Sunday, June 20, 2004

A great blow has been struck against Digital Rights Management (DRM):

DRM refers to many technologies that enable companies to sell products to you and then control how you use them. A good example: You can’t play a DVD made in France on an American DVD player or vice versa, not because they use incompatible standards, but simply because some media companies decided not to let you.

Microsoft is betting part of their future on deeply integrating DRM into ALL general purpose computers. Yet they invited Cory Doctorow to give them a lecture on why they SHOULDN’T support DRM, and he put together a witty, intelligent good read with breadth and depth. (I’ve linked to his summary; follow his own link to the full text.)

Now you may think the exciting question is whether he will actually persuade Microsoft’s leaders to change their minds. But I think that’s the side issue. His lecture will be widely read at Microsoft, and the people who work there are avid consumers of music, movies, CDs, DVDs and all sorts of other copyrighted art. They will talk among themselves and find that most of them agree with Doctorow. So either Microsoft’s leaders will back off from supporting DRM, or they will try to lead their troops where their troops simply will not follow.

So much for heavy-handed computer control of artistic rights! For more on the benefits of gentle copyrights, browse Lawrence Lessig.

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