Why DRM is Bad: The Law of Unintended Consequences

DRM is software used to restrict your access to your files.  And it is one of the worst ideas of the modern world. To quote Cory Doctorow in his book Someone Comes To Town, Someone Leaves Town,

No one woke up this morning and said, “Damn, I wish there was a way to do less with my books, movies and music.”

It was intended, originally, to keep copyright laws working.  Before about the 20th century, copying another work was an arduous process (no computers, no recording mechanisms, etc), so restricting the copying of an item (like a song, or a picture) was most easily done at the stage of copying.

All that has changed.  Now we have computers, cheap cameras, video recorders, scanners, recorders, and so on.  It’s suddenly very hard to keep people from copying.

The Law of Unintended Consequenses states:

Any intervention in a complex system may or may not have the intended result, but will inevitably create unanticipated and often undesirable outcomes.

Basically, that means “Anything you do might work, but it will always do something you didn’t expect or want.”

The attempt to keep copyright working in today’s day and age is DRM, which keeps you from copying and using files how you want.  And it’s not just constricted to copying, either:

  • In July of 2009 Amazon deleted copies of two books from Kindles, as the books were illegally placed in the Amazon ebook store.  Ironically, they were Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm, both by George Orwell.Now, assume a leaked copy of a secret eight Harry Potter book (of which there are in fact rumors) is bound by an individual and placed in Borders.  You walk in and want to buy it — you don’t know that it shouldn’t be there.  The teller, who doesn’t really like fantasy, doesn’t know that they shouldn’t be selling that book.  Later that night, it is revealed to the manager that this book was sold.  Some of his workers break into your house, take the book (you had already been reading it; you were about halfway through) and leave.  I believe you would be sufficiently enraged.  What’s to stop Amazon from deleting or editing any book you have on a Kindle?
  • DRM is on many DVDs in order to keep the market from getting too segmented — spread out over too many demographics, which is a huge hassle (if I read correctly) for marketing and the company in general.  Now, assume you just bought a new DVD.  You’re going on vacation to Japan soon, and haven’t yet had a chance to watch it.  You bring with you, to watch in the hotel one night.  Woops, too bad!  Many DVDs only work in players manufactured for the same country the DVD was manufactured in, and possibly a few others.
  • Or maybe, while in Japan, you buy some anime DVD to watch at home. Too bad, so sad.
  • Don’t like Safari on the iPhone?  Want, perhaps, Opera Mini?  Oh wait — everything on the iPhone is slathered in DRM.  You can’t use third-party software not from the App Store, and Opera Mini hasn’t been accepted yet.  So, it does get accepted, then an update changes its code some.  Apple doesn’t like the new version.  Oh, sorry, it appears Opera Mini isn’t on your iPhone anymore.  Download a vehemently anti-Apple article on your iPad?  Nope.  It’s deleted.  They can do that, if they want.  At any time.  To any one.  On any thing.
  • So, you just downloaded this ebook and man, is it great.  You want your friend to read it, but he doesn’t want to buy it.  “Okay,” you think, “I’ll just send it to him.”  Woops, sorry!  You can’t share your files if their DRM says so.
  • Any song you download from iTunes has DRM on it. You can only have iTunes accounts on three computers, and those songs are very restricted. This is doubly stupid. Not only is DRM a bad idea, but each of those songs is available on CD without DRM. iTunes DRM’s its songs because the big music companies say so, but then they release unlocked CDs (which is a great thing) that you can rip.

And get this — DRM doesn’t, for the most part, do a thing except annoy people.  Pirates have cracked every DRM scheme out there.  Any file with DRM is available on BitTorrent without it.

Help spread awareness:  DRM is bad.

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The Big Skinny

The Big Skinny is a wallet specially designed to be really, really thin. It is.

