Is DRM evil — and does that make Google evil?

Do regular users care about DRM — digital rights management — or is it just open-source fans, libertarians and other geeks? It will be interesting to see what kind of reaction Google gets to the super-duper, Google-rific DRM built into the search company’s new video store.

As more than one person has pointed out, the last thing we really need is another form of DRM, what with Sony installing rootkits and Apple handcuffing you three different ways when you shop at iTunes.com. Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin are famous for their mantra “Don’t be evil” — and yet, for many, DRM is synonymous with evil (some interesting comments on this Digg post).

If it is evil, is it a necessary evil? Can Google manage to convince everyone that its DRM is somehow the lesser of several evils? Sure, many of us — like Fred Wilson — are crying a little on the inside. But do most people just care about having the ability to download NBA games or that great Star Trek episode with the green dancing alien girl, at the right price, without giving a rat’s behind about the DRM?

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About mathewi

I'm the chief digital writer at the Columbia Journalism Review in New York, and a former writer for Fortune magazine and the Globe and Mail newspaper.

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