Ian Bicking: the old part of his blog

DRM Explained

It's useful for more technical people to consider how we can help explain ideas to the general populace. Often it's helpful to come up with a metaphor that people will be familiar with. With that in mind, here's how I would explain DRM:

DRM (Digital Restrictions Management) is like the anti-shoplifting scanners in stores (the ones that beep if you try to take something out the door). Really that's about all you need to know, but I'll just make brief note of a couple small details where they differ.

Because you can still steal songs and movies after you've bought them, the scanners have to be installed on your front door. And your back door. And the basement door. And in the air vents. It might seem expensive to install all these, but don't worry -- because it's your house the stores don't have to buy the scanners, you install the scanners for them. It's part of how you get the privilege to listen to music. So I should say "you install the scanners for you".

But really they are more forgiving than the scanners in stores! In a store they could send you to jail. The attendants on the DRM scanners just confiscate whatever you stole. The DRM attendants also don't need to look at your receipt, listen to your explanation, or let you talk to the management. They just take what you stole and send you on your way.

But don't worry about the cost of the attendants! Just like the scanners the attendants are your employees (and they work cheap)! You can actually choose any of a number of competing services to secure you from theft. Sorry, maybe that should be secure you from thieving (think of them as guards for your immortal soul). Because you have choice the market will protect you. With DRM and the market looking out for you, you are doubly safe.

The only caveat at this time is that you can't tell your new attendants what to do. And you can't fire them or take out the scanners, unless you are willing to give back everything you have bought. Refunds on purchases are not available. But remember: you have a choice.

I hope this helps reassure anyone who feels uncomfortable about DRM. Next up: I'll explain why "piracy" (the taking of property from others on the open sea by violence) is such a good metaphor for unauthorized copying.

Created 10 Nov '05
Modified 10 Nov '05


I agree with how horrible DRM is. I work with a company that is somewhat engaged in the field, and I wouldn't buy the product I am developing on myself.

Yet there isn't much you can do, because if you want to get deals with the content-providers, you have to bend to their rules, however stupid thei are.

I do also have doubts how business would go if you'd just put plain content in the hands of everybody. Probably not much worse then now, since anybody who wants to have just plain content can get it easely enough anyway.

In the best of cases the whole idea with DRM will be a fad, and kill itself easely enough as soon as everybody has realized it's not a workable system at large.

Perhaps then we'll remember that a service that somebody charges is much more about ease of use, quality, customer satisfaction, and all the nice things good services are supposedly about.

# coward

Yet there isn't much you can do, because if you want to get deals with the content-providers, you have to bend to their rules, however stupid thei are.

So, get works from other places. Encourage artists that you like, to avoid such harmful deals. Encourage them to encourage other artists to do the same.

Not easy, but far from "there isn't much you can do". We're only helpless if we choose to be.

# Ben Finney

Please tell me you're being sarcastic. Please do. (it reads that way, but... :)

A simpler way of explaining DRM is this: it's about controlling your right to talk and your right not to listen. It allows someone to control how and who you give gifts to. It is a mechanism to prevent normal (legal) activities - like playing CDs and DVDs you've paid for on devices designed for playing them. It allows someone else to control what you do, irrespective of whether a law or common sense says you can or cannot do that thing.

It prevents artists sharing video which plays on common DVD players easily and conveniently. It prevents musicians from creating CDs playable by all (see below). It prevents people taking an ebook and making it available to the blind. It prevents you trusting your own machines, since they may be required (by the personal controlling the DRM mechanism) to destroy your content on a frame-by-frame, megabyte-by-megabyte basis. (http://tinyurl.com/9sy2y - google link) It allows someone to prevent you from reselling things you bought and nolonger need or desire: http://tinyurl.com/cje2q (last paragraph (uspto)).

It is about controlling your leisure, and fundamentally, your ability to communicate with others.

Example, right to control what you listen to: DRM is used to force you to watch adverts on DVDs. If you remaster it you're breaching copyright, and breaching DMCA (or equivalents) and are a criminal.

