Having looked closely at the publishing industry for the past few months, and having worked in both the software industry and the film industry at various times over the past two decades, I’ve come to a few conclusions about digital rights management (DRM). The most important is that there is no clear-cut solution to the question of piracy, and anybody who tells you they’ve got it all figured out is working their own angle. And that includes Cory Doctorow and me.
Like the subject of abortion in the political arena, DRM is injected into every conversation about content ownership and distribution whether it’s directly relevant or not. If you don’t say the right things to the right people about DRM you risk associations and opportunities that might be of value, not because you’re wrong on the merits, but because you’re giving aid and comfort to the enemy by implying that they are not pure evil. At the same time, those people who don’t buy into a black-and-white view of DRM will think you an idiot for not using the impassioned nuts on both sides to your own advantage.
The correct answer to questions about DRM in the current context is not to be suckered into a debate about technological solutions or the prosecution of college students, but to educate and evangelize about the problems that drive the implementation of DRM technology in the first place. Although most end users who pirate content do so as individuals, the collective effect of these individual decisions hurts copyright holders and content creators in very real ways. Yes, some piracy may be sticking it to The Man, but it’s also killing artists that people apparently want to read, listen to and watch. [ Read more ]