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The Pragmatics of Crappy DRM

January 24th, 2006 · 1 Comment

A recent thread over on Hit and Run drove home the point that a lot of people think complaints about DRM and policies like the broadcast flag come down to thin fig leaves for a desire to pirate music. (It also surprised me at how thoroughly some people have bought the industry line that file-sharing is having such an incredibly destructive effect on the industry that something, anything must be done right away—when empirically that’s just unquestionably false.)

Well, here’s something perfectly legitimate I want to do with music I own: A politics professor at a small liberal arts college is bringing a class to D.C. in March and has asked me to talk to his students, who have been doing a seminar on protest music in American politics, about some of the ideas in this column. Naturally, I’d like to be able to illustrate what I’m talking about with some examples, short clips from songs by Metric, Rilo Kiley, Green Day, Radiohead, Mike Doughty, The Decemberists, and others. I own all the songs in question—bought them on iTunes rather than just downloading them from Limewire or Kazaa. But Apple’s DRM doesn’t want to let me extract these short clips—indubitably a fair use, and something I could obviously do legally just by cueing up the songs manually at the appropriate timecode.

Now, there are a variety of ways to get around that brain damaged DRM, but the idea behind the broadcast flag is to make it more difficult for me to make this legal use of music I own.

Tags: Tech and Tech Policy



1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Tim // Feb 1, 2006 at 1:18 pm


    This is why I always buy music on CD and rip it to MP3 format. Not only does that avoid DRM ickiness, but for CDs that are available used, it can actually be chaeper!