Dropping Digital Locks Can Decrease Piracy

Many readers have pointed a new report that concludes that the removal of digital locks can decrease piracy. The report notes that “in many cases, DRM restrictions prevent legal users from doing something as normal as making backup copies of their music. Because of these inconveniences, some consumers choose to pirate.” Bill C-11 establishes rules that encourages the use of digital locks.


  1. I’m sure that the government will get around to ignoring this.

  2. I’d buy more shows if there was a DRM free option. Bypassing iTunes DRM is currently legal, right? I haven’t done this but I think it’s the only choice right now if my OTA recordings screw up.

  3. Sheesh, what isn’t wrong in this blog posting?

    Nowhere does the abstract linked to mention “locks” of any kind.

    Backup copies of music have never been “normal” under copyright law.

    C-11 neither encourages nor discourages TPMs – it simply protects them.

    Copyright is not an inconvenience, it’s a law.

  4. Chris Brand says:

    Copyright itself isn’t an inconvenience, but DRM certainly is. Things like extracting a snippet from a DVD (or just playing DVDs you purchased in another “region”), moving the ebook or music you purchased from one machine to another are made awkward (or impossible) by DRM. Currently, at least they are legal for those with the skills to do them. C-10, of course, changes that, turning “inconvenient” into “infringement”.

    The fascinating thing to me is to think about who this part of C-10 is aimed at. People who can’t circumvent DRM (or don’t feel the need to) obviously aren’t affected. The rest fall into two camps – those who currently obey copyright law, and those who don’t. Surely you can’t expect that C-10 will make those who already violate copyrights change their ways ? In which case the only people affected by this part of C-10 is people like me who don’t infringe but do circumvent DRM (I do it primarily to watch the DVDs I purchased in Europe). C-10 will give us the choice of changing our ways or becoming “pirates”. I don’t see how that helps the people who rely on copyright at all. In my particular case, the effect is that the government is taking away my DVDs.

  5. Chris Brand says:

    Backups of music
    Oh, and backups of music ? Although that article is obviously talking about US copyright law, we have an entire section of our Copyright Act devoted to things like making backups of music – “Part VIII Private Copying”. Sounds pretty “normal” to me.

  6. Chris Brand says:

    Re: Inconvenience
    Of course I meant C-11, not C-10. Too many bills…

  7. Aw Degen, u so funny
    A “digital Lock” (or digital handcuffs) and the term digital [restrictions] management (DRM) are synonymous. You are like Kevin O’Leary arguing over what insult he used against Chris Hedges (“You said I called you a nutcase. I actually called you a nutbar. I have the moral high ground!”)

    Funny you should show up now and troll now John.

  8. I did email my MP, the Industry minister and Mr. Moore with this. Seeing as all I got the last time I emailed them was an answer from an industry minister aid not addressing anything I said and assuring me it was being read, I don’t expect this too.

    I should start writing letters soon.

  9. Interesting that you fail to mention any of the significant limitations of this “study”. For instance, it was only conducted with respect to music and not other classes of works, it only modeled physical CD sales vs digital downloads and didn’t account for any of the new services and models that have emerged over the past few years (most notably streaming), it failed to acknowledge any kind of difference between various types of DRM (eg some types are more permissive than others), and, most significantly, did not even mention that DRM IS NO LONGER USED WITH THE OVERWHELMING MAJORITY OF DOWNLOADABLE MUSIC FILES nor the fact that the removal of DRM from major online music services DID NOT reduce online piracy of music (which basically blows their thesis out of the water).

    The study feels VERY dated and makes all sorts of assertions that simply are no longer true… while it might have been relevant in the early 2000s, it contributes nothing useful now (except, of course, giving you, Mike Masnick, Cory Doctorow and others an opportunity to cherry pick the conclusions to promote your own views).

  10. @Ed Nomine “The study feels VERY dated and makes all sorts of assertions that simply are no longer true”.

    Yes, I would agree with this if for the fact that it was a behavioural study using one market segment as it’s ‘litmus test’, they did say that this behaviour would very likely cross into other mediums and formats. If anything, people are getting more fed up with DRM not less.

    @Degen “C-11 neither encourages nor discourages TPMs – it simply protects them.”

    C-11 does more than encourage TPMs, it entrenches them. By having a complete trump card of zero circumvention for any reason (even ones permitted in the same bill) it is creating an environment much more restrictive than even the bastion of copyright protection to our south.

    In a market that has absolute legal protection against any lock tampering whatsoever then there is no incentive for a content distributor to release anything unlocked.

    Absolute protection for TPM/DRM does not stop or even seriously impact infringement, it just interferes with user rights. I am not against DRM, it has it’s place and uses, but how can there be balance with an absolute?

    … There can’t.

  11. @Eo Nomine
    That would be correct, except that I see people complaining about the DRM limitations on things other than music. So while the study is focused on music, it most definitely applies to every other market.

