DRM isn’t just ineffective, it does active harm

Speaking of DRM, let’s look at what ten years of it have done so far. I’ve been reading the Intellectual Property & Social Justice blog this morning and they have a summary of an EFF white paper on the subject. The IP-SJ blurb does a great job of giving some “in a nutshell” descriptions both of what DRM is, as well as what is wrong with it, especially for libraries and educators and anyone who has an obligation to provide content to all the public. I’ve excerpted the list of negative effects DRM has had for libraries, in the developed world where the EFF states “it has been in wide deployment for a decade with no benefit to artists and with substantial cost to the public and to due process, free speech and other civil society fundamentals.”

  • The success of the information society depends on digital content being accessible. Digital content must not locked up behind technical barriers.
  • Libraries must not be prevented by DRM from availing themselves of their lawful rights under national copyright law and must be able to extend their services to the digital environment.
  • Long term preservation and archiving, essential to preserving cultural identities, maintaining diversity of peoples, languages and cultures and in shaping the future, must not be jeopardized by DRM.

learn this term: DRM

About half the people at my second talk and very few at my first talk knew what Digital Rights Management (DRM) was. Since librarians will be dealing with more products with increasing amounts of DRM, it’s a good term to get cozy with, carry a few examples in your toolkit, etc. The DRM blog is a good place to start learning as is EFF’s DRM section. My favorite examples, phrased in the form of patron questions:
“This DVD won’t play on my computer without me having an Internet connection and installing special software. Why?”
“I paid for a song using the iTunes store but now I can’t move that song to a different computer. Why?”
“I can’t play music I’ve legally downloaded from the Internet in open source format on my iPod. Why?” [note: not strictly a DRM issue]
“Is it really illegal for me to use my screenreader software to listen to the ebook I’ve cheked out? Why? “