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DRM Media Your Rights Online

The Real Purpose of DRM 213

Jeremy Allison - Sam writes "Ian Hickson, author and maintainer of the HTML5 specification, comments about the real reasons for DRM. They're not what you might think. Ian nails it in my opinion. He wrote, 'The purpose of DRM is not to prevent copyright violations. The purpose of DRM is to give content providers leverage against creators of playback devices. Content providers have leverage against content distributors, because distributors can't legally distribute copyrighted content without the permission of the content's creators. But if that was the only leverage content producers had, what would happen is that users would obtain their content from those content distributors, and then use third-party content playback systems to read it, letting them do so in whatever manner they wanted. ... Arguing that DRM doesn't work is, it turns out, missing the point. DRM is working really well in the video and book space. Sure, the DRM systems have all been broken, but that doesn't matter to the DRM proponents. Licensed DVD players still enforce the restrictions. Mass market providers can't create unlicensed DVD players, so they remain a black or gray market curiosity."
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The Real Purpose of DRM

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  • by TechieRefugee ( 2105386 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @07:47PM (#43219097)
    First, a study showing that piracy has a negligable effect on profits and now this? I officially decree today to be the day of "No shit" Stories!
  • Short version (Score:5, Insightful)

    by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @07:49PM (#43219111)

    DRM is an attempt to circumvent one of the primary functions of a computational device: Copying of data. The reason for this is money and power. One group thinks they deserve money or power over another group. This is the simple truth of all DRM, and I can explain it shorter than the article, and even the summary of the article. It is what it is.

  • by msauve ( 701917 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @08:05PM (#43219241)
    DRM isn't directly about "no copy," and it isn't directly about controlling device manufacturers.

    It's about getting around "first sale" rights. They don't want you to be able to sell what you bought to someone else (hence "no copy"), and they want you to re-purchase if you want it on a different device (hence the "device control"). They want you to rent, not own, content.
  • by mark-t ( 151149 ) <markt@NoSPaM.nerdflat.com> on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @08:05PM (#43219243) Journal

    DRM is about distributive control... but they've always had distributive control in one form or another anyways.

    The purpose of DRM is to supplement the diminishing faith that the content makers have traditionally placed in the strength of the copyright claim alone to keep people from copying the work without authorization.

    As copying has gotten easier and easier, the mere social contract between publisher and community, which essentially says that the latter will not copy it without permission, effectively granting the publisher a form of distributive control, has started to break down... people are no longer adhering to their side of that contract, and so it is inevitable that publishers will seek alternative means to protect their interests.

    Before copyright itself, effective distributive control still existed for people who made content because the work involved in making a copy was very time consuming and difficult. At the very least, it involved sufficient manual labor and errors in reproduction that the counterfeits rarely obtained as much notoriety as the originals. This is hardly the circumstance today, where it's pretty much an an everyday occurrence to see movies that wer3e just released up on Pirate Bay within days or sometimes hours of release, for download by anybody who simply doesn't want to pay the cash to see it in the theater.

  • As has been said, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mister Liberty ( 769145 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @08:09PM (#43219277)

    DRM manages you rights in the same way jail 'manages' your freedom.

  • by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @08:14PM (#43219321)

    I was misled! I was told that DRM would help me to manage my rights. Is this no longer the case?

    Well, there's a reason they call copyright owners "rights owners", and they call you a "consumer". Because otherwise, you'd own your personal digital devices, and you'd do whatever you want with them, and we can't have that. There's money to be made in taking away your rights and then selling them back to you as a privilege that can be taken away at any time.

  • Re:PDF (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BrokenHalo ( 565198 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @08:19PM (#43219353)

    But on the book side, it seems many E-readers can easily read PDF and other formats which makes for easy licensing.

    Yeah, and it was the wide range of supported formats that persuaded me to opt for a Sony reader. But as it turns out, I would still do the same even if that were not a factor. IMO the epub format is far superior to any of the others (fortunately .mobi and .lit formats can be converted by Calibre), since these files are so easily tweaked for better readability. I really dislike having to put up with PDF files on the device, since they are invariably prepared with silly page layouts that just don't work very well on the device's display.

