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April 19, 2005
Uses for Useless DRM
Patrick Ross writes that I make a "flawed argument" against DRM in my post below on the Cornell University debate, "The Download Debate Strikes Back." In fact, I make no argument at all. I report what Alec French argued, and indicate my dismay/disbelief.
For those who didn't watch the debate, Mr. French asserts that DRM benefits the consumer because you can choose either to pay "5 cents" to hear something once (doesn't that make the radio suddenly seem remarkably appealing?) or 99 cents+ per song to...well, presumably download and listen to music within a proprietary system like iTunes, presumably under licensing terms indicating that your ability to copy or take your music with you is subject to additional restrictions at any time.
So DRM is a great deal for consumers because we have long desired more...price discrimination. We're also champing at the bit to pay more for a collection of individual songs than we did for a whole album, while getting less for the money.
My EFF colleague Fred von Lohmann has a fresh post @ Deep Links on what one flavor of DRM (AACS) is good for -- given, of course, that it's not good for consumers:
So why are they bothering with [AACS DRM]? Not because it will slow "digital piracy" (always the public justification for DRM and laws like the DMCA that support it), but because it will give the Hollywood Cartel more power over the market for next-gen DVD players. When a Chinese company makes a player that fails to pay AACS royalties, or makes its product too easy to modify, or ignores region coding, or otherwise fails to toe the line, the Hollywood Cartel can "revoke" that player's device key. Suddenly, everyone who owns that player can no longer play new movies.
Ah, yes -- use DRM to punish the innocent in the hope of pressuring player makers into obedience, all the while doing nothing to slow filesharing. Isn't it time we started to question the premise of DRM sytems like this, as well as the laws intended to support them?
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