take down” DRM, it’s just an annoyance that has to be accounted for by the media companies.

Based on the explosive growth of P2P networks, do you really think that 95% of people would voluntarily pay for content that they could get for free? I don’t think people are that ethical- I know I’m not. If the crack is available anywhere in the world, it will be a trivial matter to distribute it in an undetectable fashion to everyone who wants it. I think the only way this could be prevented is for the government to take drastic and draconian steps (see how I didn’t use the word Orw$%^ian there?) to prevent any private, encrypted communication from taking place. And that’s exactly what I’m scared is going to happen.

No, it’s called “nostalgia.” Movies, games, and music have always been that way. You’re just forgetting the 10,000 Pac-Man knock-offs, the 200 Doom knock-offs, the 50 Final Fantasy knock-offs and remembering only the good and original games. I’m sick of this “quality is worse” crap wasn’t treated as a fact by Slashdot instead of just an opinion by grumpy aging programmers.

You’ve probably got a point here. Strike the word “modern” from my earlier statement. I stand by this revised statement which says, in essence, that lots of mediocre films and music and games are mediocre because the primary objective is profit. I’ll give you my favorite example: movies based on games and games based on movies. I think these exist solely because some marketing shrub says “Hey, look at all the people who liked movie/game X. Let’s make a game/movie based on X and take advantage of that market.” Now, perhaps this is just my subjective opinion, but I think these crossovers usually suck.

On the other hand, this is really just a tangent to my original point, which is that DRM poses a lethal threat to our (mostly, and increasingly less so) free society.

Nevertheless, I must stress that I’m not anti-DRM because I want to download free music and TV shows and movies. Granted, I do that, but that’s mainly because there is no legal way for me to obtain DRM-free media at a reasonable cost.

Right, you and the other 20,000 people on Slashdot. “I’m pirating not because I just want stuff for free, but because there’s no legal way for me to get it! Because, in my delusional world, DVDs, CDs, cable and satellite TV don’t exist!” Christ. You’re not fooling anybody.

First of all, I can’t speak for 20,000 people. I can only speak for myself.

Secondly, you seem to be responding as though I’d said something like “I’m pirating not because I just want stuff for free, but because there’s no legal way for me to get it!” If you look closely at the phrase you quoted, you’ll notice that my statement was subtly– but crucially– different.

What I actually said was that my opposition to DRM wasn’t based on my desire to download free movies. I still stand by my first post, where I laid out 5 reasons why I’m opposed to DRM. Notice that nowhere in that list do I say “I want lots of free shit.” This was not an oversight or an attempt to “fool anybody.”

Right after that statement, I addressed my P2P network usage because you claimed that my opposition to DRM was based on my desire to download free movies, when in fact I’m pretty sure it’s based on the reasons I outlined in my first post. I consider this to be a completely different topic, because it’s possible to oppose DRM and never download anything, and it’s possible to download gigabytes of material off mininova without caring (or even knowing) about DRM. In my opinion, opposition to DRM is a purely moral issue, while downloading movies is a more pragmatic decision.

I’m not even sure I understand why it makes sense to assert that I’m opposed to DRM because I want to download movies easier. How could it get any easier than it currently is? You see, DRM doesn’t affect my downloading at all. I think of something I want, search for it on btjunkie.org and have it within several hours. To claim that I’m opposed to DRM because I want to be able to download movies/music/tv shows easier ignores the fact that I’m already living in download heaven.

In the interest of addressing your “question,” though, I’ll explain the reasons why I download movies (which, again, is a separate issue from my opposition to DRM):

  1. Pirated copies are better products than the legitimate versions:
    1. When I download a music album or a movie, I don’t have to worry about not being able to play it on one of my other 4 computers or at a friend’s house.
    2. I don’t have to sit through those ridiculous mandatory anti-piracy clips and ads on DVDs.
    3. I don’t have to worry about DVD Macrovision mistaking my laptop’s s-video output as a copying tool and phasing the brightness level up and down.
    4. I don’t have to wait months for the DVD to be released, or sit in a smelly theater with assholes on their cell phones and crying babies; I can sit back in my recliner and have a beer or four.
    5. I don’t have to worry about CDs putting a rootkit on my computer.
    6. I haven’t seen a commercial in 5 years because people who upload TV shows strip them out beforehand.
    7. I can re-watch TV shows as many times as I want, a luxury that broadcast flags may soon take away from ordinary TV watchers.