    The other good news about epub files is that it is so easy to strip DRM out of them. My rationale is that if I have paid for an ebook, I should be able to treat it exactly as I might a paper copy, i.e. lend it to family or friends.

  • DVD players? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by leromarinvit ( 1462031 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @08:23PM (#43219379)

    I'm confused. Why would anyone care what a DVD player does or doesn't do, when there's a free, high quality, ad-free version of pretty much anything on the Pirate Bay (and countless other distribution channels) that will play on any device, in any way I want, whenever I want?

    They can (somewhat, temporarily) control their own distribution channels. But once it's out in the open, any and all control over these closed channels is moot.

  • by Arker ( 91948 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @08:29PM (#43219417) Homepage
    Or, to put it even more simply, DRM is about destroying private property rights and replacing them with a system of privilege.
  • by Rob the Bold ( 788862 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @08:31PM (#43219443)

    In addition to unauthorized distribution of copyright works, I assume that DRM is also intended to prevent "unauthorized producers" of content from being able to distribute their works. Now that distribution no longer absolutely requires going through "official" channels, some means of preventing "pirate," that is to say, non-major-studio-authorized, content is needed.

  • by Skapare ( 16644 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @08:44PM (#43219531) Homepage

    ... one industry wants to create a distribution monopoly by controlling everything, and eliminating competition.

  • Re:DVD players? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JaredOfEuropa ( 526365 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @09:04PM (#43219673) Journal
    This. The Pirate Bay (and Usenet, and private Torrent trackers) offer something that media companies don't... If they had been paying any attention, they'd have taken a clue from AllOfMP3: content for a decent price, in the format I want, at a compression rate of my choice. And mine to play and replay when I want, on a device of my choice, with no ads.

    I don't pirate movies because I can do so free of charge. I got to a point in life where my time is actually rather valuable, so I am willing to pay for convenience. And I am certainly willing and able to pay for content because it's the right thing to do. Yet I pirate movies because the pirates offer a vastly better product and movie distributors stubbornly refuse to follow suit. Well, fuck 'em.

    And fuck the book publishers too. I still get told all too often that I am not allowed to buy certain ebooks because I don't live in the USA... even though the same companies are happy to ship me a paper copy. Guess what, the customer you refused to do business with found what he wants on the Pirate Bay
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @09:55PM (#43219983)

    Prices inflated? This isn't food or gasoline, this is entertainment. If you don't want to consume it then just don't.

    Prices inflated? This isn't food, this is gasoline. If you don't want to drive then walk.

    Entertainment is no different then any products. Also, burning oil is a waste. Oil is non-renewable, once it's burnt it's gone forever. There is so much better stuff we can do with oil.

  • by wierd_w ( 1375923 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @09:58PM (#43219999)

    Right of first sale bitch.

    Region locking flat out puts nails in it, and tries everything possible to kill it with fire.

    Without region locking, the right of first sale would permit entreprenurial individuals to buy up cheap(er) product in one target market, then resell the units at a higher (to them, but lower for the downstream customer) price elsewhere, and undercut the phyrric bloodletting bullshit of the publishers and distributors.

    That is completely legal. See the supreme court ruling concerning foriegn textbooks.

    Modern playback equipment boasts scaler chips in their design already to support the many different HD television formats, so claiming "regional formatting" is bullshit. Doubly so considering that the data is digital, and the medium itself is a universal standard.

    I agree that people should pay for their candy. I disagree that they should be barred from buying candy in one place, and selling it in another, taking advantage of price differences. The supreme court recently ruled in my favor on this.

    Region locking exists exclusively to compartmentalize the world economy, and relies on de-facto collusion for price fixing. Laws to enforce the region locking restrictions directly add legitimacy to that collusion. It only works when everyone plays the collusion game, which is why they are lobbying so very fucking hard to kill first sale. First sale lets the cat out of the bag, and deflates the collusion enforced price by opening up alternative markets and pricing.

