DRM is shooting itself in the face, concludes Cambridge boffin

29 May 2009

So we all know that DRM is about as useful as having plutonium in your eye, but it’s nice to have this confirmed in a multi-year Cambridge study by one Dr. Patricia Akester: 'Technological accommodation of conflicts between freedom of expression and DRM: the first empirical assessment.'

At 208 pages it’s a hefty tome but in summary it concurs with what many of us have intuited already, which is that DRM actually does the opposite of what it intends to do, inherently pushing people to become pirates as opposed to the exploited mass of bureaucrafied peasants we ‘should’ be.

I mean, you’ve got to know something’s up when a blind lady illegally downloads The Bible because the DRM-protected Amazon version she bought won’t allow her to text-to-speech it. Such was one of the case studies in Akester’s research, but it didn’t stop there. There were University lecturers who’d had to either limit or pirate their teaching material as they couldn’t transfer it to the right formats for their classes, and daily issues at the British Library when it tries to move documents to new formats for archival.

But the DRM crowd say these are ‘edge cases’. Shira Perlmutter of global music trade group IFPI muttered: "You are not going to get a one size fits all DRM that will deal both with the consumer and the special interests exceptions and ... you do not want to give up a system that works for 99 percent of cases..."

Does it really “work” for 99% of cases though? Do we really not sit at home with our legally obtained media and frustrate ourselves towards piracy because we can’t use it in the ways we’d like, ways that should be perfectly legal? I suspect most of us do.

It remains to be seen if the landmark paper will have any effect.

[Ars Technica]

4 comments

  • Annoyed
    DRM is basically spyware. It installs on your hardrive and if removed, even accidentally by registry cleaners, it can stop many programs/games from functioning, even if you reinstall. I had to reinstall windows because of that DRM. It also slows the launch time of a program/ game to snail pace, by checking the CD repeatedly. It encourages piracy because as soon as people hear a new game/ program has DRM, they immediately go for a Torrent version and keep their money to themselves. So by using DRM, developers are going to lose many sales and are harming the industry even more than the pirates do! There are many other copy protection methods that can be used which are not invasive and intrusive, or threaten the security of your computer. I say security, because DRM is also exploited by hackers to install rootkits in your PC. Another thing, DRM also prevents many people from even running the program because their DVD/CD drive is not new enough to recognise CD checking process. DRM is the worst idea for copy protection.
  • Jill
    As soon as a single copy of whatever you are putting DRM on appears on the internet, the DRM is useless.
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