Tuesday, January 13, 2009

DRM yay

This is kind of silly.

I stumbled across this DECE thing: digital entertainment content ecosystem. Read: a push to make all hardware DRM compliant. Read: a push to make everyone re-flash their hardware to use linux.

I've been meaning to write another DRM-related post for quite some time, so I guess now will do.

I am not worried about DECE. I am never worried about any DRM attempt.

My whole life revolves around this new information age: I am a creature of information. My work is taking, twisting, and showing information. My hobbies are all related to information gathering and wrangling. The least information-intensive thing I do with my time is read books.

That's how it's going. More and more people are becoming creatures of information.

To us - and to the hundred million children now growing into this information age - the DRM attempts are somewhere between hilarious and depressing. If they do bite us, we dismantle them within a week and continue doing things as we've always done. And, yes, that means piracy. The children of information are pirates, all of them.

Buuuut, the other day I was on the other side of the continent. My cousin wanted to listen to a DVD's audio on her new iPod. So I tried to help her out. I couldn't get it to work: the copy protection stopped me cold, and short of installing a variety of tools, it wasn't coming off the DVD.

When I got home, I looked it up. I can torrent the thing unprotected in whatever quality I prefer. Zero pain. If I had been the one wanting to listen to it, it never would have even occurred to me that there might be DRM. And at no point would I have encountered it as it made its march to my MP3 player. Legally, of course.

DRM doesn't work. We're not complaining that it doesn't work in some kind of cunning attempt to get the fat cats to stop getting in our way. We really aren't affected. Literally the only people who are affected are the actual customers. I don't even notice DRM any more. Doesn't matter how strict, how high-priced, how official... anything I want, from high-end circuit design software to the latest song by my favorite band, is available for free, not that I would ever take advantage of that omnipresent fact. Even flatly illegal information is easy to find.

Now, what do I think of that?

You hear a lot of talk about how bad it is for "the industry". And, despite their hilariously inflated figures, I reckon that's true. I reckon pirates are actually destroying the personal software industry. That's not really something I would consider good.

On the other hand, it's not something DRM can solve. Period.


DRM can't fix it.

Specifically, I don't think anything can fix it, because history shows that this same trend happens whenever there's a rise in technology. You can't really stop it.

So, bad or good, the industry is going to have to adapt.

And that doesn't mean getting better DRM. It doesn't mean legislating. These things cannot even slow the tide. We're getting exponentially more capable - anything you think of today, no matter how airtight, we'll punch holes in it by next Tuesday.

Welcome to the future. It can be a little bit chilly at times.

But tell you what, we children of information promise to make it up to you. In exchange for utterly ruining your industries, we'll give you some new industries. How about advanced space travel, radically improved health care, and ecosystem integration for starters?


Patrick said...

Indeed. I'm always stressing that for games, some kind of service-oriented, preferably multiplayer component (even if it's only passively multiplayer, like World of Goo's leaderboard) will help your game compete. It's not about the data, it's about the experience of the algorithm. Selling people the previledge of not having to use BitTorrent isn't so premium anymore, we need to sell them a more robust experience if we're going to be collecting any money at all.

Craig Perko said...

Hm, I don't know about "more robust", but "different", certainly.