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.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. icon
    crade (profile), Feb 7th, 2011 @ 4:11pm

    It's the blind + shotgun approach to fighting piracy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    crade (profile), Feb 7th, 2011 @ 4:11pm


    blindfold even

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    Steven (profile), Feb 7th, 2011 @ 4:26pm

    Of course.

    Everybody knows that razor wire is where it's at. Much better than barbed wire.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    monkyyy, Feb 7th, 2011 @ 4:28pm

    Re: Of course.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 7th, 2011 @ 4:38pm

    And then there's

    Barb Wire with all its Hep-C goodness.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    AR (profile), Feb 7th, 2011 @ 4:48pm

    2 Questions

    1) Does the barbed wire (DRM) keep people out or keep people in?

    2) Which came first? The barbed wire or the wire cutter.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    Steven (profile), Feb 7th, 2011 @ 5:19pm

    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!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 7th, 2011 @ 5:30pm

    "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."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    DOlz (profile), Feb 7th, 2011 @ 6:06pm

    Re: Re: 2 Questions

    Actually the original purpose of barbed wire was to keep cattle in. Which is how many of the media and some hardware companies view their customers (cattle).

    Barbed wire is not very effective for keeping people (pirates) out since they can figure out how to climb over it, climb between the strands, or cut it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 7th, 2011 @ 6:36pm

    Re: 2 Questions

    I don't know, what I do know is that in this case people are using Bangalore Torpedo's to clear out the barbed wire.

    It works wonders.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 7th, 2011 @ 8:18pm

    The sooner the MPAA and RIAA fall the better. And, I'd rather see them fall than smarten up.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 7th, 2011 @ 9:32pm

    the congregation will all rise, please turn your bibles to the book of Masnick, chapter 7, verse 11, the evils of business.

    Can't wait to see what the choir says to this one.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    lens42 (profile), Feb 7th, 2011 @ 10:31pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. icon
    Zacqary Adam Green (profile), Feb 7th, 2011 @ 11:07pm

    Jon Evans comes off like PETA in this; I agree with what he's saying, but the way he's saying it makes me kinda hate him.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. icon
    The eejit (profile), Feb 8th, 2011 @ 1:13am


    DRM is, at its heart a bureaucratic nightmare. And it turns into an absolute chore when it goes wrong (see, for example early SecuROM).

    Pointing out its inefficiencies is akin to choir-singing? Must be awful here for you.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Not an electronic Rodent, Feb 8th, 2011 @ 2:30am


    Productive.... A well argued point. Masterful in it's elegance and pith. A true work of art in the anals (sic) of scholarly debate.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. icon (profile), Feb 8th, 2011 @ 3:45am


    Same as always. DRM never worked and never will.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Bill, Feb 8th, 2011 @ 8:04am


    So, what are the non-barbed wire empires that have lasted?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. icon
    PaulT (profile), Feb 8th, 2011 @ 3:09pm

    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'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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 9th, 2011 @ 6:17am


    Hi Bob!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Dave Freer, Feb 9th, 2011 @ 2:44pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Rich Norris, Feb 20th, 2011 @ 11:09pm

    Great Article...

    Enjoyed reading your excellent piece here friend!

    Much Peace,

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    painkiller1961, Oct 13th, 2011 @ 8:32pm

    DRM was made by the rich to get richer off the poor

    drm was first invented to track sheep.

    Blind support of monopolies is everything wrong with the world today.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Hide this ad »
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Chat
Hide this ad »
Recent Stories
Advertisement - Amazon Prime Music
Hide this ad »


Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.