The Inefficiency Of DRM: Empires Built On Barbed Wire Never Last

from the we're-still-having-this-argument? dept

While there’s not much necessarily new in this recent TechCrunch piece by author Jon Evans, it does make a nice point that’s worth repeating, in that empires built on barbed wire never last. The article notes that one of the problems of the old Soviet economy was the fact that so much effort was wasted on production of things that didn’t really aid the overall economy, but instead held back others. For example, a significant amount of effort from the metallurgical industry was focused on creating barbed wire, rather than building something that might actually improve the economy. And, as he notes, “DRM is the barbed wire of the media world.” It serves no productive purpose, but is simply designed to “protect.” From there he notes:

Although it pains me to say this, it’s the pirates who are on the right side of history. Empires built on barbed wire inevitably collapse, and the sooner the better; while this one reigns, it perpetuates yesterday’s regimes, and squelches innovation and progress. Is piracy wrong? Yes, but that’s the wrong question. The right question is, which is worse: widespread piracy, or the endless and futile attempt to preserve DRM everywhere? So long live the pirates. Those jerks. Please don’t make me say it again.

Of course, there’s a corollary to this as well. If you recognize that getting rid of DRM helps allow for more openness and greater innovation, at some point it occurs to you that perhaps you shouldn’t be so worried about “pirates,” and can start focusing on actually using their enthusiasm to your own benefit.

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Comments on “The Inefficiency Of DRM: Empires Built On Barbed Wire Never Last”

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23 Comments
Steven (profile) says:

Re: 2 Questions

1) Original design of ‘wire’ (barbed is one of the newer variants) were designed to be unidirectional (keep people out). This has become out of style now as many companies have seen the great benefits of bidirectional wire (keeping people either in or out). In fact this new approach of bidirectional wire has become so desired that many companies string various types of wire all over their items to create arbitrary sections and charge various fees per section.

2) That is a misleading question. Wire cutters are an abhorrent technology that does not currently exists… I SAID DOES NOT EXISTS!!

Anonymous Coward says:

“The digital lock is comprised of both the lock and key, already fit snuggly inside the lock. In order to open the lock you must turn the key and in order to turn the key you must have the password. The password is written on the back of the digital lock. It is 1-2-3-4. In order to use the password to turn the key to open the lock you must pay a small processing fee. The only thing stopping you from bypassing this digital system is magic. Thank you and have a nice day.”

lens42 (profile) says:

No surprise when you consider that the executives at record and movie companies are really not at all interested in the future of their organizations. They are working only to preserve their bonuses and departure packages for the next 3 to 5 years. When you realize that, the “barbed wire” schemes make a lot of sense. Of course the shareholders of these companies should be mad a hell, but they ignorantly believe what managements tells them.

PaulT (profile) says:

I read a couple of interesting articles today. The first was a blog entry of the EU Playstation blog explaining why so many PS1 titles were either US only or not available at all as yet (essentially, regional or expired licensing or incompatibilities in PAL DRM that don’t cause problems with the PS3’s emulator in NTSC versions – not incompatibilities with the game itself, just the DRM). These stop Sony from offering the games for sale, despite there being heavy demand for some titles.

The second was a look at Last.fm’s continual shrinking by the removal of free radio playback facilities (again down to regional licensing and restrictions from content providers).

This is the real problem, and one ignored by the maximists out there. Legitimate product is hampered by legal, technical and other flaws that stop legal purchasers from accessing and enjoying content. “Pirates” suffer from none of these flaws and can offer a superior experience, even if price is not taken into consideration.

Until the content industry realises this problem and attempts to rectify it, they’re doomed, no matter how many “pirates” they shut down or wave DRM in front of.

Dave Freer (user link) says:

DRM we luv it (not)

As a writer (Science Fiction – you know, those imaginary utopias with no DRM and no petty data theft (not piracy. Pirates sail around on boats and board ships off the coast of Africa)) what really irritates me about DRM is not just that it is futile and wastes capacity, it’s that it’s my bloody fault. Well, people blame authors. Who – with rare exceptions – have nothing to do with it and are not actually anything other than minor beneficiaries (and it can be argued that as petty data thieves would never buy the books, but might if they actually read them, not even beneficiaries, ’cause they lose the advertising. Oh yes it hurts bestsellers like JK Rowlin’-in-it, but not ordinary joes like me that publishers don’t spend money on advertising). All DRM succeeds in doing is making my books harder to read, more expensive, and if your reader breaks, difficult to transfer legally. Yeah that’s a win for me, and of course my name is on the cover, so it must be my idea. It isn’t. It’s the publisher or retailer’s idea, because they assume that all their customers of thieves. I assume that people who enjoy my books would like to reward me for writing them, thereby keeping me writing more. I’m gradually putting more of my backlist up myself – at what I think of as reasonable prices – lower than a paperback (how the hell does anyone accept an e-book can cost more than a paperback?) – and I’ll get 70% of the income and not 8% which I get from publishers for that paperback. There will be no DRM (unless inserted by a retailer, in which case you could buy it directly from me, sans DRM, because we hates it, we does.) and none of this regionalisation crap either.
And I bet petty data theft is a very minor issue.

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