Saturday, November 8, 2008


I am sure that almost everyone who reads this has at some time purchased music from an online store, such as iTunes. Those who have bought their music from iTunes might have noticed a “lock” appearing on the song’s file. This “lock” is called “Digital Rights Management,” or DRM. DRM is meant to protect the intellectual rights of the artists who created the music and made it available for download. While this is beneficial for the artists, those who purchase the music may find it very restrictive and annoying.

Within geeky technology communities, you may find open-source hippies protesting against DRM because of its restrictiveness, and with good reason. DRM turns media into more a hassle than a pleasure. Take for example, DRM prevents you from backing up your music files in case of a computer disaster, because it only permits you to have the file on a licensed machine. Thus, the only way you can recover your music when disaster strikes is to download the files again or burn your tracks onto CDs.

Such restriction raises the issue of music piracy through Peer-to-Peer networks like Limewire (Gnutella) and BitTorrent. While I understand that many people illegally download music because the idea of free music seems so attractive, I know that some people pirate music because restrictive DRM prevents them from being able to do anything creative using music files, (i.e. video slideshows) Now, DRM prevents people from using downloaded music in derivative works. Thus, the only way to use music for your own works is to rip songs from physical CDs or to purchase them from obscure music vendors such as Rhapsody or Windows Media Store. The great difficulty that DRM places on these people pushes them toward illegally (and mayhaps immorally) downloading music. This in itself is unethical, because it both restricts people from making such art as slideshows and ironically pushes people toward stealing music.

While it is understandable to why music sellers would support DRM, it significantly lessens the pleasure derived from digital music. The DVD you purchased won't play on your player, you will need to buy extra licenses to play your music on your computer and you will have to buy two copies of the same game to play it on different computers. In addition, copy protection does little to prevent piracy, a quick Google search yields thousands of ways to immorally distribute media. Take for example, serial number generators are created within days of a game's release, movies are “acquired” before they are released in theaters and it isn't unusual to find people with ridiculously large music libraries. Considering the things that DRM pushes users to do, it can be said rationally that DRM is actually bad for the music industry.

No comments: