The case against fenced-in content
January 9, 2009 | 8:57 pm
Many thanks to Court for the essay below, which reflects his views and not necessarily TeleRead’s. – D.R.
The sky is falling on those who want to fence in our content—books, music, video, audio, software—with DRM. But it’s not over yet. Here are some arguments to use with friends who don’t grasp the damage that DRM does to books.
Yes, it is just and fair to pay for an MP3, or an e-book, or a movie, or a piece of software, especially if you’re supporting a particular musician or writer or filmmaker, etc. But once you purchase that chunk of media, it should be yours. No musician, writer, or corporation should be able to hang on to the content I paid for. That’s what DRM does. It controls what you do with what you pay for. If I buy a copy of a public domain work like Moby Dick, I am then free to read it, give it away, resell it, or use it as kindling. That’s my right. Why is a copyrighted e-book or an MP3 any different?
Because, say the content providers, e-books and MP3s can be copied infinitely, perfectly, on the web.
Yes, they can. That’s the nature of the beast. Things change, move forward, progress. Technology more so than most other things. No doubt the monks who spent years hand-copying Bibles in their monasteries ranted piously about Mr. Gutenberg’s invention. History wasn’t on the side of the monks, and it’s not on the side of today’s adherents to outmoded, outmaneuvered, and outdone institutions, er, corporations. If you listen closely, that’s the collapse of a thousand business models you can hear in the distance.
Things are simply going to have to get done in different ways. Here are pointers to anti-DRM writings.
- Chris Meadows wrote a DRM primer at TeleRead that outlines why DRM doesn’t make sense on any level.
- Mike Cane gives the FTC a piece of his mind: this guy really hates DRM.
- And way back in 2000, Eric Flint explains why Baen is going to be giving books away online.
- You could also read The Public Domain or get a free download of Cory Doctorow’s Content. (Stay tuned for a review of that one.)
- Also check out Larry Lessig’s Free Culture if you haven’t already. It’s the book that got me started on all this in the first place.