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October 13, 2005
DRM Is Not a Contract, Part II
Tim Lee, who scolded Patrick Ross for equating DRM with a contract, now concedes that while DRM is not a contract, it's contract-like in ways that can be beneficial to consumers (say, by enabling a limited-time online rental of a movie). But he goes on to argue that the DMCA is not necessary to yield these benefits -- and further, that allowing the proliferation of circumvention tools may be necessary to stop DRM schemes from harming consumers:
In practice, most consumers don’t want to engage in piracy. To the extent that DRM schemes prevent piracy at all, they do so by putting up “speed bumps” to discourage generally law-abiding folks from casual sharing of copyrighted material. But those “speed bumps” would be just as effective in a world where circumvention is legal. Downloading cracking tools will always be a somewhat seedy and inconvenient process, and so most law-abiding consumers won’t do it even if it’s legal. On the other hand, in cases where the DRM scheme becomes a major impediment to a lawful activity (say someone decides to switch from an iPod to a Dell MP3 player) the availability of “circumvention tools” (such as, say, a Dell-provided software tool that converts iTunes songs to a format suitable for use on Dell’s MP3 player) provides an important safety valve to prevent the DRM scheme from placing unreasonable restrictions on consumers.
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