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DRM Causes Piracy 413

Posted by kdawson
from the obvious-when-you-think-about-it dept.
igorsk recommends an essay by Eric Flint, editor at Baen Publishing and an author himself, over at Baen's online SF magazine, Baen Universe. In it Flint argues that, far from curbing piracy of copyrighted materials, DRM actually causes it. Quoting: "Electronic copyright infringement is something that can only become an 'economic epidemic' under certain conditions. Any one of the following: 1) The products they want... are hard to find, and thus valuable. 2) The products they want are high-priced, so there's a fair amount of money to be saved by stealing them. 3) The legal products come with so many added-on nuisances that the illegal version is better to begin with. Those are the three conditions that will create widespread electronic copyright infringement, especially in combination. Why? Because they're the same three general conditions that create all large-scale smuggling enterprises. And... Guess what? It's precisely those three conditions that DRM creates in the first place. So far from being an impediment to so-called 'online piracy,' it's DRM itself that keeps fueling it and driving it forward."
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DRM Causes Piracy

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  • Cigarettes and MP3s (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Graphic_Content (1047676) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @03:52PM (#18135774)
    This article makes perfect sense on every aspect noted. This is exactly why MP3s are so heavily pirated. I must be honest though, I still purchase CDs when I find new music that I like, but I will never ever purchase MP3s with DRM protection.
  • Nonsense (Score:1, Interesting)

    by boer (653809) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @03:56PM (#18135790)
    Does not make too much sense to me.

    1) Legal content can be easily found online.
    2) DRM-protected content is cheap - cheaper than their physical equivalents.
    3) Users who know what to expect will not be dissappointed. I know I am a happy iTunes + iPod user. Then again I do not spend my time inventing all sorts of scenarios how this model could be limiting my life when it is not.
  • by Dunbal (464142) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @04:08PM (#18135862)
    If there is no DRM, would people all of a sudden decide to go buy stuff instead of pirating it? Doesn't seem very likely to me.

          And of course, you're completely mistaken. I remember back when PC's were brand new, in the late 70's - every single one of us had a pirated copy of Microsoft's "Flight Simulator" program. Guess what - enough people actually paid for it (it was a good program!), and Microsoft continued to push out new versions. The Flight Simulator division at MS is still alive and well today - despite all the piracy.

          Your gut feeling flies into the face of the actual facts. But this is what we've been saying all along - "piracy actualy PROMOTES sales"...
  • Re:indeed (Score:2, Interesting)

    by unleashedgamers (855464) * on Saturday February 24, 2007 @04:17PM (#18135916)
    I have close to some 500 CD's, I don't have a CD player so I load them on my computer. Of the last 30 CD's I have bought about 10 of them have had some DRM so I cant load them on my computer (linux) if they don't work on my computer they are useless to me Because I cant listen to them so I have given up on buying CD's and now download them of the internet, why should I buy the CD's if I cant use them? (Most of the CD's with the DRM did no say they had DRM on them so I don't want to gamble my money on if I can listen to music or not)
  • Must agree here. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SharpFang (651121) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @04:18PM (#18135928) Homepage Journal
    I got some coupons for free mp3 that came with chips I buy on regular basis. Big campaing, "free, legal MP3".
    So I decided to "cash them in". So I login to the site described on the coupon. "Sorry, but this site requires Internet Explorer 6 or higher".
    Then registration process, asking me for granny's dog's name and so on. Then confirmation email. Then it tells me to download their player. Then the files which are not MP3 but some of their own DRM'd format. And of course unplayable in anything but their crappy player. No way to use them in a portable mp3 player, no easy way of burning them to a CD (outside of ripping audio mixer channel) and of course no way of playing them on another computer, even with said player installed (need login). Ah, and no playback without network connection.

    Thanks, no "Legal MP3", even for free, please.
  • Re:Laws == Crime (Score:2, Interesting)

    by GiovanniZero (1006365) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @04:19PM (#18135938) Homepage Journal
    If only we had no laws there could be no crime! Then wouldn't we be happy! Sure murders, assaults and rapes would go unpunished. But that's because there is nothing to punish because they're not crimes!
  • by the_skywise (189793) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @04:33PM (#18136016)
    Stealing of Wii's can only occur under 3 conditions...

