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Re: [Drm-elimination-crew] Apple to resurrect music DRM

From: Graham
Subject: Re: [Drm-elimination-crew] Apple to resurrect music DRM
Date: Mon, 24 Jun 2013 18:50:36 +0100
User-agent: KMail/1.13.7 (Linux/3.2.0-4-amd64; KDE/4.8.4; x86_64; ; )

On Monday 24 June 2013 17:20:08 Marcos Marado wrote:
> On Saturday 22 June 2013 14:45:05 Graham wrote:
> > This is going to be a difficult argument to win.  This example seems to
> > be the  most legitimate case for DRM.  The argument is that the music is
> > available DRM-free for a reasonable price for those who want to own it
> > and is also available streamed for a tiny fraction of the price (roughly
> > 1/100 if you believe the article) but at that price it can't be stored,
> > time-shifted, etc.
> > 
> > I would be interested in ideas for how we argue against that.
> Well, I think that the main argument against this is that price has
> anything to do with it. DRM is about restricting users' rights,
> independently of its price. I get my rights restricted when a DVD has DRM,
> no matter how much or how little it cost.

I am certainly not in favour of DRM but I don't think any "absolute" position 
is going to be winnable in the court of public opinion.  Price is part of most 
ordinary people's reasonableness test.

But you have certainly brought up some additional arguments that I think we 
might use even in this example.  So, in addition to the point that DRM 
restricts the user's choice of player, we should probably think about how to 
explain that other concerns apply just as much to the streaming services as to 
other forms of the content.

o Copyright law has exceptions which depend on country but often include 
concepts like fair use, satire, quotation, review or educational use.  These 
exceptions are there for good public policy reasons.  DRM prevents exercising 
those exceptions, which should apply to the streamed content just as much as 
to other forms.

o DRM doesn't work -- it doesn't prevent piracy and it just adds cost and 
hassle and bugs.  The service will work better, and can be cheaper, without 

> Data portability is, of course, one of the issues we have with DRM. I'm not
> sure if it makes much sense in distinguishing the several uses of DRM,
> since their problems, at the bottom, are always the same, no matter if
> you're talking about a DVD, an ebook or something else entirely.

I think we do have to recognise that some of the arguments against DRM just 
won't carry any weight with people in the streaming case.  In particular, the 
resale and lending problems are not an issue with a streaming service.  
Neither is the argument that DRM is about making you pay for the same content 
multiple times.  All these are valid problems with DRM for sales of content 
but people using streaming services won't care.

> > We need to somehow draw attention
> > to the fact that there is a major difference in this case: video content
> > is NOT available DRM-free, to own, at any price (let alone a reasonable
> > price).
> Actually, I'm not sure if your argument makes any sense to many of us -- it
> doesn't to me. See, DRM is bad for users, no matter if there are DRM-free
> (or otherwise!) alternatives or not. Just because I can download a
> DRM-free ebook version of a public domain book it doesn't mean it isn't
> bad that some company is selling their ebook version of that novel with
> DRM. And just because I can buy the DRM-free paper version of a novel it
> doesn't mean that it is OK for that publisher to sell the ebook version
> with DRM. And, once again, the price is irrelevant for my personal
> position on this matter.

I see your point but I think we need to separate the issue of whether the 
contract/licence terms are reasonable from whether there is DRM.  I think 
people are generally willing to accept different versions of things at 
different price points, taking into account various benefits or restrictions.  
We all understand that paperbacks are cheaper than hardbacks because they come 
out later, they don't last as long, they don't look as impressive on our 
shelves, they are shipped in lower volumes, etc (no one who has bought many 
books thinks it is anything to do with the cost of the binding!).  Many people 
(not all) will think that a much cheaper product, with lots of restrictions on 
what they can do with it, is a reasonable deal.  Just like many people read 
books from libraries even though they know they can't keep them, can't write 
in them, can't cut bits out of them, etc.

There is a separate issue about whether DRM is acceptable.  It is normally 
justified to people as a way to stop piracy (which we all know doesn't work) 
or as a way to enforce the terms you have agreed to (which many people may 
feel are a reasonable trade-off).  So, I think we need to explain why DRM is 
not acceptable even if the user agrees that the restrictions are reasonable.

> I totally disagree. It is a bad thing that the local public library is
> forced to have DRM on their ebooks (and, for instance, need to buy a new
> ebook when one has been lended 26 times[1]), and it is bad no matter how
> can I, as an individual consumer, legally obtain the same book.

The 26 times is really not a DRM issue: it is a contract issue.  Libraries are 
not in the business of breaking contracts: if the publisher sold them the book 
without DRM but with that as a contract term then libraries would still follow 


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