Is DRM all or nothing? (updated)

by Mathew on January 10, 2006 · 5 comments

Doc Searls has gotten pretty lathered up over a post made by Lloyd Shepherd, deputy director of digital publishing for the Guardian in the UK (a great paper with a great website). Why? Because Lloyd made the mistake of writing about digital rights management, or DRM, without saying that it is a great evil that must be sent back to Hell where it belongs.

In fact, he says that it seems obvious that we will wind up having some kind of DRM, and therefore we should start talking about what kind to have and what makes one kind better than another, an argument also made by Chris Anderson of Wired and the Long Tail. This is anathema to Doc, however, who calls Lloyd’s post “the most depressing thing I’ve read in some time.”

Do we have to have some kind of DRM? I would argue that Lloyd is probably right — the big media companies aren’t going to let their music and books and movies and cartoons and TV shows and whatever else simply float out onto the Internet scot-free, no matter how much we might like them to. So should we let Google develop a DRM scheme that works and is as non-restrictive as possible, or should we let Sony do it with their rootkits?

David Smith says we haven’t had the debate over whether we need DRM or not, but that implies there’s a debate to be had. I’m not sure there is. Debate over which kind, yes. Debate over whether to have DRM or not, I don’t think so. In this, I would agree not only with Lloyd but with Shelley of Burningbird, whose post makes a lot of sense — and has some interesting comments attached as well.

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