EFF's John Gilmore responds to my DRM nightmare post

Summary:In response to a DRM nightmare blog post about why my $20,000 worth of audiophile gear can't play the 99 cent songs I'm buying, Electronic Frontier Foundation founder and board member John Gilmore sent the following e-mail which basically says that this DRM nightmare is going to get worse and that the only way to stop it is for all of us to come to our senses and stop buying DRM-encumbered content (eg: songs from Apples iTune's Music Store or from one of Microsoft's PlaysForSure music stores).

In response to a DRM nightmare blog post about why my $20,000 worth of audiophile gear can't play the 99 cent songs I'm buying, Electronic Frontier Foundation founder and board member John Gilmore sent the following e-mail which basically says that this DRM nightmare is going to get worse and that the only way to stop it is for all of us to come to our senses and stop buying DRM-encumbered content (eg: songs from Apples iTune's Music Store or from one of Microsoft's PlaysForSure music stores).  In fact, he admonishes me as one who ought to know better for having done it in the first place.  For disclosure's sake, he's an investor in Request, Inc. whose product AudioRequest he mentions in his letter:

It's really simple.  It's because DRM is *designed* to break compatibility.

The whole point of DRM is *restrictions*.  The point of all previous audio formats was compatability.  CDs play on any CD player. Cassettes play or record on any cassette player.  Neither one cares what you do with the audio that comes out.  By contrast, DRM is designed to prevent the audio from coming out in any way that the oligopoly objects to.  And they even keep changing the rules as they discover new things that annoy them.  See, for example:

  • http://www.eff.org/IP/DRM/guide/
  • http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/archives/003979.php

 

Rather than calling for everybody to implement DRM, which would be uniformly terrible for most musicians, most equipment makers, and all consumers, you should be calling for nobody to buy DRM.  We can't stop them from building it -- there's no law against companies selling painful products.  The only cure is education -- of their customers.
Make it an expensive mistake for anyone to sell a DRM product.
Because, as you have discovered with your iTunes music, it IS an expensive mistake to BUY a DRM product.

Why are you, who ought to know better, paying even one dime to Apple for lockdown music?  Buy your music from somewhere that will give you full consumer rights -- to play it with any device from any manufacturer, to store it in any storage medium of your choice, to output it into any format and any transmission system, and to personally move it into whatever future music system you build.  Without having to re-purchase it or get "permission" from anybody.

(And thank young Jon Johansen for having the chops and courage to release software that lets you remove the DRM from your iTunes music.
If he lived in the USA, he'd be in prison today.  Luckily he lives in a free country -- and you have a choice to run his software on your PC.  You can be sure Escient will never offer you that choice, and if they did, they would be in prison too.)

I have a home theatre audio system with more than 13,000 songs -- all without DRM, and all obtained without file-trading.  Buying real CDs and scanning them in is trivial in these systems (at least in the AudioReQuest I have).  Uploading legal MP3s that you can download from lots of sites is also trivial.  Some sites are free, some you pay for, but they provide non-DRM music.  Many sites also support the open lossless FLAC encoding, which is used for many of the 20,000 concert recordings freely available on www.archive.org, bt.etree.org, and elsewhere.

(You might suggest to home theatre audio users that they scan in all their music in lossless formats.  This will prevent "generation loss"
as you move the songs into newer equipment and newer encoding technologies.  I had scanned some of my CDs into MP3s, but I tossed those and rescanned them into FLAC once ReQuest supported it.)

John Gilmore, Electronic Frontier Foundation

Topics: Legal

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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