    Basically, I should be allowed to pay some guy in botswana to buy a dvd for 5$ for me, and ship it overnight air for 15$, for a net of 20$, if I want to. The fact that this would undercut the "handed down from god" price of 50$ in my region for the same product simply doesn't mean dick, other than that the big distributor has a control fettish, and is being abusive. There should be no technological obstrctions to my doing this. The disc is a legitimately printed and authorized copy. The guy in botswana is permitted under the first sale doctrine to transfer his user licesence to me. No illegal copis are made, and no illegal activity is being performed. Especially if free trade agreements remove all import duties and tarrifs as considerations.

    That it makes you feel "oh so bad" as a rights holder that I don't share your estimation of what constitutes a fair market price for your product does not factor into the equasion, and you do NOT have a legitimate basis to enforce your price by locking out foriegn markets from domestic purchasers.

    Competition. Deal with it.

  • by webmistressrachel ( 903577 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @09:59PM (#43220001) Journal

    He had the candy analogy forced on him - imagine if somebody had mentioned this fictional machine that copies books, records, and pictures losslessly 100 years ago - you'd have said something similar about paper being consumable.

    He merely turned the useless baby / candy analogy on it's head, and put it literal terms (unlimited flawless copies). It is you who missed the point, not your parent post.

  • by sapphire wyvern ( 1153271 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @10:05PM (#43220037)

    Yes, you're quite right. DRM doesn't manage the user's rights. It "manages" the publisher's "rights", by infringing on those of the users.

  • Re:DVD players? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jellyfoo ( 2865315 ) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @12:04AM (#43220683)


    All I want is for the studios to provide something comparable with what I can get on torrent sites:

    * A standalone file that doesn't require authentication with some server somewhere.
    * A file encoded in an open (enough) container & format like MP4/MKV, such that it can be decoded by anything and on any operating system/platform. I don't want to have to rely on a propritary Windows-only program to play my purchased files.
    * HD quality files (720p or 1080p - even better, having a choice at purchase/download time)

    That's it. I'm not asking for much really; if randoms on the net can do this, so can the corporations. Yes the torrents are free, but if all things are equal then I'll gladly pay a reasonable price for content if these requirements are met. I WANT to be 100% legit, if only because I feel it's a reasonable case to want to pay someone for their work. But I'm certainly not going to pay money for an inferior product.

    But no - instead we have streams instead of hard files so that the video can be controlled (as if it'll stop piracy), and browser plugins for viewing that are Windows only (which is OK since I still use Windows, but I like as much openness as possible to diversify things and futureproof my options in case Linux distros improve enough to become a viable option for a home desktop). Oh, and regional shit which prevents me from accessing content the US releases because I happen to live in Australia - as if my money isn't of any value. Torrents don't have this limit.

    They just don't want to give people the optimal solution, even if we're ready to reward them for fucking listening to us.

  • by hazem ( 472289 ) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @12:12AM (#43220719) Journal

    Do you care to share what mp3 players you use and what you like best about them?

    Also, if you're in the US, you can get a ton of audiobooks to listen to for free at your local library. If they don't have them at your local branch, they can probably get them via inter-library loan. I've listened to tons of books this way.

    Libravox is nice, and I fully support the idea. But I find many of the readers difficult to listen to over a long book - and I'm sure my own reading would be hard for others to hear as well. There's a reason professional readers like Scott Brick, George Guidall, James Delotel, Lloyd James, and Jim Dale, are popular and hopefully well-paid. They're essentially actors and doing a lot more than just reading words off the page.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @03:50AM (#43221523)

    As copying has gotten easier and easier, the mere social contract between publisher and community, which essentially says that the latter will not copy it without permission, effectively granting the publisher a form of distributive control, has started to break down... people are no longer adhering to their side of that contract, and so it is inevitable that publishers will seek alternative means to protect their interests.

    That's funny... in my country, every time you buy storage media (e.g. SSD, HDD, DVD, CD, memory cards) or anything that contains storage media (e.g. tablets, MP3 players), you're actually charged a private copying levy [wikipedia.org], specifically to compensate "content producers" (actually "publishers", but let's pretend for a second) for the fact that PRIVATE copying is actually legal here (as it is in most of the World).

    So... you see, in my country, it's actually PUBLISHERS who are breaking the social contract, since they are already being compensated and, by implementing DRM, they are (in)effectively preventing the (fully-legal and PAID FOR) private copying.

