Overheard: @andrewsavikas on DRM

There are a lot of things I come across in my day that are too long for twitter, and too short for a regular blog post. Inspired by Nat’s “Four Short Links“, I thought I’d occasionally share great tidbits I’ve read or overheard. Here’s the first.

In a discussion on the Reading 2.0 Mailing List, Andrew Savikas uttered this gem:

There’s a difference between “shouldn’t” and “shouldn’t be able to”.
Personally I believe publishers “shouldn’t” use DRM; but that doesn’t
mean I think they “shouldn’t be able to” if that’s their choice (just
so long as I have the choice *not* to). The market will sort out the

This reminds me of Henry Spencer’s gem from the early days of Usenet, “If Unix didn’t let you do dumb things, it wouldn’t let you do smart things either.”

  • I agree — with the caveat that the same standard must be applied to readers, who shouldn’t be legally enjoined from breaking DRM for lawful purposes.

    These discussions that presume the market will sort things out omit the fact that the law prohibits the creation of a market for circumvention devices (for the most extreme example of a “legitimate” circumvention tool that’s still illegal, see the current RealMedia/MPAA spat).

    Without a market for circumvention devices, there can be no market correction for DRM.

  • Can you name a DRM scheme that doesn’t, at the end of the day, fall afoul of the Sherman Antitrust act? This is not to overlook the more basic fact that consumers should reject DRM but I think antitrust is one fine way to frame the issue as a legal question.


  • I believe this dual view that you and Andrew laid out is the one adopted by Linus Torvalds. It’s the main issue that put him at odds with the GPL version 3.

  • Cory –

    Good point that the DRM providers have tilted the law in their direction.

    Puts me in mind of Shakespeare (Romeo and Juliet):

    Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?

    I do bite my thumb, sir.

    Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?

    [Aside to GREGORY] Is the law of our side, if I say ay?


    No, sir, I do not bite my thumb at you, sir, but I
    bite my thumb, sir.

  • To extend Cory’s comment, I would suggest that copyright period be much more restricted (more in line with patents) and that on expiry, it is legal to break any DRM if DRM free versions are not available.
    @Tom. Can you elaborate on why DRM should be an anti-trust issue?

  • bowerbird

    silly publishers.

    you think _you_ have control over d.r.m.?

    yeah, right, like the recording companies
    have control over whether people do p2p.

    reality will slap you in the face.


  • Bowerbird –

    You seem to miss the point. Publishers have power over whether to deploy DRM; users have power to circumvent it.

    There’s a big balancing act going on. It’s always useful to help people find the right balance. We spend a lot of time encouraging people to go DRM free. But having that option gives a lot of people a security blanket.

    And FWIW, there’s more effective DRM out there than you think. If the touch is light enough, people mostly accept it. That’s how iTunes became a $1B+ business. And look at how much lightweight DRM there now is in software sales.

    Don’t overdraw the case in the other direction.

  • IMHO DRM really should be invisible and unobtrusive to the end user experience if it is to achieve it’s true potential -probably as an economic back office accounting or forensic tool for digital content.