The act of creation is inherently human. This urge to dream, build, improve, and share is the creative force on which all civilization, past and present, is based. That drive to create should be reinforced through encouragement and empowerment to control the destiny of one’s own work. We believe that artists, writers, inventors, and designers should receive credit for their work and fair compensation to maintain their livelihoods. To fully realize the fruits of their labors, creators should retain control and ownership of their work and profit from its use.
Ownership is not the only social value to which modern man prescribes. Most people today embrace the importance of a thriving body of public knowledge. Scientific growth and cultural development are deeply dependent on free access to that public knowledge. In societies where intellectual property is too rigorously enforced, ideas often never enter the public knowledge because they have become bottlenecked by the people who had the means to secure them first. People are unable to build upon the work of others leading to an environment of intellectual stagnation and decay. Because we value public growth and progress, we often assign greater priority to the public knowledge by creating public libraries, limiting patents on medicine and medical technology, and setting up systems of copyright lapse and renewal.
This relationship between continued growth and intellectual property is so tenuous that a healthy, sustainable balance is ultimately difficult to construct. The invention of digital media and widespread, simple duplication techniques has rendered the former, delicate system insufficient to address rising questions of piracy, fair use, licensing, and ownership. Attempts by lawmakers and industry leaders to overcorrect for the old system’s inadequacies have only perpetuated the pressing need for a new and balanced solution. The current trend is for content owners to employ digital rights management (DRM), a set of technologies that allow the owners to manipulate who, how, when and where their content is accessed. Hyped as an industry cure-all, DRM has thus far proven to be flawed, ineffective, and ethically troublesome.
Every digital rights management scheme we’ve encountered does little to quell actual piracy and succeed only in eliminating legally protected uses. DRM systems are expensive to put in place and that cost is passed on to the consumer. All DRM schemes are inevitably broken or bypassed almost as soon as they are released, which throws the content owners into a never-ending loop of costly upgrades and fixes. DRM is a pipedream sold to artists and copyright holders with the false promise of protecting their content against piracy.
DRM does not distinguish between the purchaser and the pirate. The teenager who copies a single CD to share his favorite music with one friend is exercising fair use. The person who buys a DVD, makes 200 copies, and sells them on eBay is a pirate. The DRM employed usually prevents the average user from making fair use copies of their legally purchased product yet is easily stripped away by the computer-capable pirate who bypasses the flimsy security. However, DRM is successful at locking consumers into proprietary software and hardware. Purchased with one DRM scheme, a customer’s legally-purchased files quickly diminish in value as the customer is forced to buy companion devices from the same vendor to be able to access their files. Unable to be switched to different platforms and devices, the result is an ever-narrowing field of use that gives less and less back for the customer’s invested money.
Digital rights management is not the sole plague of the digital content market. Unaccountable, large-scale file sharing and distribution serves only to broaden the gap between content owners and responsible consumers. Each new instance of illegal file sharing makes record and movie production companies ever more suspicious of digital media outlets and slows the entire market’s ability to embrace new technology as sources of revenue and entertainment.
In tandem with large scale file sharing, DRM further undermines this relationship by causing consumers to view content owners with contempt. Privacy issues abound with repeated registration processes that require the customers to give increasingly more personal information than ever before. Users must now prove who they are and which device they’re using to even have access to the product they rightfully purchased. Customers express continued concern of abuse by both business and pirates who could easily access their personal information should their computers or devices be scanned by outside parties.
DRMBlog.org opens discussions that are frequently and openly negative of digital rights management. Many DRM-supporters have employed tactics that defame anti-DRM communities, open-source communities, and other alternatives to DRM. We have been labeled communists, anarchists, and anti-American. These labels are just an attempt by DRM-vendors to sell their product through ideology. The only people who like DRM are the ones profiting from it. That’s what we started DRMBlog.org. It is our responsibility as content creators and consumers to contribute to the awareness of digital rights management and other intellectual property issues to help maintain a free and responsible internet.