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Never Trust a DRM Vendor

I was reading an interesting post about predicting the results of the invasion of Iraq [1]. One of the points made was that the author rejected every statement by a known liar (which includes all the world leaders who wanted the invasion). So basically regarding every statement by a known liar as potentially a lie led to a better than average prediction.

It seems to me that a similar principle can be applied to other areas. A vendor or advocate of DRM (Digital Restrictions Management) [2] has already proven that they are not concerned about the best interests of the people who own the computers in question (who paid for the hardware and software) – they are in fact interested in preventing the owner of the computer from using it in ways that they desire. This focus on security in opposition to the best interests of the user can not result in a piece of software that protects the user’s best interests.

I believe that any software with DRM features (other than those which are requested by people who purchase the software) should be considered to be malware. The best example of this is the Sony BMG copy protection scandal [3].

Note that I refer to the interests of the people who own the computers – not those who use them. It is quite acceptable to write software that serves the buyer not the end-user. Two examples are companies that want to prevent their employees doing “inappropriate” things and parents who want to restrict what their children can do. We can debate about what restrictions on the actions of employees and children are appropriate, but it seems clear that when software is purchased for their use the purchaser has the right to restrict their access.

Also note that when I refer to someone owning a computer I refer to an honest relationship (such as parent/child or employer/worker) not the abusive relationships that mobile phone companies typically have with their customers (give the customer a “free” phone but lock it down and claim that they don’t own it). Mobile phones ARE computers, just rather limited ones at this time.

2 comments to Never Trust a DRM Vendor

  • Most of the advocates for DRM are just as confused about it as the users are. The interests of a DRM vendor, which include long-term lock-in, are very different from the interests of a copyright holder. (In a DRM music market, the only “record company” is the company that controls the DRM.) Fortunately, that “Most Powerful Man in Music” thing got the record company executives mad enough to try some alternatives.

  • etbe

    Don: That’s an interesting point, I hadn’t thought of DRM vendors that way before.

    I think that your point makes the main point of my article even stronger. Some people believe that a software vendor can make things better for the users by adding DRM to allow more of the content that they desire. I don’t accept that argument, but it can be used to claim that DRM vendors are not acting against the best interests of the users.

    But if the DRM vendors are not helping the copyright holders to provide great content for the end-users then they are doing no good for anyone but themselves, and thus it seems clear that they are the enemy.

    I try to restrain myself from using terms such as “enemy” when describing Microsoft’s aggressive actions against free software. But when they attack their own customers it seems that no other term is appropriate.