Ruth Suehle constructed a fantastic DRM graveyard: A brief history of digital rights management in music.
Digital rights management or DRM is a method for controlling access to various digital media including music, movies, and software. The “rights” being managed are those of content creators to a lesser extent and of content distributors to a greater extent. As Suehle’s timeline demonstrates, DRM systems often bite the dust, because users overwhelmingly demand their own rights to purchased media. One of the most important rights is transferability, or using media on a digital device or computer of one’s choosing. The trouble with many DRM systems is that transferability is difficult or impossible, because content controllers and distributors begin with the tacit assumption that all content consumers are not to be trusted. The assumption that most DRM systems are based on is that users will “steal” content or use purchased content in was unintended by the creators or distributors. This lack of respect and too much trouble imposed by most DRM systems lead consumers to find new channels for content distribution that are less restricting and more respectful.
Mr. Japanese Sea Cow and I are visibly upset over not being permitted to buy a fucking Ampad notebook from the Kent State University Bookstore in the Student Center Complex, because I wouldn’t put my backpack in their “Place Bag Here” wooden cubby hole matrix. First, I disagree with the attitude that the bookstore takes toward students and anyone else who may be carrying a backpack–obviously, women are permitted to carry their bags into the store, large and small. I realize that many bookstores on college campuses have these bag areas with the idea in mind to reduce shrinkage. There are other, more effective ways to reduce shrinkage without overtly labeling all potential customers are thieves. Second, the Kent State Bookstore in no way assumes any responsibility for my bag and its contents, which includes a laptop, iPhone, books, notes, tools, etc. That’s right–tools. I don’t want to appear hypocritical–not wanting to be viewed as a criminal, yet distrusting others with my things out of sight at the front of the store by a heavy traffic, public area, but there is a difference–the store has substantial capital and the potential means to effectively protect their goods without criminalizing all who enter their premises. I, on the other hand, do not have the capital to run the individual risk of someone purposively or mistakenly lifting my nondescript black backpack from a public space unattended. I can, however, hold on to my bag and dutifully give others respect as human beings and fight the urge to steal, which apparently the bookstore is afraid that I cannot control. Third, I’m particularly troubled by the fact that students obey the signs and leave their things at the front of the store. I didn’t stand there after my altercation, so I don’t know how many were rebuked, but a girl in front of me was also reprimanded. However, she went back to the front and left her bag. I, on the other hand, left vowing never to return. Oh yes, I have voted in the market by taking my $3.50 elsewhere, and I will, going forward, tell my students to seek their books from businesses that give them respect as individuals and not treat them as criminals. By putting de Certeau’s theory of individual choice into action, I believe that I am effectively sticking it to the Kent State Bookstore and its attack on respect for persons. In my best Ricky Bobby voice–“Alan Wilde, save me with your magical powers of irony!”