Why DRM is stupid for companies.

You know, in addition to being stupid for everyone else. From the Baen Free Library, a moneymaking company that proves the stupidity of DRM every single day. The DRM apologists can whine and chunter and point to all those “pirates”, but they can’t explain how the Baen Free Library keeps making money apparently in defiance of the laws of physics, nature, god, and man.

From the article:

Remember: This is from a man who makes money in digital media without using DRM.

The article as a whole contains a solid argument based on his own sales that DRM is simply a waste of everyone’s time and money.

Deal with it.

Hmmm… It’s not that I don’t sympathise with your point, but I think

Is a pretty poor argument; given that pirates don’t file accounts, it’s impossible to know how much money is passing through their hands, and it would be utterly absurd to argue that not one single penny of whatever money the pirates take would otherwise pass through the legitimate channels, if the pirates didn’t exist.

Now I’m convinced that DRM is generally not a very good thing - it tends to punish the faithful, it’s just that ‘you can’t prove it’ seems an underhand argument, in a scenario where hard evidence is difficult or impossible to collect, but I do believe authors should be able to exercise rights over their material at their option - not just when they can prove it’s a good idea.

Since there seems to be a debate here, off to GD ya go.

My hay fever is acting up; please take away your straw man.

The question of whether some people illegally copy works in the absence of digital restriction management (or, more precisely, whether some people do so who would not do so if obstructed by DRM) is secondary to the question of whether the total effect (increased sales of a more useful non-DRM-infected product on the one hand versus decreased sales caused by bootlegging) is positive or negative. The author posts some real-world evidence that the answer is “positive”.

To illustrate with an analogy: Suppose a shopkeeper adopts a policy of performing TSA-style searches of departing customers. It will certainly cut back on shoplifting… but it will cut back on sales a lot more. To resist a shift to more relaxed policies because shoplifting would increase would clearly be utterly irrational – and yet that’s what most of the electronic-media industry is doing.

The DRM argument is just the piracy argument by another name and with a slightly different flavour. The problems with DRM are:

  1. Songs purchased on ITMS or Microsoft’s Zune site or wherever can only be played on the devices that support their DRM scheme. They can’t be transferred to another MP3 player or played outside of those media players that do not support the DRM scheme. Despite the fact that you paid for this song, you can’t use it on whatever personal equipment you own which generally flew in the face of other protection schemes. Moreover you could burn any of your songs to CD which would completely remove the DRM. Not much of a deterrent against copying.

  2. Normal music CDs, just like the ones you can purchase online, can be purchased from a conventional music store (albeit often at a higher price) without any DRM whatsoever. (Sony’s fiasco notwithstanding)

  3. DRM has yet to prove in any measurable fashion that it has done anything to protect the music industry against piracy.

That last point may seem a little disingenuous because the only means by which DRM’s effectiveness can be measured is to eliminate it and see how or even if the numbers change. However, as I have said about piracy, you cannot simply assume that music pirates (like any pirates) will pay for things if they are given no free alternative. The application of a little common sense will tell you with fair certainty that, given their druthers, the vast majority people who are willing to pirate something would not go out and buy it if they find they are unable to get it free. They do not factor into the industry’s “lost” sales figures because they never had the potential to be buyers in the first place. Sure, there are those who probably would go out and buy if they had no other alternative, but they are in the very small minority. It is of course impossible to measure how small, but given the profile of the average pirate (of any stripe) it isn’t too difficult to get a pretty good general idea.

Disingenuous or not though, the idea that it’s better we’re inconvenienced than the industry doesn’t justify the industry hedging its bets on a “maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t” when it comes at the frustration and expense of the very people that pay their salaries. Protecting intellectual property is all fine and well – artists deserve to have their works protected somehow – but when that protection fundamentally usurps the rights of the consumer to use what they paid for in whatever way they see fit so long as it does not violate copyright laws, it no longer becomes reasonable to force the issue.

What’s more, the various DRM schemes have cost a hell of a lot or money to develop and cost a hell of a lot in customer service to support. I would wager that if it were to be scrapped altogether, the “losses” the industry would take as a result would be virtually nil. Matter of act, I’d lay damn good money down on that. I would even add that whatever minute losses the industry would take for having scrapped DRM would be more than made up for by those who would start buying because they’ve scrapped DRM. Naturally this is unprovable unless DRM is scrapped – and even then the industry isn’t about to publicly admit that the whole DRM thing was pretty much a boondoggle – but I really don’t think I’m far from the truth at all.

Decaf perhaps?

In the linked article, the guy has published a couple of books and he thinks the sales figures haven’t been adversely affected by making some of them freely available and asks for factual evidence that would be pretty much impossible to gather if it existed.
If we want to start labelling logical fallacies, how about ‘hasty generalisation’ and maybe a dash of ‘argument from ignorance’ too.

Another anecdote here. I frequent the Baen Free Library and would agree with Eric Flint. I have sampled a number of books that I would not normally have purchased based on the cover/blurb/author if I had just seen it in the bookstore, and have then gone out and bought the ones I liked, and frequently followed up by buying other books by the same author.

