DRM And Free Culture

I strongly believe in free culture and that all creative works everywhere should be free. Specifically, people should have:

  • the freedom to use the work and enjoy the benefits of using it
  • the freedom to study the work and to apply knowledge acquired from it
  • the freedom to make and redistribute copies, in whole or in part, of the information or expression
  • the freedom to make changes and improvements, and to distribute derivative works

Digital technology has the potential to provide people with all of these freedoms and liberate our culture. It drastically lowers the barrier for people to create, modify, publish and distribute creative works. It is a technological innovation that benefits so many of the people of the world. It could also turn out that digital technology is a disaster for our culture because of the existence of Digital Restrictions Management (DRM.)

Big Media would prefer you to think of DRM as Digital "Rights" Management, but the term Digital Restrictions Management is more accurate. Most people think that the products they buy should obey them, not someone else. DRM takes the control of the product's functionality out of the hands of the owner, overriding it and bending it to the will of someone else.

For them, the free flow of information and creative works represent a direct assault on their desire to both control society and profit from the artificial scarcity of creative works. So, companies have turned down a path to restrict society through both legal and technological means.

On the legal side, Big Media is spending millions of dollars in lobbying and campaign contributions in order to induce politicians to pass laws that forbid anyone to break the digital handcuffs of DRM and to also increase the lengths of copyright. Indeed, the first federal copyright law gave exclusive control of works for only 14 years. Yet, this has been distorted to the extent that copyright law now allows for exclusive control for the life of the author plus 70 additional years. And this has been done without showing how this huge increase in monopoly control benefits society in any way whatsoever.

On the technology side, Digital Restrictions Management undoes many benefits of digitization. Sadly, this technology has been embraced by many of the largest companies in the world including Apple, Microsoft, Disney, Sony, IBM and Intel. DRM is designed to do one thing: prevent people from exercising their freedom, and doing anything that Big Media doesn't approve of.

The use of DRM is part of a campaign by Big Media to raise their own profits by treating people as de facto criminals. It prevents you from using your rightfully acquired things in a way that is consistent with a person's private property rights. It prevents you from having the freedoms that everyone deserves. Indeed, people can use a physical VHS in ways that are prevented with DRM. This is not progress. Rather, it is an attack on society and on our rights.

This is why we must protest all forms of DRM. On May 4, I hope you will do just that by taking action in the Day Against DRM.




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