Are anti-DRM declarations falling on deaf ears?

Summary:Shock and awe is about the only phrase I can come up with to describe the success with which Apple is pushing its Fairplay-laden technology into the marketplace.  Fairplay is Apple's form of digital restrictions management and is what keeps content that's purchased from the iTunes Music Store from playing on anything but what Apple says it can play on (eg: Apple's iPods).

Shock and awe is about the only phrase I can come up with to describe the success with which Apple is pushing its Fairplay-laden technology into the marketplace.  Fairplay is Apple's form of digital restrictions management and is what keeps content that's purchased from the iTunes Music Store from playing on anything but what Apple says it can play on (eg: Apple's iPods).  I'm shocked by how quickly Apple's walled garden is getting built, unwittingly trapping many inside.  I'm simply in awe of how the dynamic duo of Apple's pristine user experience (for which it  has always been known) and its marketing machine have combined to woo so many into that garden -- it's entrance like the one-way semi-lunar valves of your heart designed to keep your blood from exiting that which it entered (back into your ventricles). 

Tomorrow, the week after Steve Jobs pre-announced at MacWorld that Apple scored a record $5.7 billion in sales ($1 billion of which coming was generated by its retail stores), the company's stock is expected to do quite well on Wall Street.  CNN's headline -- Apple's earnings: A Bumper Crop Expected -- says it all.

Meanwhile, a ragtag army of bloggers have been sounding the alarm.  In addition to yours truly, there's Cory Doctorow (old link, I know, but still true and which of his many rants against DRM do you pick?),  Doc Searls and his pal Patrick, James Governor, Dave Kearns, Don Marti (his blog is here),  Ed Felten, and a whole bunch of others.  The list is too long to enumerate but perhaps we should all donne the same shoulder patch (The 451st Netborne, as opposed to XYX Airborne?) and get on a conference call because, despite all of our best efforts, the war is being lost. 

They (the proverbial "they") must think were floosies.  The same lot that kept saying the tobacco industry was hiding the truth.  No one believed them.  Now, people are dead (ok, so a little DRM won't kill ya.. but you can't pass your music along when your dead).  We (the 451st Airborne) are simply the new inhabitants of that old echo chamber.  Did you hear? The sky is falling.  I was reminded of this by James Governor's post which points out the difference between copy rights and copyrights.  In that post, Governor goes on to pen a Declaration of Copy Rights.  I wonder if James feels like I do (I wrote a declaration of sorts too.  Of inDRMpendence).  We're shooting Charlie in Cambodia and no one is paying attention except for the brothers we're rubbing shoulders with along with a few technology operatives who are egging us on.  Perhaps it's just as well.  War is ugly.

As I've written before (I know, I'm beating a dead horse), there's no catchy sound bite.  The masses are overwhelmed with information and it's perfectly understandable why they don't want to know the meaning of the inititials D.R.M. or explore the subtleties of copy rights vs. copyright.  Whenever I bring this up outside the echo chamber (for example, with the family members), eyes glaze over and someone says "I heard there's a storm coming."  Privately, I think, "Yeah, there is."  Spam had this same image problem when it was called UCE.  Yup.  Most people haven't a clue what that means and never cared.  Unsolicited Commercial Email, if you must know.    But, when it got a sexy name (and people started feeling the pain), UCE's image was remade. DRM.  Perhaps the selection of those initials was all part of the plan.  "Great idea Phil! No one will pay attention to that." 

People still think the answer is to rebrand DRM.  Cory cc:ed me on his response to one of his readers the other day who suggested Defective Retail Merchandise.  Trust me.  No one will listen. Digital Restrictions Management (my rebranding of DRM) gets laughs.  In the echo chamber though.  No where else.  I still like CRAP.  Content Restriction, Annulment, and Protection.  People will want to know what you mean when you say "No, really, the technology in there is CRAP."  It covers the gamut of all the evil things that DRM technology does now (or will do) and it allows for phrases like "What a load of crap!"  You can say that about just about any device or technology with DRM in it, and it'd be true.  Another phrase that works: 'That's a bunch of crap."  Others I've run this by say nope. They're probably right.  But then again, a site that Cory runs is called Craphound.  Irony.  Not serendipity.

Topics: Apple

About

David Berlind was fomerly the executive editor of ZDNet. David holds a BBA in Computer Information Systems. Prior to becoming a tech journalist in 1991, David was an IT manager.

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