Debate on DRM

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Doc Searls points to a weblog post by the Guardian Unlimited’s Lloyd Shepherd on DRM and says it’s one of the most depressing things he’s read. Shepherd wrote:

I’m not going to pick a fight with the Cory Doctorows of the world because they’re far more informed and cleverer than me, but let’s face it: we’re going to have to have some DRM. At some level, there has to be an appropriate level of control over content to make it economically feasible for people to produce it at anything like an industrial level. And on the other side of things, it’s clear that the people who make the consumer technology that ordinary people actually use – the Microsofts and Apples of the world – have already accepted and embraced this. The argument has already moved on.

Doc points to others making arguments in refutation of Shepherd’s thesis (Tom Coates and Julian Bond), and ends his post with:

We need to do with video what we’ve started doing with music: building a new and independent industry.

Yes, the next generation of PCs and Macs will have DRM cripplecrap in them. Hey, who needs WIPO, Congress and the U.N. to mandate copyright craziness, when Intel is glad to put the means right in the hardware?

But current PCs already have DRM, truth be told. (Try getting a screen shot of a DVD frame on your Mac.) Yet you can still make music and movies that can be heard, watched, produced and distributed outside The System. That won’t change.

And that’s what matters most.

Because in the long run, the indies will win.

That’s how we got the Net, folks. And that’s how we’ll keep it, too. Even if our dawn’s early light is years away, it will come. Meanwhile, we have to endure this winter of dissed content.

I don’t see how DRM necessarily disables independents from continuing their efforts. Apple has invested in iTunes and iPods, but one can still listen to other formats and subscribe to other services from a Mac. In fact, what Shepard is proposing is that we accept the fact that companies like Apple and Google and Microsoft and Yahoo are going to have these mechanisms in place, and what can we do to ensure we continue to have options on our desktops?

There’s another issue though that’s of importance to me in that the concept of debate being debated (how’s this for a circular discussion). The Cluetrain debate method consists of throwing pithy phrases at each other over (pick one): spicey noodles in Silicon Valley; a glass of ale in London; something with bread in Paris; a Boston conference; donuts in New York. He or she who ends up with the most attention (however attention is measured) wins.

In Doc’s weblog comments, I wrote:

What debate, though? Those of us who have pointed out serious concerns with Creative Commons (even demonstrating problems) are ignored by the creative commons people. Doc, you don’t debate. You repeat the same mantra over and over again: DRM is bad, openness is good. Long live the open internet (all the while you cover your ears with your hands and hum “We are the Champions” by Queen under your breath).

Seems to me that Lloyd Shepherd is having the debate you want. He’s saying, DRM is here, it’s real, so now how are we going to come up with something that benefits all of us?

Turning around going, “Bad DRM! Bad!” followed by pointing to other people going “Bad DRM! Bad!” is not an effective response. Neither is saying how unprofitable it is, when we only have to turn our little eyeballs over to iTunes to generate an “Oh, yeah?”

Look at the arguments in the comments to Shepherd’s post. He is saying that as a business model, we’re seeing DRM work. The argument back is that the technology fails. He’s talking ‘business’ and the response is ‘technology’. And when he tries to return to business, the people keep going back to technology (with cries of ‘…doomed to failure! Darknet!’).

The CES you went to showed that DRM is happening. So now, what can we do to have input into this to ensure that we’re not left with orphaned content if a particular DRM goes belly up? That we have fair use of the material? If it is going to exist, what can we do to ensure we’re not all stuck with betamax when the world goes VHS?

Rumbles of ‘darknet’, pointers to music stores that feature few popular artists, and clumsy geeky software as well as loud hyperbole from what is a small majority does not make a ‘debate’. Debate is acknowledging what the other ’side’ is saying, and responding accordingly. Debate requires some openness.

There is reason to be concerned about DRM (Digital Rights Management–using technology to restrict access to specific types of media). If operating systems begin to limit what we can and cannot use to view or create certain types of media; if search engine companies restrict access to specific types of files; if commercial competition means that me having an iPod, as compared to some other device, limits the music or services at other companies I have access to, we are at risk in seeing certain components of the internet torn into pieces and portioned off to the highest bidders.

But by saying that all DRM is evil and that only recourse we have is to keep the Internet completely free, and only with independents will we win and we will win, oh yes we will–this not only disregards the actuality of what’s happening now, it also disregards that at times, DRM can be helpful for those not as well versed in internet technologies.


My apologies to Lloyd Shepherd for spelling his name wrong. I’ve attempted to correct the misspellings. Please let me know if I’ve missed any.

Copyright Weblogging

The EFF’s Blogger legal guide

As much as I’ve tweaked the issue of Creative Commons and weblogging accountability, I would be remiss if I didn’t provide a link to EFF’s Legal Guide for Bloggers.

The guide provides some good overview of issues such as legal liability, copyright, and defamation. It isn’t detailed, but chances are if you need detail, you probably need a lawyer.

The guide does reference Creative Commons, but a very neutral overview of it, primarily pointing us to the CC site. If I think one section is weak, it is the section devoted to copyright, Creative Commons, and people making comments:

When a person enters comments on a blog for the purpose of public display, he is probably giving an implied license at least for that display and the incidental copying that goes along with it. If you want to make things clearer, you can add a Creative Commons license to your blog’s comment post page and a statement that by posting comments, writers agree to license them under it.

Just to clarify this: if you comment here, it’s going to display here. If you don’t want it to display here, don’t comment here. If after you comment, you regret the fact — delete the comment. If you can’t manage your own destiny with all this, and you sue me, I’ll send Microsoft after you. After all–I’m the only blogger that hasn’t condemned MSN Spaces and blamed the company for the upcoming fall of the internet. The company owes me.


What we hear

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Lawrence Lessig posted a graphic of the spread of Creative Commons throughout the world. He used some interesting words to describe the colors:

As of Thursday, the current spread of Creative Commons. The green are countries where the project has launched. The yellow are close. The red is yet to be liberated.

(em. mine)

The red is yet to be liberated.

Joi Ito responded with:

A lot of progress but a lot left to do.

Yet no one, not one person has responded to the test challenge I did with the Creative Commons license, or the carefully written responses by Dennis Kennedy and Denise Howell at Corante’s Between Lawyers. It’s as if there’s a buffer around the license and absolutely no criticism or questioning of it is allowed.

What was more disappointing, though, was the fact that given this silence, the Corante folks still kept the CC license up at their site. Is it, then, that no one, including the CC people themselves, really take this license seriously? Then what the hell use is it, other than a way of marking yourself as a good weblogging citizen?