Originally uploaded by tbridge.

DC is a town of advocates, and it comes as no surprise when I see a car plastered in bumper stickers advocating everything from green cars to immigration reform to abortion messages (both pro-choice and pro-life), to embracing Jesus. Virginia, Maryland and DC all have very affordable vanity plates, and of course this means that cars won’t just have messages on their bumperstickers anymore, but also on their license plates.

Our friend here has decided that he’s against Digital Rights Management schemes which record companies and other digital content providers use to prevent rampant copying of their material without authorization. Many people, including the governments of several european countries, have stood up against the DRM groups.

Me, I fall somewhere in the middle. I love buying (and paying for!) digital music. No bulky CD to carry around, I can play iTunes purchases on all my computers, and I can move them around to my iPods. Yes, I realize they won’t play without iTunes. Yes, I realize that if you don’t have an iPod you’re pretty well and truly fucked, but I don’t care, to be honest. It works exactly how I want it to: I don’t have to take extra steps to make sure it will all play nice together, and it generally restricts me from giving it away to other folks.

There’s got to be a happy medium out there, where copyright holders get their due, and fans can have their flexibility, but I think in the wake of Napsteresque services at the end of the TwenCen and into the early Twentyfirst, I think we’re stuck with DRM. The trick is making sure it’s good, and it’s fair.

But, nice to see that LA’s not the only town where DRM isn’t popular, eh Boing Boing? As we wended our way through traffic today and caught this plate, we managed to miss the VA tag “FSMISM” which I’m sure would’ve ended up on their front page. Sorry Cory, we’ll work harder on that next time.

9 Comments so far

  1. Cory Doctorow (unregistered) on June 14th, 2006 @ 7:00 am

    I think you’re wrong, Tom. In the era of Kazaa, eDonkey and the Pirate Bay, it’s clear that buying music is a *voluntary* process. That means that the authorized, for-pay services have to give you something better than what you get for free. Adding DRM makes those services worse. No one woke up this morning wishing for a way to do less with his music. What’s more, DRM never stops people from making unauthorized copies because the simplest way to make them isn’t by breaking the DRM, it’s by downloading the already DRM-cleaned versions on the net that can be found with a quick search.

    As to your iPod, it’s a ticking bomb. In two or five or ten years, when you have a couple thousand bucks sunk into iPod music from the iTunes Store, will you be able to switch from your iPod to the new hotness that comes out from the next great personal stereo innovator? Not without abandoning that investment. Apple gets to use DRM protection laws to sue anyone who wants to make a new player that works with the music they sold you.

    DRM does nothing to prevent piracy, and everything to prevent competition.

  2. se (unregistered) on June 14th, 2006 @ 8:57 am

    DC being DC, and the car being black… wouldn’t “Black Dream” be a HELL of a lot more likely than “block DRM”?

  3. Tom Bridge (unregistered) on June 14th, 2006 @ 9:49 am

    I don’t think it’s a voluntary process, Cory. I think it comes down to respecting the work of the artist, and paying them in exchange for a recording, like we’ve done for the entire history of recorded music. If you want to hear their music when YOU want (as opposed to whenever the music director of some radio station or other medium wants), you get to pay for the privilege. I don’t have a problem with that because musicians, much like authors and other creators of content, have every right to eat and make a decent living.

    Per the iPod, there are ways around the DRM, thankfully, that aren’t entirely punitive, and so long as the company that pioneered “Rip. Mix. Burn.” is still letting people make Mix CDs, then I think there isn’t as deep a problem here as you say, will it consume time? Yes, possibly, but I have to believe that companies like Apple will continue to be at the forefront of the digital music market for the foreseeable future.

    Sadly, SE, I suppose you’re right, but I have to say, I thought “Block DRM” first was funny.

  4. Matt (unregistered) on June 14th, 2006 @ 12:50 pm

    I’m pretty sure it probably means “Black Dream” and not “Block Digital Rights Management”. You big nerd.

  5. gary (unregistered) on June 14th, 2006 @ 2:32 pm

    To jump in on the whole DRM debate:
    @Tom:” I don’t think it’s a voluntary process, Cory. I think it comes down to respecting the work of the artist, and paying them in exchange for a recording, like we’ve done for the entire history of recorded music.”

    Yes, but unfortunately for the artist, that’s now what DRM guarantees, infact because of the flat $9.99 an album, the artist actually ends up getting less money then if you bought a cd. Here’s a good piece on it.

    The other big problem with DRM that hasn’t really been mentioned here, only slightly touched upon, is that YOU don’t own the music. What you’re doing is leasing the music from the iTMS. As is well known, if your computer crashes they don’t have to let you re-download what you own. Although graciously apple has allowed a one-time re-download. That said I use iTMS, own a Mac, but that’s how it goes.

    DRM isn’t the simple solution, if anything the Internet should be helping artists marginalize the labels and better profit from their work.

  6. asurroca (unregistered) on June 14th, 2006 @ 2:55 pm

    You know, I’m going to have to go with “black dream” as well, but what does it say about the lot of us if the first thing that comes to mind is “block DRM”?–that was what I read as soom as I saw this post as well!

  7. tj (unregistered) on June 14th, 2006 @ 10:09 pm

    i disable the drm as soon as i buy the music. i collect enough songs to burn to a cd, then rip the cd to mp3s. voila! i can shuffle the music to my nano, burn a cd for my daughter, listen to the song at work on windows media player (i can’t install software on my work computer), etc.

    i love that license plate. good find!

  8. Peter (unregistered) on June 15th, 2006 @ 6:34 am

    Yes, I use an open source equivalent to iTunes called Rthymbox and I shuffle my music around wherever I want. My iPod is nothing but a big hard drive on which I do everything from check email to make skype calls to store application software and data. I only bought the hardware from Apple; I didn’t buy into their whole harware/software tyranny! When you buy hardware or software, your property rights entitle you to use your property as you see fit, not as some company dictates!

  9. Illusioned (unregistered) on June 15th, 2006 @ 12:02 pm

    Oh thank you for all those who thought BLK DRM = black dream.

    But when I read Tom’s post, I was, man, that is sooo way out there. Never would have thought of the digital rights management at all – and since I don’t have iPod or any portable equipment that hosts files like that, I really feel out of step with the world.

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