    1> They are hard to find and thus valuable.
    2> They are high priced, so there's a fair amount of money to be saved by stealing them.
    3> It's much easier to steal them than it is to wait and purchase a new one.

    Guess what, LOCKS ON DOORS create these conditions in the first place! Oh, if only we lived in a socialist utopia where everybody could just print what they want and then there would be no crime.


    You bet. But he's rationalizing theft of property because it's...ultimately... too inconvenient. If Sony wants to throw away their lead by making their products uber-expensive, THAT'S THEIR RIGHT.

    If Metallica wants to throw away their popularity by over DRM'ing their music and supporting draconian copy rights, THAT'S THEIR RIGHT.

    What's next, it's not right for the grocery stores to demand money for food? So it's okay to steal from them? Because that's what this guy is saying; That it's ok to steal if you feel that you're being shortchanged.
  • Re:Commodification (Score:3, Interesting)

    by arivanov (12034) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @04:53PM (#18136142) Homepage

    What the GP has noted from a more social perspective is actually valid on the physiological level. IIRC all ova in a female are completely developed before she reaches sexual maturity and after that dormant. During each ovulation one (usually) undergoes the final stage in its development and is secreted. No new ova are created.

    At the same time male spermatocites which divide to produce spermatosoids are produced constantly (albeit at a decreasing rate) until the males die. New sperm is created all the time.

    So the female vs male sexuality note is actually valid all the way down to the physiological and biochemical level. As far as procreation is concerned male sexuality is not a scarce resource. Female is.
  • Re:dvds (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ScrewMaster (602015) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @05:02PM (#18136206)
    My local theaters have been doing that for years. At first they'd show a half hour of crap, so people just began to show up half an hour after showtime. Now they may do fifteen minutes, they may show up to fifty-five minutes (I sat through almost an hour of local car dealerships, florists and fast-food restaurants begging me for business.) Really torques me into a pretzel. Let me tell you, the back row of seats has gotten much more popular recently (if you've got to wait an hour you might as well enjoy yourself, I guess.)

    It's also reduced the amount of money I spend on tickets to about ten percent of what it used to be. I mean, if I know, in advance, that no matter how good the movie I'm going to be frustrated and annoyed by the time it starts I have to think twice about going. So now we find other ways to entertain ourselves on an evening out. I hear studio execs complaining about theater revenue every so often: my advice to them would be a. produce more films worth the admission price and b. skip the goddamn commercials. Nobody likes commercials, especially after we paid to view your product! That's just sleazy, any way you slice it. I register the same complaint about cable TV, which is why I don't have it.

    Yes, I know that the theater owners have their own sob story, about how the studios and distribution companies have squeezed all the profit out of theater operation so they have to subsidize their businesses with advertising. Now that may be, but conversely I am under no obligation to support what has become a disappointing experience.
  • by russ1337 (938915) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @05:09PM (#18136290)
    Principle 2: "The products they want are high-priced, so there's a fair amount of money to be saved by stealing them"

    I can attest to this 100% - in a different, but similar area many are familiar with. My example is my experience with WindowsXP. When I lived in New Zealand, I could not afford the NZD$536 [] (USD$377) for XP home to keep my CS:S habit alive, so I used a 'less than legitimate' copy of XP. Anyway, when I moved to the US I thought I'd go legit only because after a visit to Frys i saw i could pick up XP off the shelf at (USD$199 []) - almost half the price. Even better I managed to get an OEM XP home for just over a hundred bucks.

    Now there's no way I'm paying NZ$536 (USD$377) for an OS. No way. No way in hell. However, I was happy enough to part with a hundy for the OEM version. I didnt know of Linux at the time (now have 3 PC's on Ubuntu), but wanted XP to play CS:S and various other Windows games I'd paid for over the years (because they were well priced!!!)

    So yeah, hopefully big business will wake up and smell the coffee one of these days.
  • Re:Nonsense (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bcrowell (177657) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @05:13PM (#18136344) Homepage

    Publishers claim that the majority of the cost of a book is printing, binding and shipping. All of those costs are gone with ebooks.
    Well, no. That may be true for certain types of books, but it is certainly not true for any that I'm familiar with. One type of book where I have hard data is upper-division physics textbooks (black and white). For those books, paper, printing, and binding (PPB) are about $10 a copy, whereas the price of the book is normally in the $50-100 range. One way to tell that PPB is not a big slice of the pie for textbooks in general is that the cost of college textbooks has gone up 62% in the last decade, whereas PPB definitely has not. Paper has gotten more expensive, but not enough to explain an increase in the cost of an organic chemistry textbook from $100 to $160. In some cases, PPB may be getting cheaper, because publishers are using POD in cases where it's economically advantageous. (A lot of fiction publishers are getting slower-selling titles produced by Lightning Source, for example, in small batches.)

    For most types of books, PPB is not a very big chunk of the retail price. Important chunks include:

    • editorial work
    • design work, for illustrated books, such as textbooks
    • licensing of photos (which is a per copy cost)
    • distribution
    • the bookstore's markup (typically 34% markup for a college bookstore)
    • advertising
    • financial costs incurred because you have to pay to produce the books, and then wait to sell them in order to get your money back
    • returns (a huge negative in the publishing business)
    I can't believe that shipping is a big hunk of the pie, especially if they're using media mail.
  • Re:However (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Have Blue (616) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @05:16PM (#18136368) Homepage
    There's one important fact that the free culture argument tends to neglect. Sure, a copy of a movie costs effectively zero. But the original has a cost that's decidedly nonzero. Information doesn't grow on trees, it takes energy to set it in a meaningful pattern that enables all those free copies.
  • by OakLEE (91103) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @05:19PM (#18136402)
    But the article asserts that DRM causes more piracy. The summary of the article in the blurb does great injustice to the article by implying that but for the existence of DRM, there would be no piracy. That is frankly false. Piracy has been a problem since well before DRM (that's why they created it), and it would probably be one if DRM ceased to exist.

    Personally, I think the key issue with piracy is not DRM, but the fact that piracy and copyright infringement are becoming an acceptable to increasingly commit. The result of this is a situation where the laws of society are arguably out of sink with its values. Situations like this are hard to maintain because we depend as much on societal stigma as we do on criminal punishment to deter most crimes. When stigma is lacking or low, we often try to make up for this by adding criminal punishment to increase deterrence.

    The problem with this, of course, is that it creates a paradoxical situation where we punish people more for crimes we care less about (another example, non-violent drug offenses). Thus you end up with a situation where people are morally outraged, even fearful, at the threat of having the book thrown at them for a crime they do not consider "bad" at all.

    The biggest problem though for copyright infringement is that society normally deals with "lesser" crimes like these by imposing fines on the violator like with speeding for instance. People speed, and when they get caught they pay the fine, go to traffic school, and continue speeding. To most, the fine and traffic school are just the transactional cost of speeding to them.

    However, infringement is inherently tough to solve with fines, because it is an economic crime, not a behavioral one. A reasonable fine, the cost of purchasing the infringed material, would have at best a neutral effect on infringement society-wide. People would just infringe, take their chances, and worst case pay up if they get caught. However setting fines too high, as the current system arguably has them, has an even worse effect though, since your average infringer will tend to infringe more than otherwise, the logic being that "if getting caught for a little infringement is going to bankrupt me, I might as well get my money's worth by infringing a lot." Unreasonably high fines also create a situation where the infringed party inherently knows that the infringer is likely judgment proof (cannot pay the fines), further pissing them off. At this point, society tries criminal penalties as well as fines, which leads us to the current system we have.

    Obviously solving this problem is a toughy. We could kill copyright infringement as a crime, much as we repealed Prohibition, but that could create other problems, such as disincentivizing creativty, or encouraging tighter DRM, as creators deal with the ramifications. I offer no solutions, but this is the problem as I see it.
  • by canajin56 (660655) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @05:26PM (#18136462)
    Thats exactly why I wouldn't. I know a friend who bought XP. He broke his soundcard so he replaced it. It stopped working after one hardware change. See, changing soundcards changes 5 or 6 hardware devices. Changes your game port, your mixer device, your wave out device, your MIDI device, your recording device, your legacy audio device. On top of that when he called Microsoft they refused to allow him to reactivate it, called him a pirate and hung up.
  • by loquacious d (635611) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @05:42PM (#18136610)

    But DRM radically reduces the value of legally-acquired media, while raising the value of pirated ones. Furthermore, I think there is a strong philosophical argument against the bare concept of DRM, as the rules it imposes restrict our actions to such a large degree as to remove our liberty as moral agents, preventing us from acting as moral agents at all.

