Yup, lame pun. And yup, this article is about Dangerously Restrictive Media. Also known as Digital “Rights” Management. Why anybody needs their rights to be managed, goodness only knows. The context of the word “management” in Digital Rights Management seems to be similar to that of “Risk Management”. In other words, it means “calculated reduction”.
So why do the Media companies impose this kind of restriction on Joe Public? And why does Joe Public care about his Digital Rights? Well, the Media companies are imposing this kind of restriction because they lack faith in the ability of The Law to prosecute thieves. I find this particular lack of faith disconcerting, and it leads me to a similar mistrust of The Law, who seem to agree with The Media that prosecuting thieves isn’t enough – they should be allowed to prevent the theft in the first place.
Now, ok, putting a lock on your door and locking it when you go to bed at night is a sensible thing to do to prevent theft. But would you really want to keep the door locked -all the time-? You wouldn’t be able to get out, and your friends wouldn’t be able to get in! Sure, your stuff is safe, but the user (ie you) is under house arrest!
This is what DRM does, effectively. It isn’t a reasonable precaution against piracy, it’s overkill. It’s a way of saying “you aren’t trusted to leave the house or take visitors, so we’re locking your door. Permanently. It’s for your own good, though!”
Great. The reason I’m complaining, by the way, is because there is much in my house which is DRM’d, and I’m sick and tired of hacking it to get it to play/run/install on the “wrong” hardware, or even just a second device! It’s stupid! When I legitimately purchase something, I want to be able to use it however I like, I want to be able to study it, I want to be able to modify it for my own [devious or otherwise] ends and I want to be able to give/sell/lend it to my friends/family if I no longer have a use for it.
This model is true of toasters, TVs, cars, boilers, sofas, beds, houses, kettles, washing machines, microwave ovens… thousands upon thousands of physical products. What it is not true of is software and media (songs, movies, etc.). Now, I grant you that software and media are “intellectual property”, which is replicatable by anybody; but, surely, if I could replicate my toaster, maybe even improving it on the way – would it be fair of me to keep the replicated toaster to myself?
And surely if I could replicate my toaster and improve it and sell it on, the original manufacturer could replicate -my- toaster, add its own improvements, and release it all over again! Surely this promotes The Healthy Kind of competition? In fact, surely this -defines- The Healthy Kind of competition!
So, in fact, is it not fantastic that Software is so easily replicatable? From a software-participant*’s point of view, anyway. Well, any software-participant who cares more about Good Software than they do about making a quick buck, anyway.
*software-participant: Someone who participates in the creation, use, modification, study or improvement of software.