    (In other words, even if pirated copies cost as much as real copies, I would still opt for the pirated copy because they’re just plain better.)

  2. I’ll be honest here: it’s free, and I’m a cheapskate.
  3. Buying a legal copy would merely fill the coffers of the RIAA and MPAA, who then turn around and dump that money into lobbyists. I don’t want to participate in their takeover of our democracy.

Secondly, you’re not willing to support a company that uses DRM and yet you agree that the video game industry would suffer greatly if they didn’t use it. So… you think nobody should buy videogames? You never addressed that one. But obviously you don’t think DRM is all that bad if you’re not against its use on videogames.

Actually, I think there might be a way to keep the videogame industry alive without DRM. Just give every copy of the game a CD-key, and make the server check each gamer’s CD-key when they log in to play online. Once the server verifies that it’s a real CD-key and doesn’t duplicate a CD-key already in use, it allows the gamer to play. If not, he can still play, just not online. I think this would be sufficient motivation to make most gamers pay for games- I know it made me buy Half Life 2 and many other games, despite my leanings towards piracy.

Of course, this would only work with games that have a significant online mode of play. Let me be perfectly clear here: I believe that the logical conclusion of DRM is this world. I will do everything I can to prevent this from coming true, and if I have to go without videogames, then so be it. As much as I love first person shooters, I love my freedom even more.


Written by Blakey Rat on October 04 2006, @04:35PM

Based on the explosive growth of P2P networks, do you really think that 95% of people would voluntarily pay for content that they could get for free?

Read my statement in the original post. The 95% includes:

  1. The people who don’t know about the crack and are happy paying for a copy

  2. The people who do know about the crack, but would rather pay for a copy

  3. The people who do know about the crack, but don’t know how to apply it. (i.e. mod chips, or other cracks that take quite a bit of technical knowledge.)

The 5% is just the people who want to steal it, have the know-how to steal it, and actually go through with stealing it. Obviously, it’s just a rough guess number, but I wager the RIAA/MPAA/video game industry have much more accurate figures.

(snip) 2. I’ll be honest here: it’s free, and I’m a cheapskate. (snip)

Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner. I don’t need to read the rest. It’s buried deep in your statement, but there the truth comes out.

Just give every copy of the game a CD-key, and make the server check each gamer’s CD-key when they log in to play online.

That works for PC games, but what about console games? I’m sure Blockbuster would *love* that for their rental business… every time they get a game back they have to call the publisher for a new code!


Written by Dumb Scientist on October 04 2006, @05:29PM

Read my statement in the original post. The 95% includes:

  1. The people who don’t know about the crack and are happy paying for a copy

  2. The people who do know about the crack, but would rather pay for a copy

  3. The people who do know about the crack, but don’t know how to apply it. (i.e. mod chips, or other cracks that take quite a bit of technical knowledge.)

The 5% is just the people who want to steal it, have the know-how to steal it, and actually go through with stealing it. Obviously, it’s just a rough guess number, but I wager the RIAA/MPAA/video game industry have much more accurate figures.

a
  1. I think using the word “steal” in this context is inaccurate. The correct phrase is actually “commit copyright infringement.” For example, I think we can both agree on a situation which does constitute “stealing.” If I “steal” a CD by taking it from a store without paying for it, I gain a CD while the store loses a CD which it could’ve sold for cash to a more honest person.

    Note that there are two parties to an act of “stealing” and one loses while the other gains. When I copy a music file, I gain music but the music company doesn’t lose anything physical at all, despite their claims to profits “lost” through filesharing. This is a purely hypothetical loss on their part, based on the assumption that if I couldn’t get the music via mininova, that I’d have no choice but to buy it at full price, in which case they’ve lost the sticker price of the CD. I think this reasoning is flawed for several reasons:

    1. Some music I would buy for $5 or listen to if it’s free, but I wouldn’t pay $20 for the CD. In some instances, music that I would pirate I wouldn’t buy, even if I was unable to obtain the music through P2P networks. This means that in a situation like this, the music company is only “losing” the amount of money that I would actually pay for the music. The problem is that the RIAA is treating their product as though it’s a commodity, like it’s water… and we have no choice but to either buy it from them, steal it, or die of thirst.

    2. I could just as easily buy the CD from a friend or from a store that sells used CDs, in which case the RIAA has lost nothing.

