“The trend will allow consumers who download audio books to freely transfer these digital files between devices like their computers, iPods and cellphones — and conceivably share them with others. Dropping copying restrictions could also allow a variety of online retailers to start to sell audio book downloads”.
I’m posting this because I made an earlier post about how I started using Audible. I’ve so far purchased and listened to 10 audio books from Audible since June ’07, and have been mostly happy. The only gripe I have with Audible is the DAMN DRM. A big part of reading books is sharing them with friends and family. You can do it with the dead tree versions, but not with Audibles’. It feels like I don’t actually own the book, even though I paid for it. When I tell someone I read some book (that I actually listened to in audio form from Audible), I feel bad because I can’t lend it to them because of the DAMN DRM. I’m being alienated by Audible, and my friends are being alienated by me. It is also a pain to shuffle around my various audio players and computers. At least they let you download books you purchased from their website as much as you want. Hopefully Audible/Amazon will free their audio books from the grasps of that DAMN DRM.
A while ago I read a thread on the Linux Kernel mailing list where Linus Torvalds and others debated the “tivoization” clause (also considered the DRM clause) in the GPLv3 (I think in section 6). The clause basically states that consumer products containing object code whose source code is covered under the GPLv3 must include all necessary installation information such as authorization keys to be able to modify the GPLv3 source code and run it on the consumer product. The term “tivoization” comes from how Tivo uses GPL code but the hardware restricts modified versions of the software without an authorization key. This is considered DRM. This practice is not exactly limited by GPLv2 and its circumvention is prohibited by the DMCA.
What Linus and others were debating was that they do not agree with the FSF in that tivoization should be restricted by the GPL. They say that we (the free software community) have no right to restrict how hardware manufacturers design their hardware. In their view Tivo is not doing anything wrong. They are using GPLv2 code, but they provide the source for the original and/or modified versions of the GPLv2 code in accordance with GPLv2. Beyond what they do with our software, we cannot control them.
But the tivoization clause is necessary to ensure the freedom and survivability of Free Software. Think if Dell offered Linux (which they do now, but if they didn’t), but to keep people from breaking their systems they added a check in the bios for an authorization key in the linux kernel which was not released, thus preventing anyone from running a modified version of the kernel. Now imagine every computer maker that offered Linux did the same thing. How can we exercise our 4 freedoms if the hardware won’t let us? Yeah, one isolated instance of locking Free Software with DRM doesn’t have much effect on the ability for people in general to exercise our 4 freedoms, but if this tivoization persists what can we do?
The basic idea is that, for me as a developer of Free Software, whether I distribute my code or if I let someone else distribute my code, I want the end user of my software to be able to practically exercise the 4 freedoms of Free Software. If I let Tivo distribute my code and the hardware on which my code is designed to run makes the 4 freedoms pointless (in particular, freedom 1 which permits modifying software to fit the users’ needs), that is wrong. Even though Tivo is not directly violating the 4 freedoms, they are not allowing users to practically exercise all 4 freedoms.
Hollywood is talking off the record about its real reason for wanting DRM-opportunities to sell you back your rights. In a nutshell: DRM’s sole purpose is to maximize revenues by minimizing your rights so that they can sell them back to you.
I’m a big music fan. And while I don’t have the most varying range of musical taste, I like to discover and listen to new music. But I have been in a moral dilemma over the current state of new music distribution, and this has been preventing me from purchasing new music. The primary reason; DRM. DRM, as coined by those who created it, stands for Digital Rights Management. DRM, as coined by the FSF and as how I see it, stands for Digital Restrictions Management. Why? It really is both. To the RIAA and (some) artists it is meant to protect the digital rights of their (it’s not really the RIAA’s, but they would like to believe it is and are doing everything they can to make it their) content. But to the consumer it only restricts what they can do with the music that they pay for and enjoy. In theory, it is supposed to combat piracy; in practice though it only gets in the way of the rights, as protected by fair use, of the consumers using the content.
The real problem is that when I listen to music, I am all over the place. I listen to it at home. I listen to it in my car. And I listen to it at work. And at each place I listen to it on different mediums, which means my music must exist in several forms or on several devices. And DRM doesn’t let me do this. My freedoms to use my legally purchased digital music in the way I wish to use it are locked up in DRM. Everything about the music can be restricted by DRM; the number of computers you can have it on concurrently, the types of portable media players that it can run on, and even the number of times you can listen to it and for how long you can listen to it. And just about all legally available digital music contains DRM. There are some unrestricted on-line music stores, but the selection is incredibly limited because of the lack of participation by record companies.
There is the option of actually buying a physical CD. But that is not the way I listen to music and is inconvenient. Also, it is a waste of plastic and energy, and is a pollutant. To some they like the piece of mind that having a physical object gives or they like the liner notes, but to me that is all meaningless. The benefit to a CD though is I, or anyone, can just stick the CD in the computer and rip it to digital form, free of DRM. But DRM is now making its way into CD’s, so you now have to watch out for it there too.
So what is the big difference between a CD and digital music? They’re both providing the same thing, but one is physically open and one is digitally restrictive. One you can share with your friends and save to your computer, all perfectly legal because of fair use. The other is strictly limited in how it is used, only playable on certain computers or certain portable players, and is illegal to circumvent in order to legally exercise fair use because of the DMCA. It just doesn’t make sense to me that the same copyrighted work can be governed so differently.
This whole situation does not make me feel comfortable giving the recording industry my hard earned money. So little of the price of music goes in the pockets of the artists, and anyone who thinks buying their music is supporting the artists directly is gravely mistaken. Yes, some select artists make significant money, but it’s all a show. The thought that my money could fund frivolous lawsuits by the RIAA against innocent children, parents, or grandmothers is just not something I want any part in supporting. I just don’t want to buy new music.
So to the record companies and RIAA I say, stop making criminals out of your customers, and give us back our fair use rights. What you’re doing is driving me and many others away. The only reason why you are around is because creative people need money to make themselves heard, and you have it. You are hurting them, and you are hurting us. With the digital age artists and consumers need you less and less, but you keep butting in and tightening your strangle-hold on the market. People will realize what you’re doing is wrong. It will only take time and you will be no more.