For years now I've been trying to define DRM and how commercial companies use it to lock consumers into a buying cycle. Finally I've found a definition that's just perfect.
The definition comes from security guru Bruce Schneier:
In my last column, I talked about the security-versus-privacy debate, and how it's actually a debate about liberty versus control. Here we see the same dynamic, but in a commercial setting. By confusing control and security, companies are able to force control measures that work against our interests by convincing us they are doing it for our own safety. [emphasis added]
Wow! I've been trying for years to come up with such a succinct definition for DRM and never managed it (and for that reason I'm glad that it was a much smarter person that I who came up with it!), but this is perfect. The key word here is control.
Schneier also accurately points out who this security benefits:
Mostly, companies increase their lock-in through security mechanisms. Sometimes patents preserve lock-in, but more often it's copy protection, digital rights management (DRM), code signing or other security mechanisms. These security features aren't what we normally think of as security: They don't protect us from some outside threat, they protect the companies from us. [emphasis added]
Sure, there are hackers that would be very interested in taking control of a few million iPhones, and there are without a doubt plenty of people who indulge in piracy, either by making copyrighted content available (for free or for a profit) or by downloading that same content, but these points are overshadowed by the fact that companies want control over everyone, not just those with bad intentions.
The main problem with all this is that consumers, on the whole, don't see this control until they try to exercise their right to move to a different platform or provider. By then it's too late.