Disbelieving DRM and copy protection

I don’t believe in copy protection, like I don’t believe in the Easter Bunny or Jimmy Hoffa. It’s a myth that people cling to like a squirrel to a curtain, which is to say they have to because they are unable to see any other way out of the problem.

I pity those people. Living under that rock must get awfully lonesome.

The reality is that so long as there’s been the ability to create something, there’s been the ability to duplicate that something. There is no sure-fire way to prevent something being copied, unless you lock it permanently away from the public eye never to be experienced. Ever.

I’m sure that the first time something was copied, someone probably suffered severely for this. And I’m not talking about the RIAA in their hell-bent idiotic lawsuit-swinging idolatry. I’m talking about one caveman duplicating another caveman’s cave painting, and getting hit over the head with a rock.

If physical repercussions were what held up copyrights, I’m sure less people would copy. But they don’t…

The age-old adage “where there’s a will, there’s a way” is 100% true in all cases, all of the time. Just because someone claimed something is impossible doesn’t make it impossible. We’ve flown in heavier-than-air machines, broken the sound barrier, exploded nuclear bombs, and been to the moon and back.

And someone believes that we can create a standardized copy protection system so elite that it will not become outdated and remain somehow perfect enough to stay ahead of everyone else?

Reality: In a free market, you need to publish that standard for others to use (lest you fall victim to the Betamax problem). Publish the standard and everyone knows how to crack your system. It’s just a matter of time.

So lo and behold, someone cracks HD-DVD, and the industry is shocked. (Blu-Ray will be cracked soon, too, I’m sure.) I’m dying to meet some of these extremely naive people — mostly because I’ve got some of this great land in Hawaii that I need to sell cheap.

Copy protection is a short-lived item. It will always be that way. You can’t avoid it. Anything on physical media is doomed to be cracked and read just as easily as opening a book. I’ve got a few friends who own hundreds of movies … and they don’t own a single solitary one of them.

DRM has the same pitfalls. The whole ideal of Digital Rights Management, while appealing to the entertainment media industry as a whole, is little more than the Emperor’s New Clothes. It’s there, but only the entertainment media industry sees it (and believes in it). It’s artificial control used not to protect information, but to strong-arm the public.

You cannot restrict what people want. Governments try this all the time, which is what leads to political revolt. If you think corporations will have any more success (with or without government success), think again.

The problem is that most companies see “illegal downloading” as the end of their world as they see it. And so they should — because it is. You cannot expect your industry to remain unaffected as the world around you changes. Witness the rise of iTunes. Albums will eventually be a think of the past, and artists will be more keen to sell individual tracks than small packaged collections.

One day, my kid is going to look at me and ask: “Daddy, what’s an ‘album’?”

DRM is that vain attempt to hang onto the vestiges of evolution, to try and force the future to stick with the present. It’s not going to happen, people. Let go. Anyone determined enough to move off your platform with the materials they purchased will do so. Anyone can access this information — it’s freely available on the internet. And no amount of posturing by the RIAA is going to stop it.

Same thing goes to you, governments.

So my call to the entertainment media industry (and that includes you, Apple!): cast off the chains. Let copy protection go and stop hanging on it like some dog with a chewed up frisbee — it won’t fly anymore. Let the future evolve and get smart enough to find people to help you evolve.

Or find yourself a footnote in history along with the dinosaurs.