City of Sound is about cities, design, architecture, music, media, politics and more. Written by Dan Hill since 2001.

Doctorow: DRM disables innovation

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Taken from the quite brilliant speech Cory Doctorow made to Microsoft Research, which is all over the internet – as it should be. Amidst many observations on digital rights managment (DRM), Cory makes the point that hindering straightforward connections between hardware and software – for whatever reason – also hinders innovation. That "DRM is the software equivalent of … closed hardware interfaces."

"This is the worst of all the ideas embodied by DRM: that people who make record-players should be able to spec whose records you can listen to, and that people who make records should have a veto over the design of record-players.

We’ve never had this principle: in fact, we’ve always had just the reverse. Think about all the things that can be plugged into a parallel or serial interface, which were never envisioned by their inventors. Our strong economy and rapid innovation are byproducts of the ability of anyone to make anything that plugs into anything else: from the Flo-bee electric razor that snaps onto the end of your vacuum-hose to the octopus spilling out of your car’s dashboard lighter socket, standard interfaces that anyone can build for are what makes billionaires out of nerds."

With much reference to record players, walkmen, DVD, Betamax, VHS, and Hollywood, Cory asserts that DRM will actually prevent people adapting content and products, which will in turn prohibit technical innovation and cultural production.

Cory Doctorow: Microsoft Research DRM talk


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