You Don’t Own Anything With DRM

One problem with DRM in general is that it is an industry concept that takes-as-read the consumerist fallacy that you don’t actually own things you buy, you just license them. Perhaps this is the natural evolution of consumerism now that products like media are, if not less tangible, at least a bit more ethereal. Still, DRM gives all the power to the companies… and companies prove time and time again that they can’t be trusted.

As an example: we like Apple. We like iTunes. We think, overall, Apple is just the sort of shot-in-the-arm that the music industry needs. And Apple is a pretty trustworthy company. But that didn’t stop them from silently degrading the rights iTunes customers have over their ability to copy the songs they purchased to other machines or hard copies (we remember this very clearly, but we’re having a hard time Googling it up, not really quite certain of the germane search terms. Anyone got a reference citation for this?).

Anyway, Reuters has an interesting look up at the murky concept of ownership in the digital age, highlighting the dangers of letting a company licensing you thousands of dollars worth of media but not allowing you to directly control it as property. What happens when you want to switch away from iTunes? You have to buy all your songs somewhere else, on a different DRM format. What if you want to backup your iPod? It’s not easy… they are designed to make the process as difficult as possible. There’s nothing here that anti-DRM folks don’t already know, but it’s an interesting primer on the issues surrounding what companies are trying to tell you what your rights are compared to the rights consumers have enjoyed when making purchases for centuries.

Although we really do believe music, like soylent green, is “the peoples,” please rest assured the image is posted with our pointed tongues gorily transfixed through our cheeks.

Do you own songs bought online? Well, sort of [Reuters]


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  1. Wikipedia has a wicked description of iTunes DRM. Perhaps this is what you are looking for?

    The idea that people are only buying a license to music is probably a legally correct one (IANAL), but it is self-deprecating. Afterall, if people really knew that they are only buying a license to music and not a physical copy of the music to do with as they wish, they probably wouldn’t shell out .99 a track or $12 and album… This is something the RIAA would prefer you don’t think about.

    My main argument against the idea of a license is that a license tends to suggest that the medium is irrelevant. In other words, if I bought a movie on a VHS cassette, thereby obtaining a “license” to the movie, I shouldn’t have to buy another “license” to the movie in order to get it on DVD. Instead, I should only have to pay the cost of the medium, a DVD which costs around 30-40 cents.

    Anyway, don’t bother buying music from iTunes or anywhere else for that matter…that’s what friends and libraries are for.

  2. Ben Popken says:

    Ben writes:

    ” I read your article about Apple changing DRM, and you’re right they did change it. It’s rather baffling how difficult to find any google evidence of this, but here’s what I’ve come across.

    The changes (I think) have been 10 burns of 1 playlist had been changed to 7 burns. 3 authorized computers are now 5 authorized computers.

    (google term: apple changes fairplay -French, -france, -PyMusique)….

    small mention:

    I’ve aleady spent too much time looking for it, but if memory serves, I think Steve Jobs actually announced the FairPlay changes during a MacWorld keynote (2005, maybe?). The only way to be sure to is watch the 2004/2005 keynotes.

    Good luck.”

  3. “The changes (I think) have been 10 burns of 1 playlist had been changed to 7 burns. 3 authorized computers are now 5 authorized computers.”

    That’s not really too bad, actually. The 3 burn decrease sucks, but they upped the computers, which is probably the more important thing.

  4. AcidReign says:

    …..I’ll buy CDs. Till they stop selling them. It’s an instant non-plugged-in backup. So far, I haven’t seen one I couldn’t rip an MP3 from. Sure, if you’ve still got autoplay on, you might be screwed. And you’ll get a website instead of your media player. And the neato thing is that when they start making CDs where you have to install their software to listen, it won’t be considered “CD Audio” anymore. Yay, Phillips! They’ve stood fast so far on that point!