    This is why I think it’s not correct to confuse copyright infringement with stealing. Stealing applies to situations in which the victim experiences a real, tangible loss. In the case of copyright infringement, determining what the music company loses when a file is copied is virtually impossible without knowing exactly how much the pirate was willing to pay, and whether or not the pirate knew of any place to obtain the CD legally secondhand.

    I’m definitely not saying that I think all copyright infringement is okay- if you read my original post you’ll see that I support a limited form of copyright. I’m just saying that “stealing” and “copyright infringement” are two different ideas that shouldn’t be confused. I apologize if it sounds like I’m splitting hairs, but I strongly believe that agreeing to definitions is the foundation to any civilized, productive debate.

  2. Yes, I realize that you included “ignorance” along with “morality” in your list of reasons that DRM doesn’t have to be perfect to be effective. I didn’t address that point because I don’t think that an industry whose profits are based on the assumption that their customers are too stupid or lazy to examine alternatives is on solid ground, financially speaking. It might be true that P2P is a “poweruser” phenomenon today, but as computers and high speed connections become more prevalent that elitism will quickly vanish.

a

(snip) 2. I’ll be honest here: it’s free, and I’m a cheapskate. (snip)

Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner. I don’t need to read the rest. It’s buried deep in your statement, but there the truth comes out.

a

Since you didn’t read the rest, I’ll paste the relevant portion here so you can have a second chance:

a

First of all, I can’t speak for 20,000 people. I can only speak for myself.

[…] (Ed. note: Yes, I copied a huge chunk of text here. Pretty juvenile of me, actually…)

… To claim that I’m opposed to DRM because I want to be able to download movies/music/tv shows easier ignores the fact that I’m already living in download heaven.

Then I went on to list the reasons that I download movies and music. The point I was making was that these reasons (including the one you quoted just now) apply to downloading, not to my opposition to DRM, despite your claim to the contrary. That’s all I was talking about. I never denied that “getting free shit” wasn’t an incentive to download, I was only saying that it was completely irrelevant to the topic at hand, which was ideological opposition to DRM.


Written by Blakey Rat on October 04 2006, @07:27PM

I think it’s grammatically incorrect to use the word “steal” in this context, the right phrase is “commit copyright infringement.”

In my world, where I’m not deluding myself, when you take something that doesn’t belong to you without permission you’re stealing. That applies to a commercial company that takes GPL code and includes it in a closed-source program, that includes people who make a copy (take something) without bothering to ask the copyright holder if it’s ok. You can call it what you want, but since you do seem to know what I mean when I say “stealing”, you’ll have to excuse me if I don’t change my words to make you feel better about your theft.

In some instances, music that I would pirate I wouldn’t buy, even if I was unable to obtain the music through P2P networks.

Oh, so it’s ok if you steal as long as it’s something you wouldn’t have bought normally? I mean, I don’t usually buy Ferraris, but I guess by your standards it’s perfectly fine if I find one on the street hotwire and steal it, right? It’s not like I would have bought a Ferrari anyway.

Look, regardless of WHY you pirate (and I don’t really give a shit WHY a man commits a crime, just THAT he does), it doesn’t change the fact that you are stealing the material. You can’t justify that in any rational way.

I didn’t address that point because I don’t think that an industry whose profits are based on the assumption that their customers are too stupid or lazy to examine alternatives is on solid ground, financially speaking.

So now you’re just concerned about the RIAA’s bottom line? The only reason you bring it up is because you think maybe their financial footing might break loose under them? Very noble of you.

But the fact of the matter is that those “stupid and lazy” video game customers have been just as “stupid and lazy” over the entire course of copy-protected PC games, and yet the copy protection still serves its purpose.

(Thanks for the insult, by the way. I actually buy video games, therefore I’m stupid and lazy! Brilliant.)

I never denied that “getting free shit” wasn’t an incentive to download, I was only saying that it was completely irrelevant to the topic at hand, which was ideological opposition to DRM.

… except in the case of video games, where you think DRM is appropriate. So, again, what you’re arguing against is CERTAIN TYPES of DRM, not the concept of DRM. And the only reason you’re arguing against those certain types is because you like downloading free movies and music, and you want it to be easier to pirate it. (After-all, if you were really against all DRM, you’d be against signed drivers in Windows, you’d be against PDF and Office document protection features, you’d be against console video game copy protection, etc.)


