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Old 03-15-2005, 06:56 AM   #1
Alexander Turcic
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DRM harming the developing world

Cory Doctorow has written a paper on how DRM will affect the developing world. Cory: "It's called "Digital Rights Management: A failure in the developed world, a danger to the developing world," and it was written for an International Telecommunications Union report on DRM that is aimed at telecoms regulators in national governments around the world who are trying to figure out which DRM to adopt. [...] The "DRM hypothesis" is that the public is dishonest, and will do dishonest things with cultural material if given the chance. DRM is deployed in order to force dishonest customers to behave honestly and buy media and to limit their activities to those that are authorized by rightsholders."

You can access the full paper here.
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Old 03-15-2005, 11:24 AM   #2
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Very interesting. On the surface, that sounds like he's making a goofy argument. Even though I don't like DRM, aren't most laws on the books because there is an assumption that people will do something bad when not restricted by the law? That seems to be a univeresal legal hypothesis. I think the question is what do you consider "bad" for society when you set the laws in the first place. And just because it results in a law, it doesn't mean it's a moral issue. It may simply be a question of what is best for society, like in the case of copyright laws.

And as far as the developing world, I can see where that argument would be an interesting way to gain support against DRM controls and limitations, but isn't the argument generally true? It's not just developing countries. DRM waters down the rights and benefits of people and businesses across all the world, both developing and developed. And it does so to protect a very strict sense of "ownership" that seems to go even beyond what you would expect for physical ownership.

The content producers (primarily the recording industry and music association) are trying to maximize profits, and they have a lot of money and influence with politicians. It's that simple. Big guy with money wins over the majority good. It's all politics and it is working because the general public has bought their phony rhetoric.

I doubt that a single person in the recording industries honestly believes that it's for the good of the public, even though that's the legal justification. At best, maybe they believe that every single movie and album is so important that it's in the interest of society to make great sacrifice, i.e. to send lots and lots of money to the entertainment industry in a manner protected by government just so the marginal movies and music can be made. Hey, if we taxed more and sent the extra money to the movie industry, maybe we could even get more movies and music made. (Tongue firmly in cheek.) But is that right and good for all? I suppose content producers might honestly believe that it would be a tragedy for society if a few things were not made. But I say ask the average person what they want. A few more movies and music or DRM-free content that the government doesn't try to tell you how to use, and that is really yours when you buy it.

The law is not just about DRM, but about setting copyright laws for the good of the society, and politicians have been bought off or fooled by the big business which wants the money.

For example, a driving argument is that DRM protects revenue and profits, which makes it worthwhile to produce music and movies that you wouldn't have otherwise. Well, that may be true a few marginal creations may be lost, but don't imply it's better for the public. There would still be great movies and music. And people would actually be able to enjoy it better.

I think the battle in the DRM/copyright argument should have two fronts...

1) Is it really in the public's best interest to give legal control over every aspect of content usage by those that pay for it? Should backups be illegal? Should you not be able to keep things you buy in the form you want to keep it in?

2) Why is content protected for so long? Shouldn't a movie, book or album be in the public domain after 3 years? Why 50yrs, or whatever the legal timeframe is? Isn't that a leftover from times past when it made sense in a slower moving world when one might have been able to argue books needed that kind of protection. But modern industry has turned it into a gold mine at the public's expense. It's rediculous to say the motive for protected content is the public good and the necessity of providing profits in order to protect continued content production. I don't think anyone really believes that all creative content will disappear if they only have 3 years to make profit on a movie or album. Will they make less profit? Yes, they will make less. Will the public benefit? Yes, of course!!! What a joy that would be! Would movies stop coming out? Of course not! And independent movies would actually benefit and thrive. Is it such a bad thing for John Wayne movies to be free and available to us all now? I say it's a great thing for the public.

If you asked the average person what they think about any work more than 3 yrs old being availble for free, and they could really grasp the concept, I bet they'd say it's great. Only their falsely created fairness "conscience" would hold them back. A conscience built by the tyranny of being accustomed to the status quo, which generally becomes viewed as fair, so taking away any profits by opening up content would be viewed as an unfair change to impose on big business. But it's not because it's unfair, it's because it's right. We only have the present system of over-protections because it evolved that way. If technology looked always like it looks now, the law would never have been created like it is from scratch.

I say it's time to start from scratch, and protect content enough to allow business and content producers some benefit from their work, but to do it without robbing and withholding from the greater common good.
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Old 03-15-2005, 01:44 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BobR
I doubt that a single person in the recording industries honestly believes that it's for the good of the public, even though that's the legal justification. At best, maybe they believe that every single movie and album is so important that it's in the interest of society to make great sacrifice, i.e. to send lots and lots of money to the entertainment industry in a manner protected by government just so the marginal movies and music can be made. Hey, if we taxed more and sent the extra money to the movie industry, maybe we could even get more movies and music made. (Tongue firmly in cheek.) But is that right and good for all? I suppose content producers might honestly believe that it would be a tragedy for society if a few things were not made. But I say ask the average person what they want. A few more movies and music or DRM-free content that the government doesn't try to tell you how to use, and that is really yours when you buy it.
Wow, Bob, thank you for sharing your view with us. I admire your line of argumentation! - back to the topic: the same is true with cheaper life-saving generics for Third World countries. Consider cases such as Africa, where some devastated communities are 70% HIV-positive, and people are too poor to pay for proper medication. Here, one must look for alternatives (such as generic products) to help them. In the case of DRM, already it would be a big step forward if content producers were offering DRM-protected material for free or considerably less than in the "developed" countries. It doesn't have to be free of DRM to help poor countries. It only has to be somehow accessible to the poor!
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