Next time someone gives you grief for ripping music from CDs to put on your iPod (or Zune, or whatever your player of choice might be), just tell them that the world’s richest man told you to do it. According to Mike Arrington of TechCrunch, that’s what Microsoft co-founder and chairman Bill Gates said when he was asked about DRM (digital rights management).
Gates said that no one is satisfied with the current state of DRM, which â€œcauses too much pain for legitmate buyersâ€ while trying to distinguish between legal and illegal uses. He says no one has done it right, yet.
There are â€œhuge problemsâ€ with DRM, he says, and â€œwe need more flexible models, such as the ability to â€œbuy an artist out for lifeâ€ (not sure what he means). He also criticized DRM schemes that try to install intelligence in each copy so that it is device specific.
And now the money quote: “His short term advice: ‘People should just buy a cd and rip it. You are legal then.'” Of course, you aren’t really — at least not in every jurisdiction. Canada has a private copying levy that allows you to make copies for personal use (and Britain is considering one) but other countries don’t. In any case, Bill’s point about DRM being too complicated and not easy enough to use is a good one.
In many cases, of course, it is also an attempt to turn back the clock and prevent you from using music you have purchased in ways you could before digital music existed, and that is probably my biggest beef with it. (Incidentally, the theme music for this post, if I had such a thing, would be a modified version of the famous Devo song Whip It called — of course — Rip It)