I hate DRM. I hate it so much, I want to punch babies. DRM's mere existence infuriates me, because it's anti-consumer, turns honest customers into criminals, and does nothing to stop dedicated pirates.
You've read my blog before, so this is nothing new. DRM is in my mind today, however, because of two links I read at boingboing.
Wellington Grey has a great little slideshow about the idiocy of the DMCA's "anti-circumvention" measures, which prohibit breaking the digital locks off the stuff you own. In it, Grey recounts how offended he was when he bought a TomTom GPS that came with a CD in a sealed envelope, the seal on which read, "By breaking this seal, you agree to our contract," but the contract itself was on the CD, behind the seal. In other words, the CD said, "By breaking this seal, you agree to a bunch of secret stuff."
I saw this on Reddit last week, and meant to link it then. Whoops. Anyway, I love how this guy explains just how fucking stupid and pointless DRM is, and that he shows us what would happen if DRM and the DMCA were applied to real world objects. It's good perspective that's useful for explaining to technophobes (and congress critters) why these things need to go away. Now.
Techdirt reports that Steve Jobs has been pitching studio execs on a scheme whereby DVD owners can pay extra for the "privilege" of ripping their DVDs -- but only for playback on iPods and iPhones. The thing is, Jobs fought the music industry back in the early iTunes day, arguing that people who buy CDs should have the right to rip them without paying anything extra.
So what's the difference? DRM -- Digital Rights Management. This is the anti-copying software that studios put on DVDs, allegedly to "stop piracy." But DRM isn't doing anything to stop piracy (people who want to pirate DVDs just break the DRM, because it's impossible to stop determined attackers from copying bits on their own computers). It seems like the primary use for DRM is to sell you back the rights you used to get for free, so that the studios can pick your pocket every time you find a new way to use the media you buy from them.
That second link reminds me of the first time I encountered some sort of restrictive, proprietary "software": when I was 9, my mom let me buy this really cool cap gun. It was so awesome! It looked just like a real gun (this was in 1979, when things like this were harmless fun for a suburban 9 year-old) and you could load this strip of plastic caps into a clip that went into the handle. When you fired it, it went off with a satisfying bang, and ejected one spent cap like it was a shell.
I didn't want to ever shoot someone for real, and as an adult I don't have any interest in owning a gun, but when I was 9, this thing was the coolest toy, ever, and it was the perfect addition to my James Bond superspy roleplaying adventures with the other kids in my neighborhood.
The thing was, I could only load the gun with a particular type of refill, and if the store was out of those refills -- but flush with all of the "standard" strips and rings of caps -- my really cool gun instantly became a useless piece of plastic and metal that only made whatever "bang bang" noise I could create myself . . . just like the kids up the block who used Legos to make guns that didn't make an awesome "BANG" but more of a 9 year-old vocalized "bang".
Of course, the proprietary caps were more expensive than the standard caps, and after a few months they went off the shelf, never to return. The cap gun became a paperweight, and was sold at a garage sale.
It's not exactly a 1:1 on DRM, but I believe the fundamental concept is the same: a manufacturer uses some restrictive bit of technology to lock consumers into one format and one device. It's stupid, it's anti-consumer, and it makes me stabby.