Neil got to go to a very interesting talk on Thursday by Cory Dotorow of the Electronic Frontier Foundation presented by Microsoft Research.  The subject was on DRM and how it really served no useful propose to anyone nowadays.  Not the studios, not the consumers, not the artists, and last but not least not the companies like MS which are trying to cater to it.  The full text can be found here http://craphound.com/msftdrm.txt and IMO it's a must read.  I'm normally a big EFF fanboy, and now is no exception.  I'm a big believer that code should be free and open (open is probably redundant, but it's fine as long as you specify the free part) and that nothing but goodness will come from that position.  I view that, however, as a special case of “Information should be free”.  I feel that if I try to sum up this piece I will end up not doing it justice.  However, there were certain salient points that Cory made (and Neil tried to explain to me) which I feel should be pointed out. 

Specifically:

  1. copyright is not an absolute, but rather a malleable concept which should flex and adjust to new technologies and the new ways that they enable people to acquire and enjoy the works of artists.
  2. Digital mediums should not be trying to present the exact same system to users that current non-digital mediums provide.  They will be worse in some regards over the old systems, but they will be better in others.  We should be embracing the ways that digital communications allow us to share and appreciate art everywhere rather than just trying to emulate the current system where physical objects can only exist in one place at one time
  3. DRM as a technology is doomed to failure from a pure architectural perspective.  When you place the data in peoples hands and the means to access that data in their hands, at that point the data belongs to that person.  No amount of technical hurdles you try to introduce will be able to stop that.  And no amount of legislation will work either.  (IMO: the only way to make it work would be to make using math illegal for the populace and instead to only allow the government the ability to do so). 

Cory feels that pursuing this goal of DRM as a company is a worthless endeavor because consumers will reject in whole-heartedly in the future, and MS will have spent a ridiculous amount of money on a flop.  No one is benefited and MS loses in the long term.  Instead he feel that we should be enabling consumers now even if it's possible that someone could construe it as potentially copyright infringing.  He points to numerous cases and technologies over the past decades (if not centuries) that many considered to be harmful to both indistry and artists but which ended up giving more business to both and in the end supplying people with information in better more convenient forms.  He feels that the internet is just one more step in that technological ladder, and to throw away all it's benefits in order to keep the status quo with today is ridiculous.

Cory, good luck with this.  I'm hoping more people will listen.