As one thought, has anyone here played The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion? It has no copy protection to prevent burned or virtual CDs, unlike the vast majority of other games, and yet managed to do very well for itself…

Specific quote from joystiq.com, but found on many different sites through a google search.

Also, as an anecdote, my girlfriend is cursing Microsoft right now, because WMP decided she couldn’t play a bunch of the music she’s ripped, and may not even have the CD anymore.

Exactly. I read the other day about a bit torrent site that is going to start legally offering TV shows and movies for download for a fee. I only watch a couple of shows a week and would pay to download them and watch them on my computer. Unfortunately, they have the Microsoft DRM scheme and can only be run on Windows Media Player. I run Linux and can’t run Media Player, so they will never see any of my money.

There was some brief attempt at protection; it required the CD to be present as it performed file checks on load. It just so happened that it didn’t care if the CD was original or not.

Oblivion was a hell of a good game, though. I bought the director’s cut a week after it came out (had to wait for payday) and thought it was worth every penny, even a bargain compared to some of the “deluxe edition” game prices I’ve seen. (I’m looking at you, Warcraft II and Star Wars: Jedi Knight: Jedi Outcast: Colon Subtitle) I think this is really the key here. Good games that are worth the sticker price will get more sales and less piracy. Oblivion lived up to the hype and delivered the goods. (lacklustre 3D engine performance aside) Too many other games that end up with premium sticker prices turn out to be dull, buggy, slow, or just plain bad, making people either regret shelling out the money for it or glad they downloaded it instead of paying for it.

Either way, the argument for/against copy protection has been going on as long as piracy has existed, and I doubt it’s going to get any further any time soon. DRM on the other hand has its own arguments that differ from conventional piracy and that I think have valid points.

Foobar. Plays every kind of file you throw at it, except for DRM’ed songs out of license. Download that first, then download the columns mod and you’ll be good to go.

Columns UI

Heh. I didn’t think this had the chops to become a GD. I pictured it as Pit Lite at best.

Anyway, there are some better arguments in this article from the same guy:

Emphasis mine. He admits that some people steal because they really like stealing and therefore would steal anything pretty much regardless. He goes on to say:

But the publishers would have to be stupid to create the very system that encourages piracy. Nobody would believe it if someone put it into a fictional novel.

But that’s because fiction has to make sense. Reality is under no such constraint.

I buy my music, movies and books because I like to reward people for their good work, even though I know they only see a tiny fraction of what I pay.

DRM is a scam, plain and simple. It’s a feel-good band aid against an enormous tide. It keeps a few code writers and tech assistants in jobs, and major music companies in a self-delusional belief of control.

As an example, Play For Sure has been broken many, many times. Microsoft no longer even uses it as a preferred DRM (the new Zune formats don’t even recognize PFS).

Ravings from petulant egomaniac writers aside I have yet to see anything other than made-up figures about losses. Personally, I’d like to see the RIAA closed. Other than being a self parody ((RIAA arrests 12-year-old) I think the music industry would recoup a huge amount of money from dumping it. Probably enough to make up for the pirated copies of The City on the Edge of Forever.

Que es DRM?

What used to be called ‘copy protection’ back when it was applied to games distributed on floppy disks. It stands for ‘Digital Rights Management’, named such by people who think they get to manage my rights.

DRM, in fact, has caused me to buy fewer CDs. Some don’t work in my car player, and I don’t want to be hit by a rootkit unawares.

Of course it’s their own (notions of)rights they’re trying to manage; for example, the notion that they should be paid each time someone newly acquires a copy of their work.

I believe that DRM is stupid for many reasons. I find it plausible, though unproven, that companies which use it lose more than they profit from it.

But I don’t think the success of the Baen Free Library has any relevance to whether DRM is good or bad, for two reasons.

First, as I understand it (from the OP’s link), the BFL only makes some works available online, in the hopes that people will purchase others (by the same author). This is analogous to putting up one or two tracks from an album, or one or two albums from an artist, or one or two scenes or episodes of a TV show or movie, for free download, while having the rest that you have to buy. Things like this are in fact done, and they may very well be good for business, but they don’t support the “no DRM on anything” position. They could just as easily be used in support of “DRM on everything except those freebies.”

The second reason is that what the BFN makes available is novels, which are typically a non-electronic medium. I, and many other people, would much prefer to read printed books the old fashioned way rather than off a screen. I might read a chapter or two online, but if I like it enough to keep reading, I’ll probably want to buy a printed copy. Other media, though, are not analogous.

That’s weird. How’d she rip it? Did she (accidentally) put some sort of DRM on it when she ripped it? (And, as long as you brought it up, if she doesn’t have the CD anymore does she still have the legal/moral right to play the music?)

If the she doesn’t have the CD anymore because it was stolen, damaged, or there were too many scratches in it due to constant use, then yes she does. That’s why the right to a backup copy exists.