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SubjectRe: Why DRM exists [was Re: Flame Linus to a crisp!]
Larry McVoy wrote:
> There seems to be a wide spread feeling that whenever anything
> desirable comes along it is OK to take it if you want it.

Such attitudes are indicative of a "me first" society, wherein laws only
apply if a quilty entity (person or corporation) believes they will
suffer consequences for their actions. Recent history shows a strong
tendancy for corporations to lie, cheat, and steal whenever they think
they can "get away" with it; I don't see the behavior of music
downloaders as any more or less noble than the business practices of

Many people couch their theft of IP in terms of nobility; they seem
themselves as Robin Hoods, stealing from the rich and giving to the
poor. I've even seen some people state that music piracy is a human
rights issue, comparing themselves to civil rights activists. Such
claims devalue real human rights abuses in an attempt to validate IP theft.

> The depressing thing is that it is so obvious to me that the
> corporations will win, they will protect themselves, they have the
> money to lobby the government to get the laws they want and build the
> technology they need. The more you push back the more locked up
> things will become.

And it's happened time and time again, in so many areas where personal
freedoms stand contrary to the profits of corporations. We exist in a
feudal society, whether people wish to recognize it as such or not --
and right now, the Lords are corporations who have the power of law and
force on their side.

Copyrights and patents were once sound devices for stimulating the
development and dissemination of new ideas; the advent of the modern
corporation, however, has perverted those fine concepts for selfish
goals; government incompetence has allowed the process to degenerate
into stupidity, where anyone can patent almost anything.

I doubt very much the most music pirates give a damn about the social
implications of freedom. In my experience, those who steal IP are just
as greedy as the corporations; they want soemthing, so they take it.
Theft is theft, whether it's a software corporation stealing someone's
GPL code or a college kid downloading a thousand pirated songs.

> I don't like the record companies any better than anyone else but
> they do own the material and you either respect the rules or the
> record companies will lock it up and force you to respect the rules.

I'm willing to agree that the current in-your-face tactics of the
"free-as-in-liberty" IP movement will accomplish little or nothing in
terms of human freedom.

That does *not* mean that it is useless to break unjust laws! Revolution
is always involves people who foresake the rules and ignore the
impositions of powers-that-be.

The real question is: What tactics make a revolution effective? In the
case of "free" software and IP, I believe the current, confrontation
tactics are both ineffective and counterproductive.

> The open source community, in my opinion, is certainly a contributing
> factor in the emergence of the DMCA and DRM efforts.
> ...
> "If it's useful, take it" is the attitude.

Indeed, it is. It amazes me how many students "use" code from my books
or web site as their homework. Even more disturbign are the college
students who insist that I provide them with free implementations of
their homework assignments. By the gods, I've been *threatened* by some
of these people, who are likely the same sort who buy term papers and
doctoral thesis.

Modern society is selfish. And much of the "free" software movement is
based on "free-as-in-beer", not "free-as-in-liberty" thinking.

> Corporations are certainly watching things like our efforts with
> BitKeeper, as well as the other companies who are trying to play nice
> with the open source world. What are they learning? That if you
> don't lock it up, the open source world has no conscience, no
> respect, and will steal anything that isn't locked down. Show me a
> single example of the community going "no, we can't take that,
> someone else did all the work to produce it, we didn't".

And corporations do EXACTLY THE SAME THING. The evil is on both sides of
the fence. People think that they have a "right" to steal Windows
because Microsoft has acted unethically. Adults pass this "me first"
attitude to their children.

> Do you think that corporations are going sit by and watch you do that
> and do nothing to stop you? Of course they aren't, they have a
> strong self preservation instinct and they have the resources to
> apply to the problem. The DMCA, DRM, all that stuff is just the
> beginning. You will respond with all sorts of clever hacks to get
> around it and they will respond with even more clever hacks to stop
> you. They have both more resources and more at stake so they will
> win.


Stealing music, software and IP is doomed to fail in terms of
"liberating" intellectual property.

For a long time, I was involved in a dispute over indigenous land
rights; the opponents were multinational mining corporations. They could
hire private "security" firms to provide "enforcement." We had
international organizations, including the Organization of American
States and the UN on our side; the victims won international human
rights awards for defending their rights peacefully.

We lost. No fanfare, no laser guided bombs; we simply lost because
people wore out. Leaders got old, people got tired of "surprise" tax
audits, bugged phones, and death threats. The government and
corporations imposed their will by force of money and time.

And that was a truly *noble* loss for people fighting for their heritage
and the purity of their land! If we couldn't win that war, how do a
bunch of software thieves and music pirates expect to win against even
bigger corporate opponents?

Yes, we should fight against the excess of corporate greed-- using a
rational battle plan, founded on honest ethics and superior products.

Scott Robert Ladd
Coyote Gulch Productions (
Professional programming for science and engineering;
Interesting and unusual bits of very free code.

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