Fight for your right to have digital rights
I was thinking about what Dan Gillmor said today :
Now Sen. Joe Biden has slipped language into a somewhat unrelated bill that would criminalize sharing your own music with your friends in certain circumstances, as Declan McCullagh notes today.
The news just gets worse and worse. What are you doing about it? Chances are, nothing. Right?
I was frustrated at this. How can I explain to my Senator (or more appropriately, their staff person on this issue) how I feel about this. I am not a big pirate. I buy music regularly. I enjoy sampling stuff before I buy it - and if I could do it better, I would. Listen.com is doing ok for me so far.
But I get very worried when I read that Congress is going to limit what I can and can't do with media and hardware that I purchase. I would say, let's stick with the current generation of hardware for as long as we can, but people upgrade, media companies issue items in only new formats to push people to upgrade, and most consumers go along like sheep.
I believe that when I buy content, as long as I'm using it for me, on the bus, at my PC, in my Stereo, or partying with friends, non-commercial use is, and should continue to be my right. David, at Joho, gets at the root of the problem right here, though:
In fact, here are my Three Rules of DRM. Each rule supercedes the previous one.
1. Companies that want to sell us works of creativity can do so with whatever enforceable licensing agreement they want.
2. Fair use isn't just protected but is expanded in the face of the new reality.
3. The basic architecture of our computing and networking environment — which maximizes openness, connection and innovation — isn't degraded.
Unfortunately, I don't know if these three are mutually consistent.
David, they're consistent. Here's the issues that arise:
1. the license agreement - Say that BigMusicCo lets me buy a CD3 and it's embedded instructions let me copy to a BigCo music player, or play it in a CDversion 3 player. Well, then I have to own those (fictious) items, don't I? If I can't copy to my Rio or my Nomad Jukebox, then I didn't just buy a CD3, did I? I need a whole new set of entertainment hardware.
2. Isn't happening, doesn't look very good right now. As I noted the other day as tools get more rich, opportunities are drying up.
3. Also not happening. Dan notes that Bruce Perens couldn't show a DVD player that had been hacked for (HP's) fear of being sued. How will we get to openness if laws keep people from doing research. If some of the new provisions of the law dicussed above will keep people from experiementing with new kinds of ways to protect content, we can't get to Dave's point 1 - companies selling us stuff with different groups of rights. That technology, though there are methods that work today, is by no means complete.
Stopping research legislates future choices out of existance.
Continuing on my train of thought, I saw another quote today, in a story about Bertelsmann in the WSJ that again claims piracy is the reason music sales are down.
Over the past 18 months, BMG has trimmed costs through staff cuts and other means and is expected to be profitable this year. Music sales are shrinking as a result of online piracy and compact-disc copying.
As I said previously, poor, poor music companies. Is it possible that the music sucks and people aren't buying it? Same WSJ article says:
Last month Zomba's reclusive owner, Clive Calder, exercised an option to sell Zomba to Bertelsmann for about $3 billion. Zomba's music was distributed in North America by BMG, helping inflate BMG's market share but not its profit. While the acquisition will help fill out BMG's roster of artists, who include Britney Spears and 'N Sync, it comes when many of those artists' popularity has begun to wane.
So, the popularity of that music is waning. But sales are down due to copying?
So, we get less of the good quality content from companies that want to limit the ways we can use it? Economics would tell us that this should lead to alternatives coming into the market to capture share. But as we know, it's tough to get distribution these days, unless you're part of the big machine. And if the government legislates the format and way we can use content, that creates a pretty big economic distortion around the future of entertainment.
That's what I can tell my Senator. If he's not kicked out on ethics charges.