I have started a petition to Ban DRM. It has been published today, and I would welcome everyone to sign it.
What does DRM do?
I am not the best at explaining this kind of thing, so I thought I might start with a bullet list of problems that DRM has, I’m sure something on it will speak to you:
- Render ebooks unreadable [BBC]
- Hold printer users to ransom [The Reg]
- Hold coffee drinkers to ransom [the Verge]
- Lock publishers into bad deals [the Guardian]
- Prohibit screen mirroring [How To Geek]
- Kill off games via online activation [Polygon]
- Kill off any old game, book, film that doesn’t have the server any more
- Force you to use opaque software just to browse the open web [Widevine]
- Force you to use opaque software to do just about anything
- Discriminate against your user agent or operating system [ARS]
- Stop you tinkering with tech that you own
- Give companies a killswitch for tech that you’ve bought
- Give companies monopolies and walled gardens that lock customers in
- Treat paying customers as untrustworthy villains
- While giving internet pirates the best, cleanest, experience
- Pollutes copyright law
- If you can think of more, leave a comment
What does the law say?
If you try to remove or bypass DRM on tech that you own, even physical devices, you are in breach of international copyright law. Copyright law has always been slow to keep up with the times, but the provisions in place to allow for DRM are obscene.
Why should tinkering with a gadget have anything to do with copyright, when it’s impossible to breach intellectual property by copying it?
If I can scribble, score out, write in the margins of a physical book, why is trying to edit an ebook I bought illegal?
Why is trying to repair make my tech so that it can last longer an affront against the law?
Companies love to hide behind DRM because it gives them a sense of power, and if they have power, they can extort more money out of people. Gone are the days when you can buy something and have it “Just Work”.
The law must work for consumers as well as for companies, but right now it is only concerned with helping corporations dictate the market.
There is precedent for DRM not being required (aside from the centuries prior to its invention). The digital music industry really struggled against the tide of pirate music at the turn of the millennium. Apple tried to lock people into their ecosystem with DRM’ed music. But when the industry finally abandoned it and people could listen to their music on any device, it allowed the whole industry to explode in popularity. The marketplace flourished as suddenly anyone could make and sell an MP3 player which would work with any music file. The music download industry gave up on DRM quite happily once there was competitiveness in the market.
I see no reason why other industries: Gadgets, TV & film, Games, can’t apply the same logic. DRM ultimately does not work to protect copyright [The Guardian], and trying to shoehorn it in everywhere only makes matters worse and turns the fight against DRM into an arms race.
Please Sign & Share
Please sign and share the petition: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/551027
Please also consider sharing this with your MPs/MSPs or start your own petition if you are outside the UK.
Please also share your own experiences with DRM, on your blogs, on your social media accounts. This is just my own account, and social causes never get anywhere on just one person’s work. To fight something, we first need to drive it into the public eye, and personal stories and concerns work great for that.
The law is always changing, and DRM doesn’t have to be a certainty. If we voice our concerns, we can #BanDRM.
More resources are available at https://defectivebydesign.org
Excellent, thank you for starting this. I have signed. This is an issue quite close to my heart as I am a firm believer in digital (amongst other) freedoms, and not being treated like a criminal if you’re innocent.
A couple of related anecdotes…:
*Aggressive copyright-protection causes record-companies to lose revenue, rather than protecting it*
I discovered the Manchester band “Winterfylleth” by complete accident browsing Youtube. They play black metal, with a focus on the heritage, history, folklore and landscape of Great Britain, which really appeals to me. I think the first song of theirs I heard was about either Mam Tor or the battle of Maldon (991 CE). Either way, it blew me away and I avidly streamed every upload relating to them, I could get my hand on. Same goes for the band “Old Corpse Road” – IMHO their stories about Hob Headless (from Kent) and the Witch of Wookey Hole are the most perfect and complete examples of the BM genre I have ever encountered.
I avidly bought all of their albums on CD, and a few on LP (the kids call it “Vinyl” these days) too.
I went into the lab a few weeks later, tried to stream the music from YouTube while running an experiment, and a few of the Old Corpse Road songs had been taken down, and every single Winterfylleth song was missing, replaced with a notice saying it violated the intellectual property of some large corporation (I think Sony BMG). I’m not even sure how that’s possible, as at the time, both bands were signed with independent labels not Sony! Either way, I remember being really sad, because from that moment on, nobody would discover either of these bands as I did – they’d have to rely on one of their friends already knowing about them and lending them a CD or something (how ironic)!
How many more bands lose record-sales because nobody accidentally stumbles upon them?
*Corporations who use DRM are (literally) the real thieves!*
I had a friend who “bought” ebooks from the Microsoft book store. He deliberately chose Microsoft because, in his words, “they’re a large corporation who make the software absolutely everyone has been using since the early 90s, so they’re unlikely go away or go bust.”