Written by Dumb Scientist on October 05 2006, @12:26AM

In some instances, music that I would pirate I wouldn’t buy, even if I was unable to obtain the music through P2P networks.

Oh, so it’s ok if you steal as long as it’s something you wouldn’t have bought normally? I mean, I don’t usually buy Ferraris, but I guess by your standards it’s perfectly fine if I find one on the street hotwire and steal it, right? It’s not like I would have bought a Ferrari anyway.
Look, regardless of WHY you pirate (and I don’t really give a shit WHY a man commits a crime, just THAT he does), it doesn’t change the fact that you are stealing the material. You can’t justify that in any rational way.

No, I obviously don’t think it’s okay to hotwire a Ferrari. Read my original statement regarding the precise difference between stealing and copyright infringement. I’ll paraphrase myself, though: “stealing is an action with two relevant parties, a perpetrator that gains something tangible, and an unwilling victim that loses something tangible.” If I hotwire a Ferrari, then someone on the street loses a Ferrari while I gain one, which means I “stole” it by the very definition I gave earlier. Perhaps I was somehow unclear about this, though, in which case I’m sorry for the confusion.

If you read my earlier statement carefully, you’ll notice that my point wasn’t to justify copyright infringement. In fact, my exact words were “I’m definitely not saying that I think all copyright infringement is okay.” My point was that the RIAA claim that each downloaded album constitutes exactly $X loss through piracy is false, therefore there is no tangible loss, therefore piracy technically isn’t stealing. If you want to show that a downloaded album does represent a tangible loss on the part of the RIAA, you’d have to first convince me why the arguments I laid out in parts (a) and (b) of my last post aren’t valid.

Of course, this entire discussion hinges on the precise definition of the word “steal.” I proposed my definition so that I could explain why I didn’t think your use of the word was correct, but you gave a different definition of “steal”: “when you take something that doesn’t belong to you without permission you’re stealing.” My main problem with your definition is that it seems to equate actions which I view as fundamentally different. For example, under your definition, if Bob walks into a bookstore and walks out with a book without paying for it then he’s “stolen” it. If Joe walks into the store, whips out his digital camera and takes pictures of each page of a book, then he’s “stolen” the book. Don’t these two actions seem different to you? In one case the bookstore loses a physical object, and in the other case they don’t.

I’m not attempting to morally justify Joe’s actions, all I’m saying is that they’re qualitatively different than Bob’s actions, and therefore need to be described with a different word for clarity’s sake.

I didn’t address that point because I don’t think that an industry whose profits are based on the assumption that their customers are too stupid or lazy to examine alternatives is on solid ground, financially speaking.

So now you’re just concerned about the RIAA’s bottom line? The only reason you bring it up is because you think maybe their financial footing might break loose under them? Very noble of you.

You’re right: I could give a swollen rat’s ass about the RIAA’s bottom line. My concern is that if the RIAA depends on DRM which has security holes to protect their products, then at some point it will be cracked en masse and their profits will disappear. Given that the RIAA is such a financial heavyweight, they would likely try to recover by lobbying the government to enact more draconian DRM legislation. This does concern me- very much so.

(Thanks for the insult, by the way. I actually buy video games, therefore I’m stupid and lazy! Brilliant.)

It wasn’t my intention to insult you. We were discussing the reasons why people wouldn’t use an available crack to circumvent DRM. I addressed the ethical reason in my earlier post, at which point you mentioned that there were actually two additional reasons, and numbered them from 1-3. I paraphrased reason #1 as “stupidity” (though it’s more accurately “ignorance”), I call reason #2 “ethics” and I call reason #3 “laziness.” Since (I thought) we’d shelved the topic of reason #2, I was only addressing people who wouldn’t use an available crack for reason #1 or #3. I definitely wasn’t talking about you specifically, and I was pointedly ignoring people who don’t pirate games for reason #2 because I’d already talked about that topic. Regardless, if I unintentionally caused you offense, I’m sorry- I should’ve been more clear.

I never denied that “getting free shit” wasn’t an incentive to download, I was only saying that it was completely irrelevant to the topic at hand, which was ideological opposition to DRM.

