EFF's John Gilmore responds to my DRM nightmare post

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

Topic: Legal

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  • prohibition was a great idea........

    and we can see where it led. It strengthened the mob, and made everyone lawbreakers. History repeats itself. The general public hasn't come to terms with this yet, but when I told a guy on the subway about an Ipod nano full of music being worth 1000 dollars, and the inability to transfer the songs to another device, he looked at me like I was crazy. He thought DRM was there to help him recover his music if it was stolen.
    • It's about damn time

      someone brought up the prohibition analogy. Thank you, Pesky. The problem with a law like that is, as you deftly observed, that it makes law-obiding citizens into criminals. And one can certainly spin the P2P music scene that way: it makes otherwise law-abiding citizens into criminals. But that's not quite right, is it? No, because downloading a song is taking someone else's property. Period. That's all it is. No spin can change that. That song is someone else's property that you just stole. It doesn't matter how unsympathetic the 'victim' may be. It doesn't matter that the RIAA may be 'stealing' from customers. Ripping off a drug dealer is still robbery. The principle stands. During prohibition, there was no victim. No one was stolen from. And prohibition left no alternate avenue. If you drank, you broke the law, period. There are legal ways to acquire music.
      Real World
      • Sorry, but your analogy is just as false!

        Downloading a song is only "stealing" because of a federal law that was bought and paid for by the RIAA. They bribed Congress to extend copyrights for an unforgivable amount of time, to change copyright violations from civil to criminal acts, and to destroy the concept of "fair use" of copyrighted works. These laws are just as bogus as the 18th Amendment was, and we can hope that public outrage will eventually build to force the Congress to rescind their heinous laws.

        Never forget, the idea of "copyright" is a social compact, not an inalienable right. The idea of information or expression existing as a "property" was only recently created, and if it turns out to be a sham with no true benefit to society, then that compact *will* be altered.
        terry flores
        • That's bunk

          The vast majority of people who used kazaa or napster wanted something for nothing. Why not go shoplift the cd? it's the same thing.
          Real World
          • Actually

            A vast majority of those users used it just like Radio. Of all the people I know who used Naspter I can think of only a few freeloaders. These same freeloaders taped off radio, dubbed cassettes, and burn copies of CDs before Napster came out all in order to avoid paying for a CD of music. Napster changed nothing. The rest of us who actually buy music buy music because it's collectable. If you don't care about collectiong LPs or Cassettes, or CDs then why bother buying it. You can make do with radio recordings just as easily.

            Now like other collectables a copy of say a rookie baseball card isn't good enough but you can use it to mark the card you want to buy. Just like downloads did with Napster.

            Also the biggest use of Napser was to get music you could not buy. I downloaded tons of remixes of CD I already own that I could not buy.

            In the End the Freeloader will get it free one way or another. A freeloader doesn't care about quality but they do care about not paying. The internet has not changed a thing and you go back 50 years to see what freeloaders have done to get free stuff. I remeber reel to reel taping of radio content back then.

            PS: A vast majority of people shoplift. Just on TV last night. People just draw the line in differnt place on what they are willing to steal. Basically all comes down to who's looking.
          • Do you really believe that ...

            ... "A vast majority of people shoplift."? Do you? If so, how does it feel to be a thief.
          • really?

            "PS: A vast majority of people shoplift. Just on TV last night."

            Um, yeah, there's a *not* reliable source there.

            Tell me, can you find the source of those claims? Have you checked to see how much supporting evidence they have, or where and how they got their statistics (if they have any statistics)?

            Also, "shoplifting" can be a very broad category, and can vary widely by demographics. The statistics can be very deceptive if you don't take all the variables into account.

            Not to mention it uses the [b]fallacious[/b] logic of the bandwagon approach. Just because many people do it doesn't make it acceptable, desireable, or right.

            Don't believe everything you see on TV. They're interested in ratings a lot more than they're interested in truth.
          • I think you're trying too hard

            to project your experiences onto everyone. You may have used Napster like the radio, but the vast majority of people didn't. The huge increase in blank CDR's and CD burners should demonstrate that. And as for your claim that people used Napster for hard-to-find music, why were the most popular files downloaded the same songs as the top 40? Again, Voska, what is true for you is not true for everyone. And I don't accept the premise that most people shoplift. You would have to include tings like taking home a pen from the office to make that claim stick.
            Real World
          • Something for nothing?

            Try offering an argument based on something other than feeling.

            Every day, you take advantage of "something for nothing". The libraries that educate the doctors that care for you, the affordable generic drugs that cost pennies per kilo instead of dollars per milligram, the published standards that make it safe to eat packaged food and drive on the highway. All of these advantages brought about by "free" information, or "fair use" of copyrighted works.

            Would you have the works of Mozart destroyed because the patrons who paid for them no longer exist? This is one of the most pernicious threats of DRM: should the "rights authority grantor" disappear, the work could be forever lost.

