Expanding on Cory’s Wrongness

Actually, that’s a little misleading. I don’t intend to take a full-blown run at Cory Doctorow’s logic (this time) but my topic is connected to his ongoing crusades. There is a definite change in the way artistic products are sold to the consumer, and it’s a reluctance to abandon the archaic idea of property ownership that fuels the cries against DRM.  At the heart of the matter, I don’t think you are buying ‘things’ anymore, when it comes to electronic media.  Instead, the consumer is purchasing a certain experience, and there is a lot of flexibility to the boundaries and limitations of this transaction. When you buy an e-book from Amazon for your Kindle, you are purchasing the experience of interacting with that e-book on your device. You’re not buying a stand-alone copy of the book to be used anywhere at any time.

It’s perfectly reasonable that a company would restrict the openness of the media it sells to keep the media on their branded reader. Open format files end up on the cheapest hardware available, and traded freely between users. And there is merit to the DRM defense that it improves quality, since the media is used on a device in the way that the creator of the device intended. All of the design and testing went towards the specific combination of media and device, to providing a consistent, enjoyable experience to the consumer.

Every DRM will be cracked eventually, but an initial barrier to unfettered file swapping will deter the general population enough that the market will tolerate the hackers on the periphery.  It’s only when all control of content is lost, like the hey day of Napster, that the content providers will become overprotective and aggressive in their counter measures. That said,  neither  suing tens of thousands of users, or cutting off their internet access  are acceptable ways of addressing the situation.

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