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October 25, 2004
More on Me2Me: Market No SaviorEmail This EntryPrint This Entry
Posted by Donna Wentworth

Cory on why the market won't protect people from attacks on "me2me" freedoms:

Advocates of DRM talk about the ability of the market to find a balance between features and restrictions, because people whose freedom has been unduly restricted will make future purchase decisions that will put the overly draconian DRM systems out of business. But check out this cautionary tale of a guy who bought a home-media centre, started recording his favorite shows to DVD, and then:

Turns out that a couple of days ago, HBO started encrypting all of its programs with CGMS-A. They allow you to "copy" a program that you record from their signal once. The trouble is that they consider that one-time copy to be recording the program onto your hard drive, not taking it from the hard drive to a DVD. THAT SUCKS OUT LOUD and I am extremely angry, as you can imagine. The files are HUGE and, even though I have a 200 gb hard drive, I can't keep them there forever.

When he bought the media centre, it did the thing he wanted it to do with the shows he wanted to do it to: it's like buying a VCR to record the World Series, taking it home and satisfying yourself that it works. It worked.

Then, months later, it stopped working. He could no longer record his favorite shows. Why? Well, because the cablecaster decided to remove a right from him. And because Gateway, the company who sold him the equipment, decided to collaborate with the cablecaster in screwing him out of that right.

When this guy goes back to the store, what should he do to protect his next investment? Say he buys an HP device next, having concluded that Gateway won't look out for his interests. He takes it home and finds that it works fine for his purposes (maybe HP has a "better" deal with HBO that will let him burn more-restricted DVDs from his HP media-centre), then, a couple months later, the cablecaster switches on another flag and suddenly his video won't work.

Where's the market-force here? Should he stop being an HBO customer? A cable customer? A customer for only those PCs that he builds himself and installs a copy of GNU/Linux on?

What purchase-decision can he make or avoid in order to signal to the market that this kind of restrictiveness is unduly harsh and he won't pay for it any longer?

Category: Big Thoughts

Rob on October 26, 2004 12:01 PM writes...

The only decision left to the customer is to not consume the service. That is, if you don't like the DRM controls the media industry is forcing on you, don't buy the product. Don't subsidize the media industry by buying DVDs and going to the movie theater. Boycott companies that advertise on national media. Elect representatives that support fair use and oppose media control of products you have purchased. Otherwise, you're going to have to live with the media telling you how to consume their product because they have set up the system to suit themselves.

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Cory Doctorow on October 27, 2004 05:45 AM writes...

That's a cool personal moral code, but it's not the one I adopt. Copyright is a limited monopoly given on our behalf to creators. What a creator can and can't demand of you is spelled out by lawmakers, who balance the cost to us of having monopolies in the market with the benefit of creating incentives to produce work we can enjoy.

When a creator conditions use or access of his work beyond the scope of copyright (you must stand on your head, you must not make a backup, you may not sell this on), it's not a fair market in creativity that can be corrected by directing a purchase in the right direction: it's an abuse of a regulatory monopoly that picks my pocket to line a right-holder's.

Monopolies aren't subject to market forces: that's why we have trust-busters. I think that buying from the ethical railway barons would not have caused the monopolistic railway barons to act better. We needed to go in with a fireaxe and bust their trust. I don't think that buying from ethical artists will get the big companies to act better either. Regulation -- the creation and maintenance of copyright -- created this mess, and only regulation -- changes to copyright -- will solve it, IMO.

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Lucas Gonze on October 27, 2004 02:27 PM writes...

That looks very familiar.

The railroad analogy breaks down because of the bits/atoms dichotomy. For the residents of a specific town there's only one of it, so railroads can't compete based on whether they go to that one or some other. Songs are only irreplaceable once they're hits, and unlike the residents of the town, we can choose which songs to make hits.

Good thing -- otherwise you'd have to be against the free software movement, no?

Permalink to Comment
Rolo Timassie on October 30, 2004 05:51 PM writes...

Cory, if you think you have an antitrust claim against content owners, knock yourself out.

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Tracked on October 26, 2004 09:26 AM





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