Example, if you don't think it controls your right to talk consider this: I can record a tape for a friend (ie a spoken letter) and send it to them. Perfectly legal, no infringment of anyone's granted intellectual monopolopy rights. They can play that tape on any tape player.

If however I have a CD burner and blank CDs, and a microphone, I should be able to do the same. Ever tried to play a CD (burnt properly, etc) with your own created content on a PS2? (Even though it'll play "normal" CDs)

DRM doesn't solve the problem it's designed to do: prevent copyright infringement. It simply encourages it in order for consumers to enjoy their existing legal rights. Like watch content. Like skip content. Like watch the bits they want to watch. Copyright infringement sucks, but DRM these days, goes waaay too far the other way.

# Michael Sparks

DRM is widely missused.

Personally I expect it'll die because of either of two reasons:

-Mohtballed: Content providers who do provide open content (as opposed to protected content) will attract more customers, as it's more attractive once the whole DRM world is firmly established. In this way, working much like the bargain for a flatrate internet/telephone, or a free phone for the mobile-contract, you can't keep up with that as a content provider making DRM-offers and in order to compete you have to mothball the idea.

-Technical breakdown/Customer outrage: The whole DRM world is extremely brittle, proprietary standard ridden. As a customer when anything goes wrong, and you think you're entitled to more stuff then you ended up with, you're pretty much a hopless case. Expectedly as DRM gets more and more adopted, this customary cases of extreme customer dissatisfaction will transmoglify in a vast pool of people basically badmouthing about DRM at every given opportunity. It's really hard to come up with a more effective scheme to drive anti-propaganda for a concept/product. If you push this hard enough, in a democracy, if enough people are pissed off enough, they start to make laws. What most companies seem to forget, (most kings of long gone ages knew just too well), you can get away with much, as long as you don't piss off that critical mass that starts a chain reaction with you ending up on the recieving side of a mob.

# coward


First, please my poor english but i'm french and i haven't spoke/wrote english for a long time.

I want to think your joking :)

and in response to coward (please don't see offence, I hope it's your "pseudo"), when you said that people would make laws when they are upset, in France, we have the chance to have a governement wich is really concerned by the people who elected them : they did (they use a way of doing things that permit then do ask for validation by our chambers of eleted people by the 23 dec. on night, just then anybody except some of their friends will be there to say 'no!') a law who is going to be worse than the DMCA : for example, only the fact of explain to someone (or just putting on link on) how to bypass a 'protection' is illegal and to be possibly condamned to jail, even if it is in the objective to use something lagally acquired and for our own use. They also put somes articles of law who make illegal development/use/distribution of any software (open-source or propietary but os is a primary target) who let transfert digital information (it's includes basic "concepts" like ftp !) without implementing DRM ! (or softs who permits interoperability :/).

They are going so far in reject of public concerns thats some of these articles are named Vivendi/Universal !

please find an excerpt from a site who try to fight this law

VU/SACEM/BSA amendment forbidding software not equipped with technical measures.

An amendment to the proposed DADVSI bill has the aim of making criminal counterfeiting out of publication,
distribution and promotion of all software susceptible to being used to open up data protected by author's right and
not integrating a method of controlling and tracking private usage (technical measure). All software permitting
downloads is concerned, such as certain instant messaging software (chat) and all server software (P2P, HTTP, FTP,
SSH). This surrealist amendment has been redirected from its start by Vivendi Universal, then reworked by many
members of the Sirinelli commission, a commission of the High Council of Literary and Artistic Property CSPLA.

So for finish my long speech, I hope your right Coward and someday people will kick the ass of these f****** b*******. I'm really worrying for the world our childrens will get :(

Have a nice day :D

# rgv

So I should say "you install the scanners for you".

That is sometimes called an externality, moving cost to others, a corporation fetish. Obviously DRM involves large overhead costs. Obviously corporations will push to make all of that overhead a profit center, or an externality, or both. Hopefully they will fail, spectactularly, and the more aggressive of them fail completely.

# pass

DRM - better is normal live

# Agro