In my quest for a ridiculously thin wallet wallet, I tried duct tape, paper, heat-fused plastic bags, credit cards, and will soon even try one made out of old Big Skinnycomputer keyboard insides. But the thinnest I’ve used thus far is the Big Skinny. My old wallet, one that my grandfather made out of leather, was about 3/4 of an inch think.  The plastic-bag wallet was 1/2 inch think.  The duct tape one was about a centimeter and a half thick.  The credit card one fell apart (my fault, not the design’s). The paper wallet was about a centimeter thick but had to get remade too often..  The Big Skinny is just 5 mm and is very durable.  Each wallet contained approx. the same material:  always 4 cards, 4 pieces of paper, and variable numbers of bills.


The model I have is the Sport, except mine is black.  It comes in black, blue, red, and tan.  I love it.

More Great Authors

Here’s another list of really good books. All of them are, as before, highly recommended.

Also, see up at the top where it says Home and About? There should also be one that says Books. Clicking on it will result in a list of books. Thus far it contains the contents of this post and this older one.

Without further ado, here are the authors, in no particular order:

  • Stephen Hunt, who wrote The Court of the Air, a fantastical steampunk-y adventure to save the world.
  • Orson Scott Card, who is, of course, the author of Ender’s Game and all of its prequels, sequels, and parallels.
  • Neal Stephenson, who wrote Cryptonomicon, a book about adventure and cryptography, Zodiac, an excellent eco-thriller, The Diamond Age, about a nanotech-filled future, and my personal favorite Snow Crash about a katana-weilding hacker named Hiro who is also a pizza deliveryman for the Mafia.
  • Daniel Suarez, the author of Daemon and its sequel FreedomTM, about a computer program that takes over the world in an effort to restore actual democracy. I read both of them in a day; they’re very, very good.
  • Charles Stross, who has written many books. My favorites are Accelerando (about the singularity), Glasshouse (a “loose sequal” to Accelerando; about a group of people trapped in a virtual world), Saturn’s Children (about a group of humanoform robots at the heart of a conspiracy), and The Atrocity Archives (about using math to connect to other universes and bring through entities.
  • Katherine Neville, who wrote The Eight, about a chess set that may hold the secret to the Elixir of Life.

Sorry this post is kinda short, but there’s twelve books there. That should last you for a while. Don’t forget to check out the Books page from time to time to find a new book to read!

Okay, what?

Seven days ago I had 20 hits.  Six days ago I had 25.  Then 43, then 69, then 44.  This is pretty much ops-normal so far.  Two days ago I got 417 hits.  That’s a little large, but still pretty normal for a day on which I added a new post (this one).  Yesterday it kept rising to 614.  Now is the weirdness.  Every other single time, a posting day spikes and then drops.  Today it just kept going — to 2,099.  There is not an added number there.  Okay, what?

Note that I am by no means complaining, just curious.  Where are all you extra people coming from.  I must emphasize here that this is not a complaint and please don’t stop!

UPDATE: The referral thing says a whole ton of people StumbleUpon’d me.  Which still begs the question of why are they suddenly reaching me, as opposed to before?

Facebook Chat Emoticons

You probably know most of these, but there’s probably also a couple you don’t know.  Try ’em out!

Standard Smileys
Happy :)
Really happy
:D
Sad :(
Crying :'(
Wink ;)
Anime face ^_^
Laughing eyes >:o
Cat smile :3
Mad >:(
Surprised :o
Tongue out :p
Glasses 8)
Shades 8|
Skeptical o.O
Dopey smile -_-
Bored :/ or :\
Devil 3:)
Angel O:)
Kiss :*

Not smiley faces
Robot
:|]
Penguin <(")
Putnam :putnam:
Shark (^^^)
Heart <3
Pacman :v
42 in a box :42:

A Ham Sandwich

I can prove that a ham sandwich is better than eternal happiness.  Ready?

  • Nothing is better than eternal happiness, right?
  • I’d certainly rather have a ham sandwich than starve, i.e. have nothing
  • Ham sandwich > nothing > eternal happiness.

Logical paradoxes amuse me.

Spam spam spam

I just got my 20th spam comment.  This makes me happy, only in that spammers now realize my blog exists, albeit barely.  I still wish I got more real comments, but hey.  I’ll take what I can get.