The whole online conversation between Cory and Wired's Chris Anderson started it all as the Editor-in-Chief of Wired Magazine responded to Cory's blog-post taking issue with Wired's latest product-review magazine (Wired Test), which breathes hardly a mention of DRM even as it reviews devices that are all crapped up with studio-paranoia-generated restriction technology.
Cory describes Chris editorial "middle ground" position as "radical centrism" -- a position claiming that the EFF's opposition to DRM is "idealistic" and that there is therefore a practical "reality" that is better suited to the world.
But Cory Doctorow strongly believes that this is a false dichotomy, and takes a good stab at making this clear and understood.
On his site, Wired's Chris Anderson of Wired wrote:
"Consumers want more content, easier-to-use technology, and cheaper prices. If some form of DRM encourages publishers, consumer electronics makers and retailers to release more, better and cheaper digital media and devices, that's not necessarily a bad thing.
This is just being realistic: much as we might want it to be otherwise, content owners still call most of the shots.
If a little protection allows them to throw their weight behind a lot of progress towards realizing the potential of digital media, consumers will see a net benefit."
"This is the crux of the argument."
DRM is protection?
"DRM is not protection.
There has never been a DRM-covered file that was kept off the Internet. Ever.
DRM has never once in the history of the field kept a file from appearing online, or from being booted by organized crime pirates. Despite its rhetoric on this, Hollywood is perfectly aware of how bogus the DRM-is-protection claim is; any entertainment exec you put on this spot on this will retreat to a badly-thought-out mantra to the effect that "DRM is a speedbump, it's not meant to keep files off the Internet, it's meant to 'keep honest users honest.'"
As Ed Felten has pointed out, keeping an honest user honest is like keeping a tall user tall. DRM may keep a naive user from buying a cheap DVD abroad and bringing it home, and it may make it possible to charge you for things that you used to get for free, like format-shifting, but it won't ever keep an honest user honest.
DRM isn't protection from piracy.
DRM is protection from competition.
If you believe that "much as we might want it to be otherwise, content owners still call most of the shots," then you believe that the guy who makes the record should get a veto over the design of the record player. That the film studios should be able to ban the VCR. That the recording industry should have been able to shove SDMI down all our throats and make MP3 disappear.
If you believe that "content owners still call most of the shots" then you believe that the studios will make movies and just not release them, they will amass a great pile of unreleased material in their Hollywood vaults and sit before the doors, arms folded, glaring at the world until it arranges itself into a more accommodating configuration. It is ridiculous. DRM hasn't convinced the studios to put new material online -- the offerings that the studios have put online are a pathetic shadow of the material one can download from the P2P networks.
The studios have all the DRM in the universe at their disposal, but they're not using it to bring new material to market.
Nope, they're using it to sell you the same crap for more money.
Chris loves his Microsoft Media Center PC, "essentially a DVR on steroids" -- at least, he loves it so far. That's because he hasn't been bitten on the ass by it yet, like this guy, who bought a Media Center PC so that he could catch the Sopranos and burn them to DVD. When he bought the PC, it was capable of doing that. Halfway through the season, the studios reached into his living room and broke his PC, disabling the feature that allowed him to burn his Sopranos episodes to DVD. And if you got suckered into letting your cable company give you a "free" PVR, you've got a nasty shock coming this season: your episodes of Six Feet Under will delete themselves from your hard drive after two weeks, whether you've gotten around to watching them or not.
If you want to watch all the Sopranos or Six Feet Unders in a row at the end of the season, you'll have to do it on Pay Per View. You'll have to buy what you used to get for free: the right to record a show and watch it for as long as you'd like.
You get less, you pay more.
And the studios can change the rules of the game after you've bought the box and brought it home: the only way you can protect your investment is if you can somehow ensure that no studio executive decides to revoke one of the features you paid for back when the box was on the show-room floor.
Remember, these are the same studio execs who are duking it out for the right to limit how long a pause button can work for.
Chris likes the iTunes Music Store, calling it a success, but it's got the same problems as the Media Center and all the other DRM devices.
The record labels can demand that Apple selectively break your music player, removing features based on secret negotiations, long after you've made your purchases.
Apple will even force "updates" on you that remove features that you've chosen to add to your device, shutting you out of listening to your own music on the player you shelled out good money for.
The problem is that once your device vendor sells you out to the studios, they're owned. The studios' protection racket lets them demand practically anything from a device vendor -- check out "selectable output control" for some truly heinous world-domination horseshit."
The potential of digital media may not be the one that the record and music industries have long decided it to be.
It may be indeed that times are about to change and the full realization of digital media is going to be achieved in ways similar to what has happened to the world of photography before.
While I definitely think that Chris Anderson opened the eyes of many with his recent breakthrough article entitled The Long Tail, I also think he is extremely naive on his judgment of DRM and the negative consequences it will create to the music industry who has created it.
To me, DRM, and what I have found out firsthand about it, is only alienating me from buying commercial CDs.
I am not only nauseated by how the RIAA and the record companies have handled what has been probably one of the most positive and potentially useful technology revolutions to happen in recent times: P2P. I am disgusted at the lack of transparency that goes with all of this DRM matter.
It is through punishment and tight digital controls that the music industry has found a better way to make sure we spend more money on their money-making discs. It is also by lying to us about contents of CDs and by increasingly limiting (without ever telling this publicly) what we have come to expect from their music products and the devices who can play them, that record companies are now marketing their music to us.
How does it feel?