    The first point is one of utility. Case in point: cleaning out my inbox today, I found a note from the iTunes store that the Good, the Bad and the Queen's album is only $8 for a limited time. I almost jumped at it, even clicked the "Buy this album..." button (I'm a big Albarn/Gorillaz fan), and then, filling in my password, I stopped to think. "This is only 128kbits," I thought to myself. "That sounds kinda chintzy on my headphones. I won't be able to send good tracks to my friends, or upload them to the poolhall jukebox at my school. I won't ever be able to play them on non-Apple DAPs without even more of a quality loss, or make them into ringtones for my friends' phones, or possibly be able to even listen to them at all once Apple gets over this DRM nonsense in 10 years. Shit, I don't even know if this album is any good, the free single was only so-so. I have food to buy. Huh."

    The problem with DRM'ed media, and this leads into my second point, is that you don't actually buy anything. If I buy a CD, or download an album off the internet, it is my property: I have the right to use it and abuse it, as far as my own system of morality allows. (For me this includes making mix CDs for my friends, emailing them hott traxx, dropping cool songs on my friends' iPods, playing on my radio shows, and all the uses I described above.) By restricting my use of the things I buy to a predefined set of "correct" actions, DRM removes my freedom to act as a moral agent.

    So I fired up Soulseek and—well, you know the rest of the story. I will happily agree that stealing the music is less moral than paying for it (though the profit split of $0.80 to Apple, $6.50 to the RIAA, and $0.70 to Damon Albarn seems a little off to me, as I would really like Damon Albarn to be as rich as he needs to be to keep making music—the people demand a new Gorillaz album!). But for the reasons above I think it's less immoral than what the RIAA and iTunes do to me when I buy into their DRM.

    That's my call, as a human being and a moral agent, and I should be free to make it. DRM restricts my freedom to a rigid set of rules, predetermined by a cartel of people completely removed from my life and reasons for action. We get the old saw: everything not compulsory is forbidden; everything not forbidden is compulsory. It destroys the possibility of agency, and in turn the possibility of any kind of moral action.

    I: just want to listen to music, where and how I want to. I'm happy to pay for it (and I do, more than I should), as long as my rights of property and agency are respected. They: want to destroy my personhood with an absolute and top-down system of "morality".

    Who's the bad guy?

  • Re:However (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Yartrebo (690383) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @06:14PM (#18136912)
    And why is copyright automatically trotted out as the best way of getting it paid for?

    Copyright is extremely inefficient. It deters other innovation (generally by smaller and more creative people and firms) by making borrowing material very hard. Copyright sends many times (about 10x) more money to middlemen (CEOs, advertising, lawyers, trade groups, profits, retailers, etc) than to production. Copyright also leads to monopolies and censorship - both commercial and government. Copyright also leads to more advertising by restricting alternative distribution (compare TV via P2P and over the air), and advertising is a terrible way to raise money for anything.

    Just about any other system, including having a free-for-all, is going to work better than the current system.
  • Re:However (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bert64 (520050) <bert.slashdot@firenzee@com> on Saturday February 24, 2007 @08:23PM (#18138030) Homepage
    I would differentiate between intellectual property and property, because when someone takes your property you are deprived of it.
    In the natural order of things, someone would need to physically take your property and deprive you of it, yet you can share intellectual property with as many people as you wish and still retain it yourself. Education is fundamental to society, and keeping information (which is all intellectual property really is) secret is detrimental to society as a whole... Imagine if the caveman who discovered fire hadn't told anyone else how to do it?
    Societies and the human race have prospered and advanced due to sharing information, but that continued advancement is slowed by the greedy few who want to keep information secret for their own benefit at the cost of society as a whole.