            Personally, I would be happy to let the market decide the eventual fate of DRM and crippled products, but when the RIAA started bribing Congress, then the rules of fair play in the market were broken. I have no qualms to see the citizens who were betrayed by their own representatives take matters into their own hands.
            terry flores
          • No

            two wrongs don't make a right. As I've made quite clear, I don't support the **AAs. But saying that it's ok to steal music because the RIAA bribed congress is just plain wrong.
            Real World
          • What the hell do you think taxes are for.

            There's no free, we pay for every red cented service. I pay more taxes in
            a year than most people make, I and others like me support the Libraries,
            roads, drugs, FDA, and every other, what you think are free, services.
  • Why

    are you buying stuff that is free on teh intarweb?
  • Sounds great.

    As I mentioned in the original blog post, DRM is a choice a content maker/provider chooses. They are well within their rights to do so. I buy songs from iTunes, but for other music I can't find on iTunes, I usually buy a CD. I realize most music lovers need more than one "legal" source for their music online. Once you find another source online, you instantly have to deal with another type of DRM (UNLESS YOU BUY OR DOWNLOAD FROM A SOURCE WHO DOESN'T USE ANY DRM).

    The gentleman from EFF (WHO I SUPPORT) needs to stop using the typical Stallman-esque terms/wording: "lockdown music" and "because DRM is *designed* to break compatibility.."

    Taking iTunes as an example, you agree to their terms (including DRM). Their terms, on a relative basis, are far more liberal than others. If I purchase and download the latest Oasis album from iTunes, I can back them up on CD, I can burn lots and lots of CDs, I can play the music on multiple computers, etc. I am not saying that iTunes' DRM is great or positive in any way, I just dislike to see the EFF or anyone blast DRM without considering things from the content creator/provider's point of view. Education is the answer? Nope. To kill piracy you have one great weapon... LOW PRICES. No, I don't think 99 cents to too much, but it could be lower. The lower the prices, the more I believe people will purchase and be less apt to 'steal' music.
    • It doesn't break compatibility?

      Play that song on something other than iTunes or something other than the iPod.

      DRM, by definition, breaks compatibility, and must to be remotely successful. If it's compatible with everything, there is nothing you can manage.
      • Not what I am saying

        I never said iTunes songs played anywhere, anytime. I said that within its DRM limits, it lets you do a lot. No, it's not the best case scenario for music, but it is what it is. Apple has NEVER SAID THAT iTunes songs would play on Berlind's chosen system.

        Give me a break.
        • Think of it this way...

          DRM is that moldy Tortilla wrapper you get with your Ham & Cheese burrito. The Ham & cheese was fine until that burrito showed up.
    • I guess you haven't heard...

      That the music labels are fighting to RAISE prices of music downloads.

      Further proof that they just don't get it.
    • Monopoly

      First of all: the granted monopoly given to copyright holders should IMHO prohibit them from demanding additional restrictions through DRM. Either accept the granted monopoly with its rights and its limits, or take your chances with DRM; not both.

      Second: why should I as a law abiding consumer be restricted in what I can do with my purchased music by DRM that is unable to stop copyright infringement by its very definition? This has nothing to do with copyright infringement; this has everything to do with gaining control over how your customers can use their legally purchased media.

      You state: "Taking iTunes as an example, you agree to their terms (including DRM)". Does this also mean you agree to them being able to change your purchased rights at any point in time, one sided, like they did when they reduced the amount of times you could burn your track onto a cd? Not a chance in hell that I will accept such a contract! And paying about the same price as a CD for a track with limited usability? I don't think so...
  • John's Right-On

    Nobody likes DRM, except for those who benefit from it. I see it as a counter-technology methodology protected by a flawed (bought and paid for) law specifically designed to circumvent the "fair-use" doctrine.

    Now you want to talk about theives... How about the record companies' price fixing when CD's first came out. The FTC called them on it and they signed a concent decree agreeing NOT to continue the practice. But the public NEVER got reimbursed for the Millions they were overcharged.

    But just because we are dealing with theives, we don't have to sink to that level. I don't agree with file-sharing... For I do see it as stealing. But I for one, need a fool-proof way to back-up media content that I have paid for. Does anybody remember 8-track tapes? Scratched CD's, DVD's, etc...

    DRM is flawed, and because it breaks the "fair-use" doctrine I for one think it should be illegal.

    Until the politicians understand that the phrase "we the people" is NOT equivalent to "we the corporations", technology will continue to be bogged down with the likes of DMCA and DRM!
  • Not so easy to drop all DRM

    Here we go again. This is the third time I've seen an argument for not buying any DRM.

    I've no truck with Mr Gilmore or the EFF, but would he or a colleague care to advise what to do about tracks which are ONLY available with DRM, whether on iTunes or elsewhere? Or is DRM to determine what we cannot listen to?