DRM & Stealing

I read an article at MacUser that explained how to set your Mac’s clock back in order to get more time on your iTunes rental. I know this isn’t a DRM issue per se, but (in my mind, at least) it brought up a related topic, and what I feel is a pervasive attitude:

At what point does championing the cause of fair use become a flat-out justification for stealing creative work? Do some feel that it is their god-given right to never, ever pay for any creative work? I hate the corporate world’s “assume they’re criminals” approach to fair use as much as anyone, but I think some take it too far; I listen to the anti-DRM crowd, and I get the sense that a lot of them just want to get their books/movies/music for free. The argument isn’t about rights, it’s about getting stuff.

I understand the fair use (and corporate greed) issues involved – I’m sure a lot of us have had the experience where DRM keeps us from using the media we bought in perfectly innocent ways – but at some point, you’re just ripping people off, right?

A lot of us on this board work hard to do good work, and some of us have had the good fortune of being paid for our efforts, so I thought this was an interesting place to ask the question:

How do you all feel about fair use issues, and where do you draw the line?

If you rent and rip or defeat DRM it is theft. No legal mumbo-jumbo can justify it.

On the other hand if I BUY a dvd or CD I should be able to use it for MY personal use. Giving a COPY to a friend that is not returned is theft. This was fought and decided back in audio tape and VHS days.

As a royalty collecting musician (I am a bit more than a simple computer geek) I understand the need to enforce CW law and abhor the way consumers are abusing technology. But the “industry” is out of control.

My opinion about this is really simple: take reasonable steps to assure your stuff isn’t stolen whilst making sure that legitimate, paying users never suffer because you are paranoid about theft. This is how I approach Scrivener. There is a 30-day trial and a serial number system. But, every month some moron who gives himself the cretinous title, “The Blade”, hacks a new serial number and provides it via SerialBox so that people can get Scrivener for free. So, it’s not massively secure. Nor is the trial limit, for that matter. But the only way I could make Scrivener really secure in these areas is to: 1) Implement online activation, so that you had to register your serial number before you could use the program; 2) Create hidden files on the system that the user would never find, and that would remain there, in unexpected places, even if you decided to wipe Scrivener from your hard disk. So, the only way I could ensure there is no theft of Scrivener is penalise legitimate buyers. And my view is, if someone is pirating or stealing your work, they probably would never have bought anyway. Try to make things too difficult for them and you make them too difficult for legitimate users and so only lose paying users.

I think this applies to DRM and music, too. I have only ever bought one song from the iTunes store, and then found it incredibly frustrating because every time I go to put stuff on my iPod I’m told that that song hasn’t been copied across because I need to authorise, etc etc. Yawn. (There are very few non-DRM songs on iTunes UK, otherwise I’d pay the extra and use the store more; and as yet we can’t get many movies, and barely any TV programs, so Jobs’ model is a bit crap over here etc etc.) I can’t say I’ve never downloaded music I shouldn’t have done, any more than I can say that I never taped an album when I was younger. I can say, though, that if a band has produced more than two songs I like then I’ve gone out and bought the CD.

It’s a really grey area; I think you need a certain amount of weak security, but as soon as it becomes too strong it has the opposite of the intended effect: you start to drive away those who would buy rather than force those who would never buy anyway to part with their money.

Just my thoughts.


My approach is quite different from the ones I read here. So let’s talk about different topics.

I can’t pay 30 € (45 $) for a book. But that’s a shame because I sometimes read English books that cost a lot here in France. So I try to borrow it, read it in the shop, or even download it. If the book costs about 10 € (15 $) or less, I buy it without thinking.

Internet is my tool to discover music. I buy a lot of music, about 4 discs a month. I never bought in the iTunes Store, because I find it quite expensive (the discs I buy cost about 7 € each), and the quality isn’t that good (Lossless quality is better!), and I don’t want to have any DRM issue.

Video game
Just read this, it is exactly what I think : http://forums.introversion.co.uk/introversion/viewtopic.php?t=1046

I buy one or two game(s) a year.

Movies + TV Shows
Well… Don’t yell at me… I think movies and tv shows should be free. This is because I only wath a movie or a tv show episode once. But that doesn’t mean that there couldn’t be ads before (not in the middle, please).

I’m fine with the way Scrivener works.

If you copy a paragraph from a (print) book verbatim, with attribution, as part of a critical essay on that book, it is fair use, and entirely legal.

But what if you copy the same paragraph from an electronic version, having defeated DRM to do so?

To me, the two situations have the same impact on the copyright owner, and therefore should have the same legal implications. What do you think?


This makes no sense. Because you only watch it once, the actors, directors, scriptwriters, etc. shouldn’t be paid? Do you pay for restaurant meals? Live concerts? Guided museum tours? Providing a transient experience costs money, so why shouldn’t the provider of the experience be paid?

Now, the amount you’re willing to pay could certainly depend on whether you are likely to watch the movie more than once. That’s why a DVD generally costs more than a seat at the theatre, and why it costs less to rent a movie than to buy it. But free? Get serious.


