Saturday, November 24, 2007

DRM: What Will We Tell The Children?

I think an argument over whether consenting adults like Stephen and Doug Johnson would use a DRM-laden device like the Kindle can only go so far before it runs out of gas. Ultimately what Doug does with his money is his business. An appeal to consumers as a class to hold out in hopes of getting a better bargain in the future isn't likely to have much effect.

I think it could be more fruitful to reframe this, especially considering that we're all educators here, as a question about what kids should be taught about DRM.

First, however, a brief aside on the scope of the debate. In his response to my comment on his post, Doug wrote:

I guess I don't see DRM and copyleft or open-source as an either/or proposition.

It is important to not mush DRM and licensing together. They are intertwined, but separate issues. Let's stick to DRM for now. I suppose the scope is also important in terms of media. Let's stick to written texts, as opposed to say, video games.

What would (do) you teach your own kids about buying books that they cannot copy, resell, trade, transform or use on multiple devices? I'm going to say "Don't do it, Vivian." It is very likely that ten years later, you won't be able to use the book you're purchasing. Buy the paper. It is a better deal.

Now, what should we teach in school? What should we teach the future 21st Century Citizens? As Mark Pilgrim illuminates, should we be teaching them to buy books on a platform that allows the books to be changed without your permission, or their access to the books they've purchased to be revoked at any time? What are the implications for democracy and political freedom?

A little hypocracy is part of education. Even if we do the wrong thing sometimes personally, cut some corners, it doesn't mean we shouldn't be teaching kids to do the right thing, and to do the right thing for the future of the Republic. That means teaching them to not buy texts via a system like Kindle.


doug0077 said...

Hi Tom,

Your reminder about differentiating between personal use and school use is timely.

I would argue, however, that when our students begin to produce IP they may get another view of DRM if their economic well-being depends on it.

And while one can trade or resell the physical object, a paper book has sort of the ultimate rights management as it is: it can't be copied (conveniently), changed without permission (legally), support multiple simultaneous users, etc. You can't legally or easily create back ups of a paper book either. (As I understand it, once purchased, a book can be re-downloaded from Amazon if necessary.)

Good post...


Gnuosphere said...

"I would argue, however, that when our students begin to produce IP they may get another view of DRM if their economic well-being depends on it."

That argument is extreme. It implies favoring All Rights Reserved (which isn't much of a problem if balanced with reasonable fair use laws and applied only to the old, analog world of authorship) despite the technological realities of the 21st century. Why not help shape new economic models through the reservation of some rights that don't require DRM for their enforcement?

An ARR/DRM view is about as lopsided as one can imagine. One can understand why Hollywood advocates such a view but if we care about the interests of both parties (authors/readers) surely we need to strike a balance.