Sunday, June 20, 2004

Corey Doctorow on Digital Rights Management

[Thanks Brett and Nathan for passing this along]

This is probably the best article I have read about the fallacies of Digital Rights Management. It is a transcript of a speech that Cory Doctorow (of the Electronic Frontier Foundation) gave to Microsoft last week, posted by Anil Dash of Moveable Type. It’s wildly funny. It’s remarkably cogent. Read it.

Some quotes:

New media don’t succeed because they’re like the old media, only better: they succeed because they’re worse than the old media at the stuff the old media is good at, and better at the stuff the old media are bad at.

Whenever a new technology has disrupted copyright, we’ve changed copyright. Copyright isn’t an ethical proposition, it’s a utlititarian one. There’s nothing *moral* about paying a composer tuppence for the piano-roll rights, there’s nothing *immoral* about not paying Hollywood for the right to videotape a movie off your TV. They’re just the best way of balancing out so that people’s physical property rights in their VCRs and phonographs are respected and so that creators get enough of a dangling carrot to go on making shows and music and books and paintings.

Technology that disrupts copyright does so because it simplifies and cheapens creation, reproduction and distribution. The existing copyright businesses exploit inefficiencies in the old production, reproduction and distribution system, and they’ll be weakened by the new technology. But new technology always gives us more art with a wider reach: that’s what tech is *for*.

Tech gives us bigger pies that more artists can get a bite out of. That’s been tacitly acknowledged at every stage of the copyfight since the piano roll. When copyright and technology collide, it’s copyright that changes.

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