I agree with the Cato Institute

That’s a heading I never thought I would write. 

The Cato Institute – a right-wing libertarian think-tank in Washington – has published an analysis of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act:

The DMCA is anti-competitive. It gives copyright holders—and the technology companies that distribute their content—the legal power to create closed technology platforms and exclude competitors from interoperating with them. Worst of all, DRM technologies are clumsy and ineffective; they inconvenience legitimate users but do little to stop pirates.

Most papers from the Cato Institute are either obvious, or wrong, or (usually) both.  This paper is neither – full of interesting insights into why digital rights management is in the interests of neither the companies nor consumers.  It explains how digital rights management undermines the very characteristics we need for progress: interoperable products, consumer choice and competition.

As well as sharing these general concerns about digital rights management, I have a particular concern, which the paper touches on but does not discuss in detail.  I mainly use open source software: I am writing this using Firefox on a computer running Linux, with no proprietary or closed-source software.  Open source computing already provides much of the infrastructure of the internet (from email systems to the majority of web-servers) and is likely to play an increasingly important role for consumers over the coming years. But there is a fundamental inconsistency between using digital rights management to restrict what you can do with media files and open source applications.  With open source software, any user can change the line that says "do not allow file to be copied" to "allow file to be copied" – so DRM relies on the existence and widespread use of proprietary software.  And that is not acceptable to me.

2 thoughts on “I agree with the Cato Institute”

  1. Obvious and wrong….explain that one. Someone with no credibility critiques the credibility of another.

    Owen replies:  There are things that are obvious and wrong (try listening to Lou Dobbs on CNN for a few minutes). It was for many years obvious that the sun goes round the earth. 

    And if you don’t find my writing credible, kindly go somewhere else.

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