About DRM and our digital rights

Digital Rights Management or DRM is the act of imposing technical constraints that control what users can do with digital media. When you are prevented by a piece of software from copying or playing a song, reading an e-book on another device, or playing a solitaire game without Internet access, you are actually restricted by DRM.

This helps big tech and DRM abusers to gain more power over users. DRM abusers can control people’s behavior and every device that is created to run their software.

Proponents of freedom of expression and human rights, therefore, call DRM not “digital rights management” but “Digital Restrictions Management”. We should say that if we want to avoid a future in which our tools are to monitor our interactions. With digital media, we have to fight not to lose control of our media and software.

Who made DRM?

Large, capitalist cartels have always been masters of digital constraints. During times, they have done everything they could to limit people’s rights over their own devices. They called people, pirates, they passed laws to have legal force, and now they use every technology possible.

So it is not surprising that among the supporters and creators of this concept, we see corporations such as Microsoft, Apple, Google, Disney, Sony, Amazon, etc. By looking at the background and behavior of each of these cases, one can understand their purpose in creating and using these technologies. DRM allows the publisher to effortlessly impose restrictions beyond even the laws they themselves have enacted.

Profit is the only thing that matters for them so instead of giving people the right they have, they restrict it to be more profitable.

These companies have also recently been trying to bring a DRM standard into the web so that they can control the behavior of people in their web browsers. Netflix, for example, intends to have complete control over how its members use the movies and series they watch. Spotify also monitors the songs that people listen to.

Who opposes DRM?

Almost all of free speech and human rights advocates are opposing DRM. Almost all of free software activists are opposing DRM. Every user who knows about DRM opposes DRM.

DRM is not made by people, it’s made by corporations and even some governments to control and restrict people. DRM is made to harm people, so everybody who is damaged by DRM or has self-respect will oppose DRM.

More technically/specifically, Free Software Foundation campaigns against DRM and asks for people to act against it.

Defective by Design

Defective by Design (DBD) is an anti-DRM initiative by the Free Software Foundation. The philosophy of the initiative is that DRM is designed to be deliberately defective, to restrict the use of the product. This, they claim, cripples the future of digital freedom.

The group aims to target “Big Media, unhelpful manufacturers, and DRM distributors” and to bring public awareness of the issue and increase participation in the initiative. It represents one of the first efforts of the Free Software Foundation to find common cause with mainstream social activists, and to encourage free software advocates to become socially involved. As of late 2006, the campaign was claiming over 12,000 registered members.

How to fight DRM?

Most efficient way to fight DRM is to avoid using tools and devices that have DRM in them. Using free software empowers users and gives users their rights. Not using DRM-enabled tools is our moral duty.

The principles of software freedom ensure that your rights are fully respected, so using free software can ensure that you will not be harmed by DRM.

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Ali Reza Hayati

Entrepreneur, hacker, cypherpunk.