    They can't just accept the levy and then claim it's not "fair compensation". If they are accepting the fees, then they are explicitly signaling that they acknowledge the fact that people ARE allowed to make private copies of things they bought. Trying to implement DRM to prevent this is not only unethical but moot (suprisingly, not only will it not prevent anyone from getting a DRM-free version of it, it might actually make people not buy your product).

    So... no, I didn't break any contract and you can be damned sure I will seek all means to protect my interests: starting by boycotting the crap that gets sold as "entertainment" in the US, just to prevent my money from ever being used by publishers for litigation, extortion and "international lobbying".

    captcha: funnier

  • by wierd_w ( 1375923 ) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @03:59AM (#43221553)


    Here, let me help your addled mind.

    1) the cost of production is fungible. There is no real need to subsidize any market in a true free market. You are confusing the employment of a command economy with price fixing and subsidies with a free market economy. This is because when you factor out a ratio of unit production cost as a part of the price component, and retain it in all sales, you will always recoup the unit production costs. Eg, I can look at the supply and demand curves, and see the projected sales price, and use historic data to compute a sales estimate. I can then factor my cost of production into the price as a ratio. Eg, if it costs me 10,000 dollars to make the product, and I expect to sell 200 thousand units, the ratio comes out to .05%. I can therefor realistically recoup some of my development costs from the botswanan economy, if I bake in my costs, computed for their market's demand and currency power.

    That is to say, I still get my money if I sell 500 million units at 5$, or 50 million at 50$. There is no legitimate reason to price gouge one market, and subsidise another, other than that one CAN do so, and get away with it.

    Here's the kicker, AC.

    If everyone rushes to buy the resold botswani dvds instead of the 50$ local offers, money will rush into botswana as a result of the trade. This devalues the american dollar in botswana, and changes the equation. The influx means more money changing hands in botswana, and thus, more disposable wealth in the economy. The local price for the DVD stops being 5$. The incentive to buy from botswana dries up, as the system reaches equilibrium. Eventually, it is cheaper to buy the DVD locally, now for 30$, instead of paying the newly inflated price in botswana, plus shipping, plus markup. The drain stops.

    Even while the drain is occuring, while sales at 50$ have dropped precipitously, demand for the 5$ price unit has skyrocketed. Again, if I have been smart and not greedy, I have baked my production cost ratio directly into that unit price, and the huge surge in demand produces my profit. I sell many times the unit number at the lower price, but still hit the same financials.

    Your argument that the reduced price in botswana is the result of necessary subsidization makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Here is why:

    If we accept the absurd notion that the distributor cannot sell for less than the 50$ point, irrespective of local economies, then selling at 5$ is selling at a loss. Not only that, we are offering and advertising that product at a loss, warehousing the product at a loss, creating regionally locked units that can *ONLY* be sold at a loss, since they can't be used elsewhere.... see where this is going? What you assert as being true will only serve to radically increase production cost, with no sensible benefit. Allowing the rampant piracy you complain about would actually cost significantly less than making physica product available at such a substantial real outlay.

    The truth is that due to the overall reductions in market costs of the botswani economy, it costs significantly less to send the freight, significantly less to warehouse, significantly less to advertise, etc. The result is that the costs associated are proportionally reduced in conjunction with the price. It is simply easier to do business in botswana. The ratio remains the same. All that changed is the unit price compared to a different market, with higher penetration costs.

    Allowing the customers in the more costly to penetrate market to buy like crazy from the easily penetrated and lower price market, and relying on the free advertisment that will flow as a result of entreprenures marketing their discount DVD shopping services, you can simply invest in a little infrastructure in the cheaper economy and make a fucking killing.

    (Gasp! That's what fucking china is doing! They are making it simply cheaper to do business in china, then getting everything set to pull the rug when the sucking lev

  • by Rakarra ( 112805 ) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @03:46PM (#43226851)

    Carlin was a funny man with a good deal of insight, but he's said a lot of shit over the years and I would not say his ultra-cynical view of the world matches reality, nor is it useful to think that way.

If a 6600 used paper tape instead of core memory, it would use up tape at about 30 miles/second. -- Grishman, Assembly Language Programming