… except in the case of video games, where you think DRM is appropriate. So, again, what you’re arguing against is CERTAIN TYPES of DRM, not the concept of DRM. And the only reason you’re arguing against those certain types is because you like downloading free movies and music, and you want it to be easier to pirate it. (After-all, if you were really against all DRM, you’d be against signed drivers in Windows, you’d be against PDF and Office document protection features, you’d be against console video game copy protection, etc.)

  1. I’ve tried, repeatedly, to explain that I am opposed to DRM because I think that its “proper” implementation would require draconian laws that would destroy our way of life. I’ve also tried to explain that “downloading free movies and music” is irrelevant to my decision to oppose DRM for reasons that I’ve laid out in previous posts. So I’m baffled by the fact that you keep claiming that you understand my motivations and reasoning process better than I do, without actually trying to counter any of the points that I’ve made regarding this distinction. If you’d like to discuss the reasons why I think these are two separate topics (just look in the previous post under the section that I copied from an earlier post) then I’d welcome the opportunity to see if there are any holes in my logic.

  2. Actually, I’m against every type of DRM you mentioned. Where did I say I thought DRM for video games was appropriate? I don’t, and if I accidentally gave this impression then I’m sorry for “muddying the waters” as the saying goes. Perhaps you’re referring to the fact that I speculated about the fate of the video game industry if DRM is abandoned, and came to the conclusion that it might be in trouble? I wasn’t trying to say that this means DRM is okay in this instance, because I consider DRM to be a direct threat to “the right to read.” In my opinion, a single industry’s continued existence is worth nothing compared to our freedoms.


Written by Blakey Rat on October 05 2006, @07:31AM

My main problem with your definition is that it seems to equate actions which I view as fundamentally different. For example, under your definition, if Bob walks into a bookstore and walks out with a book without paying for it then he’s “stolen” it. If Joe walks into the store, whips out his digital camera and takes pictures of each page of a book, then he’s “stolen” the book. Don’t these two actions seem different to you?

WTF does it matter? The end result is the same: the book was stolen.

We could call it “weebooweeboo” if you want, but it’s still the exact same result.

I’ve also tried to explain that “downloading free movies and music” is irrelevant to my decision to oppose DRM for reasons that I’ve laid out in previous posts.

It certainly doesn’t strengthen your case any. You’re like the guy at the mall trying to convince me that ma***uana can be used to treat glaucoma with the bloodshot eyes. I’m sure he’s right, and I’m sure it *can* treat glaucoma, but the only reason he’s telling you that is because he wants to smoke legally. You’ll forgive me if I don’t bother listening to the message of hypocrites.


a

At this point I thought the argument had run its course, and let him have the last word. Except for this. (And this.)

Last modified February 6th, 2012
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2 Responses to “Arguing about DRM”

  1. DradonLord13 posted on 2008-11-18 at 09:48

    I found this to be a fairly good debate, though I feel sometimes key points of each of the arguments where either ignored or not addressed head on. I think an issue was that each party has a distinctively different opinion on what the parameters of this debate were. I would also like to add there seems to me at least one very important difference between copyright and DRM. Copyright states intellectual ownership to prevent anyone from trying to repackage the same idea/product/concept then selling it as there own idea/product/concept. DRM is a form of control that even though we bought the idea/product/concept we have no right to do with it as we please, we only have permission to use it in a specific and limited way. While in my opinion copyright is good and probably even necessary in our society, DRM is an affront to the very ideals of freedom.
    If whoever wants that kind of control over something they should sell licenses like Microsoft does with OS, I don’t agree with this practice either but it is at least a little more honest.

  2. I was very impressed by Mike Masnick’s article “The Grand Unified Theory On The Economics Of Free”. I also recommend his other articles “The Importance Of Zero In Destroying The Scarcity Myth Of Economics” and “Saying You Can’t Compete With Free Is Saying You Can’t Compete Period”.

    To briefly summarize his position, Mike says that the historical inability to understand the concept “zero” is driving advocates of DRM to try to apply “the economics of scarcity” to the digital age, where marginal costs are zero. Movies and music require that large fixed costs be paid up front, but each copy requires a nearly infinitesimal amount of money– just enough to pay for the upload bandwidth. (Even this small cost is nearly eliminated if the copy is distributed as a torrent.)

    Capitalism always drives the price of goods down to their marginal costs, and digital distribution of music/movies is no exception to this principle. As Mike explains, this is actually an opportunity for the entertainment industry to advertise concerts and live shows to a large audience.

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