DRM technology and policy

John S. Denker jsd at monmouth.com
Mon Apr 21 15:15:41 EDT 2003

There appear to be two extremes:
  -- the pro-copyright extremists and
  -- the anti-copyright extremists.

Sanity lies in the gray area in the middle.

Usually what I hear from each side is something
  a) The other side is scared and acting like a
     hypocritical selfish spoiled child, making
     totally illogical arguments, and
  b) therefore everything my side says is true
     and righteous.

I completely agree with both sides when they say
part (a) and disagree with both sides when they
get to part (b).

Recent anti-DRM arguments on the cryptography list have
cited examples suggesting that there are _some_ DRM
problems that cannot be well solved by _certain_
technologies....  And then they claim to have "proved"
thereby that all DRM is futile.  This is the height of

Techniques that don't protect a song might work just
fine to protect computer programs including games.

Also:  The cash register was invented a little over
a hundred years ago.  From a "security protocol" point
of view, it is open to criticism.  It is not 100%
effective at preventing "inventory shrinkage".  But
it is a lot better than nothing.  If certain DRM
schemes are imperfect, that doesn't prove we should
do nothing.  Maybe we live with the imperfections.
Maybe we fix them later.  Just because something
isn't 100% white doesn't prove it is 100% black.


Recent economics/policy arguments are comparably

On 04/18/2003 05:12 PM, Adam Back wrote:
> - convenience -- if the price is reasonably low, and the rental model
> is convenient, it is simply not worth people's time to find an
> download copies

I don't think it is good economics/policy to set the
price of everything at or below the point where it
becomes "convenient" to steal it.

When I encounter a toll booth, it would be much more
"convenient" to drive right through without stopping
and paying.  It would be technically possible for them
to install barriers to prevent this, but instead they
rely on _a posteriori_ detection and penalization of

> - quality -- original digital copies tend to be higher quality 

Give me a break.  A big reason copyright holders are
scared of digital media is the potential to copy them
_without_ loss of fidelity.

> - branding, visibility -- if the content distributors work on better
> placing in search engines, more visible brands, content available from
> official sites etc., they compete again on convenience

In that scenario, the copyright holder spends a lot
of money creating demand, while somebody else steps
in to fill the demand.

> I think the content industry could make more money if they lowered
> prices, and improved convenience to compete on value for money and
> convenience with the free quasi-illegal services.

Five-year-olds "think" lollipops should be given
away free to everyone.

Anybody who really thinks that is a good idea is
encouraged to start his own publishing house and/or
candy store.

> Basically the only licensed, legitimate content distribution industry
> move that I saw that tried to do this was movie88, 

Really?  What about Rhapsody, Pressplay, MusicNet...???


Don't get me wrong.  I am quite aware that certain
big publishing houses are paralyzed by fear, blinded
by their own stupidity, and heading for a spectacular

-- The industry abuses authors and performers.
-- The industry is inefficient.
-- Legislation to extend the term of copyright for
    works already published is bad policy.
    And unconstitutional.
-- Privacy, fair use, and other basic rights are under
    attack and need vigorous protection.
-- The DMCA is an abomination.  It protects the wrong
    things and outlaws the wrong things.
-- et cetera.

When the industry is open to so many valid criticisms,
why bother making invalid criticisms?  It is a waste
of time and distracts from the real issues.

We need a system whereby inventors, authors, performers,
and even publishers get paid for their work.  SOMEBODY
needs to bear the cost of this.  We need a system
whereby the costs are distributed reasonably.

We need a system for assigning valuation, distributing
the goods, collecting and distributing the fees, and
penalizing thieves.

There's work to be done.  Let's stop fooling around.

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