    As for scientifically justifying a copyright period, i would imagine by studying the relative pros and cons of each length of time, although it's very subjective depending on what information is being copyrighted.

    About profiting off the back of someone else's work... What do you call fair compensation? Many large companies generate huge profits from people's works, while giving those people a miniscule cut. Also, do you think someone should be able to continue making ridiculous profits indefinately? Surely there's a point where it's no longer fair compensation, and now they;re just ripping people off.

    Whatever system is used, it should be more consumer-friendly than the current copyright laws... The current laws allow copyright holders to charge anything they want, continue doing so for ridiculously long periods of time, and both restrict supply and discriminate as to who is allowed to buy copies and what they pay. (and yes, i consider media which costs far more in europe and comes out several months after the us to be racial discrimination)
  • Re:indeed (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Goaway (82658) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @08:38PM (#18138182) Homepage
    You "used Windows and FairPlay stripped the DRM from it to access the AVI inside"?

    There are no DRM'd formats with an "AVI inside". "FairPlay" is a DRM system used by Apple. It is certainly not a thing you can use to "strip the DRM from it and access the AVI inside" anything. There used to be a tool named "FairPlay", which worked on music files and not video files, and has long since been abandoned.

    So no, I do not think anybody cares that your imaginary friends are copying this imaginary file.
  • by Dirtside (91468) on Sunday February 25, 2007 @01:12AM (#18140250) Journal

    they'll have no idea why

    Get off your ass and write them a letter. A real, honest-to-Godzilla ink-on-paper letter (feel free to write it on the computer and print it out, but whatever). Corporations pay orders of mangnitude more attention to paper letters than they do to email, for example.

    Your one letter isn't likely to change anything by itself, and short of orchestrating a boycott and associated letter-writing campaign, it's the most you can do individually. But if enough people stop buying DVDs because of the stupid X, and tell the studios about it, they will change. It's not enough to hurt their bottom line; and you can't keep buying and bitch at them, because they'll ignore you. Vote with your wallet and tell them why.
  • Re:However (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mrmeval (662166) <> on Sunday February 25, 2007 @03:53AM (#18141246) Journal
    Samuel Z. Arkov []

    Whip up a poster and title and see who wanted some of that. :)

    And the Toxic Avenger also was made that way.
  • Re:However (Score:3, Interesting)

    by KDR_11k (778916) on Sunday February 25, 2007 @06:37AM (#18142000)
    Imagine I'm holding a rock. The physical reality of the fact that I'm holding (i.e., owning) it prevents anyone else from holding (i.e., owning) it at the same time. Moreover, I can use that piece of property without having to give it to anyone else first (for example, I can tie it to the end of a stick and go kill an antelope with it). Moreover, I can only use it if I haven't given it to someone else.

    Yes but society as a whole would benefit if anyone could take that rock the moment you put it down and you could take it back the moment he puts it down. Most tools are owned by many households despite being in actual use only for a short period of time. Society would greatly benefit if we would just have a number of tools that belong to society (a sufficiently large number, of course) that everyone can use if he needs them and overall we'd get by with less tools. Same for food, some people starve while others have more than they need. Why not make food property of society and give it to those who need it? Oh, wait, that's communism and people don't seem to like it.

    For the same purpose it can be argued that a copyrighted work is no longer useful if it gets distributed freely among others because it no longer has a resale value. To a corporation there is no value in the notes Britney sings other than their resale value. Additionally, 99% or more of the copyrighted works wouldn't have an actual benefit to society even if freely available. The value to the creator as e.g. a story is pretty much nil since he knows the entirety of it the moment he wrote it. The author already has that information and no need to write it down and show it to others except for gains coming from that sharing (recognition, profit, etc) that he'd lose if copyright was no longer there.

    Both physical and intellectual property exists because people have a way of thinking of both physical objects and ideas as theirs. Society's laws are formed around the ideas society holds about how the world should work. People think that others shouldn't be allowed to steal their ideas and implement it as a law, people later realize that means they can't steal other people's ideas either and complain.

Never appeal to a man's "better nature." He may not have one. Invoking his self-interest gives you more leverage. -- Lazarus Long