Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Caring more about DRM

I can't stand DRM. Digital Rights Management. A cute phrase that means that the folks who sell you content get to tell you exactly what you can do with that content. Can't stand it. Harumph.

I'd never buy a CD that I couldn't rip. If I couldn't rip it, I'd take it back. Or suffer the loss of quality and do an audio rip. Whatever. The reason is that I bought the music, I should be able to do what I want with it. Have a copy at home, a copy in the car, a copy at work, not being limited by the physical media. All very legal. I really don't care if others are ripping it so they can give it to 10,000 of their closest friends. I'm not, so stop trying to punish me like I do.

But up till now, I haven't really cared about DRM on video. DVDs are supposedly protected, although DeCSS exists to break that. Videotapes have that Macrovision stuff to make it so you can't copy them, too, although there are ways around that, too. But apart from my general dislike for DRM, it hasn't really bothered me. I've lost one or two tapes to defect or little hands, and it would have been nice to have had backup copies of them, but I doubt I would have bothered making copies anyway.

Until now. Today, I expect to get a DVI-to-S-Video adapter for my iMac. This'll let us send what's on the monitor to our TV (which sits a few feet away). This means that we'll be able to watch all those MST3K AVIs that I downloaded recently, and have burned onto DVD-ROMs. But it also means that we'll be able to throw some of our other DVDs onto our iMac's hard drive, and watch whatever, whenever, without having to go look for the disc.

Unless DRM can stop us.

Can you see why DRM is offensive? I paid for the disc. I paid for the computer, with a nice, big hard drive. But because I'm guilty until proven innocent, they're telling me "no, you can't copy what you paid for, even for legal purposes".

And what about copying all those old VHS tapes up, too? And maybe burning them onto DVDs to have in the car for long trips? Can't do that legally, either.

Or can I? One tenet of law says that's "fair use". Another says "you can't circumvent copy protection".

So am I a criminal, or not?

I can't stand DRM.

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