Soon after, Microsoft abruptly closed the store, and all of the books he had “bought” vanished into the ether. They didn’t give vouchers for a competitor, or unlock the titles, they just took the money and ran. To all intents and purposes, they stole his money.
I only have free books on my Kindle account, because I resent paying money for anything where I can’t hold a physical copy in my hand. The first thing I do is crack the DRM and then convert the book to PDF or a libre ebook format. If it’s my copy of the book, then I have the right to read it on whatever device I want, whenever I want, using whatever software I want to render it. Seeing as the books are all gratis, Amazon have no need to copy-protect them as they would not lose out even if I did share them. The end result is I only use Amazon’s Kindle software, sandboxed, to make the initial book download. I am then free to use trustworthy, lean, libre software of my choice to read it.
There is an additional benefit to cracking Amazon’s DRM: retaining books you have actually paid for. Amazon openly admit that they have a backdoor into every Kindle device, which allows them (amongst other things) to upload and delete books as they see fit. In a somewhat appropriate case of irony, a few years ago Amazon accidentally made use of that backdoor to delete every copy of George Orwell’s “1984”. They later reinstated the copies, but it still begs the question, would you buy a physical book from somewhere like Waterstones, if one of the conditions of sale was that their staff could enter your house at will and raid your bookshelf as they saw fit? It’s such a preposterous idea that I’m sure would have people boycotting them – yet people seem to happily put up with this abuse when it’s only their digital library!
Additionally, I often swap or share physical books with friends. Sometimes it inspires us to buy our own copies, or other books from the author. As with the case of the disappearing YouTube videos, DRM hurts authors and publishers because reduces discovery of new books/authors, and the resultant sales that would follow.
* DRMd CDs break computers and even some car-stereos*
A long time ago, one of the CD manufacturers came out with a broken version of the “orange book” CD standard, which from memory I think was called “cactus”. It prevented Windows computers from copying the CD by two methods: Firstly, the CD wasn’t quite a proper CD, although the format was close-enough that most Hi-Fi CD players could play it. So a PC wouldn’t recognise it as an audio CD. Additionally, it had a small data-section in addition to the audio information, containing a rootkit that infected Windows, preventing copying of the disk and I think installing some sort of special player that could read the disk. From memory, I think the rootkit inadvertently made infected computers unstable, and also introduced a security vulnerability.
To add insult to injury, some of these disks wouldn’t even play in conventional players either. One notable example was another friend’s shiny new Ford Ka. At a time when the rest of us had a radio or a cassette-player, she shelled-out for the extravagance of a CD player. Unfortunately, not only would the player not play the copy-protected CDs, but the CDs actually confused the player so much that it rendered it unusable. I don’t remember exactly how we extracted the CD from the player (possibly by removal and disassembly of the entire unit), but I do remember that any attempt to read the CD bricked it.
The ironic thing is that my humble Red Hat 7 or Fedora Core 1 or whatever system I had at the time, through the wonders of ‘dd’ and similar tools, could make copies of most copy-protected audio and data disks, just duplicating the raw media sector-by-sector, so it would have probably been trivial to copy the copy-protected CD, complete with copy-protection, if I’d have been that way inclined.
In short, the copy-protection inconvenienced genuine users with genuine use-cases, yet would have still failed at its one and only intended task, that of stopping duplication of the medium!
I think these explain it more concisely than I can:
I agree with everything you say here! Upload filters (or other algorithmic filtering like Content ID on youtube) is awful, and while I would class them as a separate to DRM, I would like to see them killed off as well. It pains me to see © lobbyists treating them as a holy grail when they do more harm than good.
I am one of those people that feels that books are sacred. All art is important, but books and the written word have had such a massive impact on allowing our culture to get to where it is now. DRM endangers this, for the reasons you’ve said and more.
CDs have a history riddled with DRM problems. The worst is probably when sony used it to introduce rootkits on the PCs of anyone who tried to rip their CDs.
This is one of the many reasons why I still prefer my media on old tech. Music on LPs or compact cassettes, and movies on Laserdisc or VHS is how I want the content I care about. I outright refuse to use and subscribe to digital streaming services. Every PC in our household runs some flavor of GNU/Linux. I avoid constraining DRM every way that I can.
I wish you all the best with your petition.
Trying to make DRM-conscious purchasing habits is a good start, but its also very difficult for me when the vast majority of the market uses DRM.
I completely understand. It isn’t easy and sometimes impossible to avoid; apart from abstaining altogether.
The question of how to manage digital rights is one of the most interesting consequences of the emergence of the world wide web. Suddenly, everyone could access everything. But that was just in theory… thanks for being passionate about this question. Equality is a key value for us at Vivaldi, too.