Fair use and “getting stuff free” actually have very little to do with each other. Fair use is a pretty well-established principle that permits copying for critical analysis, as part of news reporting, or for parody. (Other reasons, too, but these are the most common.) Fair use is intended in part to defend free speech: you can’t invoke copyright to keep people from talking about your work, even if they say mean things and pick individual paragraphs to shreds. Defenders of fair use view this kind of give and take as an essential cultural dynamic, without which copyright is pointless because the culture has atrophied and creates nothing worth protecting. Fair use defenders agree that copyright holders should be fairly compensated, but worry that the technical barriers imposed by DRM supersede copyright. Uses that have been (and still are) legal in traditional media for hundreds of years are suddenly illegal or impossible in DRM-protected materials.

So no, I don’t see a conflict between fair use and the existence of copyright. They are two opposing forces, but a healthy culture requires a balance between the two.

Some anti-DRM advocates also make an economic argument: that the lost sales due to intrusive DRM far exceed expected losses due to piracy, that people are willing to pay a reasonable price for convenient access, and that some amount of piracy is tolerable in the name of introductory samples. This argument holds that consumers are being perfectly reasonable when they refuse to pay full price for a CD with two good songs, and that the solution is better songs, not stronger DRM. This is a pretty strong argument: witness the success of iTunes, even though it includes DRM, as well as the success of stuff like the Baen Free Library. As a copyright holder, this is an argument that I take very seriously with regard to my own work.

The economic argument often does devolve into wanting to get stuff free. “I can’t afford to buy stuff, so I should be able to download it anyway.” “Copyright holders are too greedy,” and so forth. The fair use argument and the economic argument are often confused because neither group likes DRM, but they are actually very different positions.

Personally, I think the law should be neutral with regard to DRM. That is, copyright holders who want to use it, can, but copying by defeating DRM should be treated in the same way as copying in traditional media.


If the derivative work is for profit (citation in a book to be sold) then my opinion is that reasonable effort must me made to obtain permission from the original author. In the software world we call it licensing. In music it is a form or royalty. If the work is academic or in some other non-profit (meaning no organization will make or save money) then citation can be made with out compensation. Note that I am making no distinction between DRM and non-DRM work here. The issue of fair use gets real murky once you add profit to the picture.

My opinion is that if the intention is to make money through direct profit or avoiding payment then theft has occurred.

For the record, I purchase 30+ cd/dvd every year. Each is ripped to an HD in oog or mp3 and AVI or MP4. From there it is available to systems within my home and available to various media players. This is well within established copywrite law. The issue is when I make that content available to others without the permission of the copywrite owners. It is these owners who are abusing the paying customer with the draconian DRM on dvd. I have no patience for their abuse of my customers and will be releasing (assuming I ever complete it) my own albums without DRM. Shoots my market in the foot, but it isn’t always about money.


Criminals seem to out number honest people when it comes to software. For the record I appreciate the fact that you provide the 30 day FULL FEATURE trial. While I never really worked with any of the “competition” (scriv was so natural for me I uninstalled everything else) I think your method provides the best approach. I appreciate the fact that there is no online registration verification required as I find that level of distrust … irritating.

What is my point? I think you are modeling the correct approach to this issue and I wish other companies would adopt your philosophy.

Oh, maybe you could sic vic-k on “the blade”.

…now why on Earth would hw want to do that? :open_mouth:

your guess is as good as mine, but there seems to be a minor streak of … shall we say aggressiveness … evident in a least one personality that utilizes your cranial cavity as a domicile. :smiley:

One of the problems, I feel, is that ‘fair use’ hasn’t been thoroughly defined, so the area is mostly gray. We end up creating our own definitions, some of which border on the criminal, while other seem benign enough.

I think most non-techy readers expect to have the same “rights” as they have with a print-book - the ability to reread it, pass it along to a friend, or sell it at a used book shop. (Note that authors don’t necessarily agree or like those assumed “rights”.)

Those “rights” obviously don’t exist for ebook readers for the most part, so they find ways to get them and feel perfectly justified in doing so.

What’s at stake? I think a recent article about how we no longer buy to own, but rather buy to license is probably the future of ebooks as well. Right now, that’s almost how it is anyway. You can ‘buy’ an ebook and read it, but only so long as your format is supported. PDFs will probably be around awhile, but many PDF ebooks are locked down so you can’t even copy them. What happens when you want to make a back up or get a new computer?

Basically, I think the paradigm is going to shift from buying to renting of some sort, or the word ‘buying’ is going to end up meaning ‘paying for the right to use it for a while’ instead of what is now implied by ownership.

oh…oh! I take it The Directors been stalking the decks again :confused: tch! tch! I dont know what Im gonna do with him. Although hes harmless enough…as long as you ignore him. Ignore him and he fades away.

You see, its interaction with human beings, that feeds his insidious malevolence. So! Just ignore him and Bobs your auntie :wink:
Take care