DRMed Music is Designed to Break Down – Tough Luck, Customers

Written by Herra Honkonen on Friday, July 31st, 2009


Every three years the Library of Congress in the States goes through a review, where they grant the right to circumvent DRM in some cases, which is usually forbidden by DMCA. Not surprisingly, at this time you get the silliest and most infuriating spin from the copyright lobby.

The winner this time is Steve Metalitz, who is a lawyer representing MPAA, RIAA and other similar outfits. According to him consumers should not be able to strip DRM from material that is bought from stores that shut down their DRM-servers – thus rendering all the material bought from them useless. So, if you have bought your music from, say, Wal-Mart download service, you are out of luck – better go and buy all your albums again from somewhere else. Ka-ching.

According to Ars Technica Metalitz responded to several questions from the Copyright Office as follows:

“We reject the view that copyright owners and their licensees are required to provide consumers with perpetual access to creative works. No other product or service providers are held to such lofty standards. No one expects computers or other electronics devices to work properly in perpetuity, and there is no reason that any particular mode of distributing copyrighted works should be required to do so.”

On the surface this looks kosher. Of course you can’t expect things to last forever or hold any industry to that kind of standards. Things break down, get lost and so on. But comparing downloaded DRM protected music to, say, electronics is a false analogy. Why?

Because DRM protected music is DESIGNED to fail whenever the seller feels like it. If someone’s music collection is lost due to a hard drive breakdown, accidental deletion or something similar (and there’s no backup), then the situation is pretty clear – he has to replace it with his own money. All kinds of devices wear down and break up sooner or later and there isn’t really much you can do about it. But a DRM kill switch is a different thing altogether. It’s not in any way an inherent property of music files, it’s a tacked on suicide pill which the consumer is not really paying for.

So, Mr. Metalitz and the organizations you represent: if we follow your logic, you would not mind if the car manufacturers fitted your cars with devices which they can use to trash the engine when they feel like it, or the furniture stores you use retained the right to just barge in and take out your sofas, beds and so on any given day? I mean, we can’t expect people to be able to drive their cars or sit in their living rooms in perpetuity?

One Response to “DRMed Music is Designed to Break Down – Tough Luck, Customers”

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