You all know the slogan: “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” At the Digital Rights Strategies conference in New York City, a similar message could be heard: “DRM doesn’t anger consumers, content owners abusing DRM anger consumers.”
Few, of course, would argue that the mere existence of DRM is a bad thing. Locked away in a vault somewhere or trapped in one of those nifty mirrors featured in Superman, DRM can do little harm. Such assertions are merely academic, of course. Tools are designed to be used, and DRM is being used to do what it was designed to do: control how consumers interact with content.
But the growing backlash against DRM is causing dissension in the pro-DRM ranks. Paul Sweeting’s excellent report on the DRS conference records the frustrations of the DRM community at the tactics of the content industry. They apparently feel that an overzealous content industry is abusing DRM; this is a bit like Smith & Wesson complaining that bullets can kill.
When DRM proponents start pointing fingers and attempting to separate the theory (really, the ideology) from the practice, we have to stop and ask: what’s going on here? It appears that players in the DRM ecosystem know the tide is turning against them because DRM is punishing the wrong people, namely the folks who are buying DRM-laden content. This is bad for their business, because a DRM backlash could harm DRM peddlers.