Weighing in on DRM

I will freely admit that I do not understand the technology involved in Digital Rights Management. In broad outline I believe that it is code added to digital files intended to prevent unauthorized copying of those files.  However, the last time I did any programming I backed up my work on cassette tapes, so I am sure that a more detailed explanation would go right over my head.

I do, on the other hand, know a thing or two about loss prevention, having spent most of my professional life in the physical security field.  While I don’t really think that my technical expertise will transfer from the mechanical to the electronic, I suspect that what I have learned about consumer psychology still applies.

Rule Number One: You cannot make theft impossible.  Making this concept clear to clients was always my first job on any consult.  You can build your walls as high as you like, surround them with barbed wire, land mines, guard dogs, sharks with freakin’ laser beams, whatever.  Given sufficient resources, and time, anything can be stolen.

Rule Number Two: Some people are thieves by nature. There are some people who just like to steal things.  Often, it’s not because they particularly want the things, they just like to steal.  It’s an adrenaline rush, it makes them feel clever, whatever.  For people like that, announcing that you have a system that can’t be beaten is like painting a target on your forehead. Every time that you upgrade your security you’re going to get somebody who has to break in just to prove they can do it.

Rule Number Three: Most people, on the other hand, would rather buy than steal. I honestly believe that most people want to think of themselves as being basically decent.  They feel good when they do good, they feel bad when they do bad.  You can see this in the lengths to which people will go to justify their actions.  Very few people are willing to see themselves as the villain in the movie of their lives.

Rule Number Four:  People tend to do what they think you expect them to do. The best way to defuse a tense situation is to demonstrate by your actions that you believe that the other person is going to be reasonable. (Even when you don’t.)  Doing repo work I learned very quickly that if you walk into a situation looking for trouble, you will find it.  On the other hand, if you look like have every confidence that the other person is going to remain calm and the two of you will work this out like rational adults, it’s very hard for most people to initiate hostilities.  I have had people start out yelling and end up apologizing for making me come out and pick up the vehicle.  Seriously.

Given the above, I see the inclusion of DRM into downloadable file as a losing proposition.  It’s not going to stop the people who like to break codes–it’s a challenge to them.

For the people who aren’t inclined to steal just for the sake of stealing, it’s going to make them think you expect them to be dishonest, and that’s likely to encourage them to be dishonest.  “You’re going to treat me like a criminal?  Well, okay then, I’ll be a criminal.  So there!

And since the people in the first group are going to be posting hacks and cracker programs and YouTube videos on how to break this particular generation of DRM, the people in group two are going to be able to.

If, on the other hand, we post our content DRM-free, we’re telling the crackers that we don’t have anything fun to play with, and we’re telling the people in group two that we trust them and expect them to be honest and decent people.

Just my thoughts.

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About MishaBurnett

I am the author of "Catskinner's Book", a science fiction novel available on Amazon Kindle. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008MPNBNS
This entry was posted in On Promotion, On Writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Weighing in on DRM

  1. I like the way you think… about half my books are DRM-free, and the rest aren’t because every time I read the description and have to answer “yes” or “no” as to whether I do or don’t want it, I get confused. By saying something is “DRM-free” it sounds as though one’s books can be obtained for free if you don’t use it; which is just the opposite. I’d bet that most authors are just as confused.

    • MishaBurnett says:

      It’s really very simple–DRM is technology to keep the person who bought the file from copying it. Personally, I don’t think the potential lost sales from people who make copies for their friends and family are likely to amount to much, but the lost sales from people who don’t want to spend money for a product that they don’t have control over are. I have bought software that was so loaded down with anti-piracy crap that it was a pain in the ass to use–and I never bought anything from those companies again.

  2. Pingback: Weighing in on DRM | E-kitap dünyasın...

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