Monday, June 19, 2006

DRM harms innovation and discriminates against buyers

Computerworld is reporting that Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) is likely to stifle innovation, increase the cost from litigation to legitimate businesses, and fail to put a dint in piracy rates.

Sydney lawyer Brendan Scott is quoted as saying:

"It is one in which small business is thriving [and] we didn't get there by asking for handouts from the government," Scott said. "We're there because we took our soundings and adapted to the new conditions."

True capitalism at its best.

The article goes on to say:

Scott said the [Open Source software] community encourages older industries to embrace the opportunities the future holds, rather than running to the government to help keep them "and the rest of us" in the past.
Scott believes the DRM provisions have already created an environment of risk and that Australians are reluctant to engage in digital publishing because of it. For example, most Linux distributors are "so scared of being sued" they don't include DVD playing software.

"Digital publishing is in a parlous state in Australia because of overregulation and DRM is a large part of it," he said. "Australian publishing is destined to languish until these risks of publication are dramatically reduced - not dramatically increased."

Sadly, the provisions of the so-called Free Trade Agreement with the U.S.A. have forced upon Australia laws which will go a long way to ensuring we'll always be a consumer, not a producer, of software and digital content.

Scott goes on to discuss the Australian Kazaa file-sharing software case, which gave the litigants a resounding win -- at enormous legal cost to all those involved -- but has done absolutely nothing reduce illegal Internet downloads:

"There is no evidence that these provisions do anything other than increase risks for legitimate businesses and waste time and money on litigation," he said. "There has been a deluge of copyright litigation over the past decade, but the litigants keep asking for more ways to sue people, this time by way of DRM."
"The OSIA [Open Source Industry Australia] wants strong and sensible copyright laws, not laws which encourage even more wasteful and quixotic litigation," he said.

Scott also points out the elephant in the room which so many interested parties wish to avoid mentioning. The primary use of DRM is to segment the market, to discriminate against buyers in one market compared to another. Under the guise of "Free Trade", the U.S.A. has gone in to bat for their corporate interests, forcing Australia to accept legislation that allows those American corporations to discrimate against Australian buyers. What other possible use does technology like "Region Encoding" for DVDs have?

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