I was asked on twitter to explain why DRM is bad. Given I have spent more than a decade talking about this topic, you would think there is a simple twitter-length answer: but there isn't.
you believe the acronym expands to Digital Rights Management, Digital Restrictions
Management, or Dishonest
Relationship Misinformation, it doesn't define a specific
technology or technique. The acronym is used to refer to
non-controversial technologies such as databases describing content and
eCommerce websites, to highly controversial things such as digital locks
which lock out the owners of what is locked.
avoid using confusing terms, as people will immediately say
"Aren't you talking about DRM" when you want to speak about specific
harmful activities. It is very useful to be clear whenever the time is
some people are concerned about DRM they are concerned about the
inability to loan electronic books, or to exercise their fair dealing
rights. While that is peripherally interesting to me, and I agree with
some and disagree with other of these ideas, my main concern is impacts
which are entirely outside of copyright. I am happy to discuss
(including in comments below, or on the Digital-copyright.ca site) copyright related topics, but for the
purpose of this article I am going to talk about things which are
unrelated to copyright.
two techniques I have been fighting against are
anti-interoperability locks on content, and
non-owner locks on devices.
believe it should be obvious why having a lock, digital or otherwise,
which locks the owner out of what they own is wrong. In our society
most people have at least a minimum of respect for the concept of
property rights, and believe that if locks exist it should be the owner
that controls them. Locks should certainly never be allowed to be
abused to lock the owner out of what they own, and our laws should
protect the owner against such scenarios. I would be happy to discuss
this more if people want, but I am honest in saying that I can't
understand why people demonstrate such a lack of respect for or
understanding why governments property rights in these discussions.
shouldn't matter if what is locked is our homes, our cars, or our
computers: we should never allow for digital exceptionalism where we
ignore basic property rights if the property happens to be digital
anti-interoperability lock on content ties the
ability to access the content to specific brands of devices. This is
harmful in a variety of ways, including being what I consider to be a
textbook example of tied selling as described in section 77 of our
competition act. Governments have competition and anti-trust laws for a
reason, and again we should not throw away this body of law simply
because the tied selling includes something digital.
don't believe that copyright holders should have the right to decide
what brands of technology I use, or what features should exist in the
technology that is created and sold. That said, those who support this
policy should recognize that in the vast majority of real-world
scenarios it is not the copyright holder that controls the keys to these
digital locks. It is the vendor of the DRM system, a technology
company, that controls the keys. Any digital lock, analog or digital,
protects the interests of the key-holder and not necessarily the owner.
I have observed many copyright holders switch their position from being
in strong support of technological measures being added to copyright
law to being strong opponents once they realized that they as copyright
holders would not have the keys or any real-world control over these
important to me, these anti-interoperability locks tie people to
non-owner locked devices, something I believe should be prohibited in
law. My primary issue in this debate is the
protection of the tangible property rights of technology owners. Even if it
were copyright holders that held the keys to the digital locks on their
content, and even if there was a shred of evidence that these locks
reduced copyright infringement (most evidence suggests increases), I
would still disagree that this justified the legalization of non-owner
locks on our devices or anti-competitive behaviour that encouraged the
use of non-owner locked devices.
I believe that these two controversial locks should be prohibited in
law, Bill C-11 (and C-32 and C-61 before them) provide legal protection
for them. While these bills are called "An Act to amend the Copyright
Act", the digital locks provisions are not related to the subject
matter of copyright law. In fact, these digital locks have been and
will continue to be abused to circumvent
the contours of existing laws including contract, e-commerce, property,
competition, trade and even copyright.
have a long way to go in this conversation. In my mind anyone who
respects contract, e-commerce, property, competition, trade, and/or
copyright should be opposed to "technological measures" being added to
the copyright act. Legal protection for "technological measures" must
be added to the correct
law in order for them not to be abused to circumvent the law.
a technical measure is protecting contracting terms, including a
copyright license agreement, then the legal protection should be in
provincial contract law.
If a technical measure is protecting electronic commerce, then the legal protection should be in provincial e-commerce law.
And so on...
this helps, and sorry that there isn't a twitter-sized response to this
question. There is a lack of clarity in what the acronym means, which
add to the confusion that most of the impacts of adding "technological
measures" to copyright law have nothing to do with copyright.