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DRM In Your Library? Consider This...

Thinking about utilizing a service in your library which uses Digital Rights Management (DRM)?

Consider the wise comic of Randall Munroe:


Non-DRM files are just as susceptible to technological change as DRM files. That being the case, it's simply not likely that computers will un-support common audio and video formats in the future (AAC,WMA,WMV,PDF for eBooks,etc.)

If you pirate music you've most likely engaged in a criminal act. It's only in certain circumstances of abusing DRM that a user would do anything criminal, so the flowchart is a heavily flawed -- all roads do not point to criminality.

Not that I support DRM -- the main reason I don't like it is that it's usually a pain-in-the-butt to work with.

XKCD is a very cool comic, but this isn't a good example. Not funny, not insightful.

The point I see being made is that if there are any changes to the system you got your DRM'd media from, them going out of business being the biggest one (which is something that has happened with Yahoo Music this year) you do not have any alternative but to break the DRM to get the quality of recording that you originally paid for. XKCD is correct in this assertion. Of course if the company keeps going and doesn't change things you're fine, but that flowchart says which leads to becoming a pirate. That is totally correct in that context.

All roads do not point to criminality but the roads marked on that flowchart do. What are the other routes if the servers are gone? What legal ways can you get what you have already paid for with DRM?

Non DRM files are certainly as susceptible to technological change but they are by definition easier to convert into another format as there is nothing to stop you doing that, whereas with DRM files there is as, by definition you can't do anything to them, they are being 'managed' by someone other than you.

Certainly not really that funny a cartoon (especially compared to most of his others) but very valid and relevant. My favourite is: :)

Earlier this year, during the debates over how much internet broadcasters and retailers should pay for music, Apple actually spoke out about closing down the iTunes store if a measure passed which effectively doubled the price of doing business online. What would happen if Apple actually did so? It may have been an empty threat but consider the case of Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart is dumping their DRMed music files and sent out notices about shutting down the servers and everyone should back up their music to CDs, presumably so they could re-rip them into DRM free MP3s or OGG or whatever. Actually, thanks to DMCA 1201, you'd be committing a crime if you did just that because you'd be circumventing a copyright protection scheme. Never mind that you bought the stuff legally and never mind the fact that if Wal-Mart shuts down its DRM servers then you'd be left with nothing for your money, you'd be breaking the law by going around or through copyright protection.

After a huge uproar, Wal-Mart has decided to leave its DRM servers online for now. Boy, I hope all that money they saved in anti-piracy schemes helps pay for the maintenance on those servers!

The point of the cartoon is simple: At its best, DRM assumes that all of us are criminals. Everyone who buys a DRMed file is a likely criminal, no matter the fact that they bought it, they may do something illegal with it in the future. At its worst, DRM forces us to become criminals, just to keep the things we paid for.

Some books contain the machinery required to create and sustain universes. Tycho (Jerry Holkins) @ Penny Arcade

just buy music from amazon's DRM free music store :-)

While I am a big Mac & iPod user I only download the freebies from iTunes. I don't want to sink in any money towards DRM tunes. Amazon is where I go, or traditional CDs

The only key difference with Amazon is that they substituted relevant language in their terms and conditions for DRM technologies. The game is mostly the same with them. In some cases it looks like the best way to go remains buying compact discs or even vinyl.
Stephen Michael Kellat, Host, LISTen
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