    For example, when I get an eBook reader, if a book has a DRM that won’t let me read it on my preferred device, I’ll either break it so I can or get the pirated version that doesn’t limit the devices I can use it on. Why? Because I don’t want the things I bought to be locked to a single device for the rest of it’s existence, and I don’t want to buy it again just because I changed from, for example, a Kindle to a Kobo. Music went through the same transition in the past and found that DRM did not work (and less piracy does not lead to more sales, while the reverse has been shown to be true more often than not), movies are going through it now and books will need to be smart to deal with it in the future.

    And technically, if you want my view, the pirated non-DRM version is worth more than the DRM locked version because of the freedom to move it around on my devices as needed. So why would I pay for an inferior product?

  12. Eric L.,

    Maybe you should re-examine your assumption that the term “digital locks” and “DRM” are synonymous.

    When is a lock not a lock?

    Then again, you seem to equate “disagreeing with Geist” with “trolling,” so your ability to think independently is suspect.

  13. letters?
    Ki, I called my MP.. I spoke to someone on the phone for about 35 minutes about C-11. Clearly not the mp, but someone..

  14. @Degan
    Well, you seem to associate not agreeing with you to wanting to get everything for gfree, so it’s relatively understandable that people tend to assume you’re a troll (which really you are).

    As for your link, read parts of it. Digital lock protection is still not needed in copyright law simply because there’s no need for it at all. If I break copyright law, why should it be worse for me if I had to go aorund a digital lock to do it? I’m already breakignt he law, so why should TPMs be protected at all? I know, you’ll say “BUT PEOPLE WANT OPTIONS!!!!!!!!” but that doesn’t really answer why they need to be protected above and beyond what protection you already have in copyright law.

    As for the people saying you can “break the lock if you get access to do so”, that’s great. So are all the corporations who sell digitally locked items to me going to give me the ability to back up the stuff they sent me for my own personal use? Because otherwise, no my rights are trumped in the bill because I can’t do that without breaking the lock on it (which, BTW, the people who wrote the bill say is true).

  15. DRM encouragment
    So what you’re saying is that all I need to do to make sure people need to buy a different copy of my book for each of their digital devices is put some form of digital lock? Does proprietary formats count?


  16. Ki,

    You seem quite sure you know exactly what I’m going to say at every turn, so there’s really no point in my talking to you. Just carry on with both sides of the conversation yourself.

    What’s “gfree?”

  17. @Degan
    I’m sure you’ve heard of typos. There those things that people do when they make mistakes typing.

    And you haven’t said anything new in about the last year with regards to DRM. You keep on repeatedly saying the same thing like repetition makes it the correct answer to the question no matter how much it doesn’t answer them most of the time with regards to DRM specifically.

  18. OMG. Michael is using the word “piracy” instead of “copyright infringement”…

    Where is the world going? 🙂

  19. Piracy … seems being a police officer or a politician excuses you of it!

    No thing to see here folks … move along now 😉

  20. @Degen:

    C’mon. We both know that copyright is a medieval relic that has no place in a modern society. Clinging to it does nothing but showing an antiquated mindset. Or financial interest in keeping alive censorship and artificially created monopolies.

    Abolish copyright! Yo Ho Ho!

  21. @Ki
    “If I break copyright law, why should it be worse for me if I had to go aorund a digital lock to do it?” In that case, why is there a minimum sentence for robbery (using a firearm) under the Criminal Code? Robbery is already illegal. Don’t believe me? Look at the Criminal Code of Canada, sections 343 and 344.

    Protecting TPMs, in my view, neither encourages nor discourages the use TPMs; before flying off the handle, consider what if people refused to purchase a TPM protected work? How long do you really think that TPMs would continue to be used? Its called market forces; just like the horse drawn carriage business either adapted or failed, the same will occur with the publishers who use TPMs. The public buying something protected by a TPM indicates that they are willing to live with it, and to me that far more encourages the use of TPMs more than any clause protecting them. Ever heard of a video format called Beta? There weren’t enough of it sold to make it economically feasible, and it went away. Even if TPMs were protected, if it isn’t economically feasible…

  22. @Anon-K
    I don’t disagree with any specific thing you have said. But you have to look at the larger picture as well.

    – For the large part, TPM doesn’t “protect” to any worthwhile technological degree. For the average person, it is a nuisance, not a deterrent.
    – There are already “alternative channels” for access to works without TPM. Unfortunately downloading a version of the works that already has had the TPM removed is frowned upon. “Market forces” are already speaking, we just don’t like what they are saying.
    – The way legal protection for TPM is structured in C-11, it supersedes and is outside the bounds of copyright law. This leads to all kinds of outlandish legal scenarios.

    TPM has nothing to do with copyright per se. It simply “protects” digital distribution channels. It is possible to have a rational discussion about legal protection for TPM, but you need to remove it from the framework of copyright law. Once you do that, it becomes clearer where the bounds and limitations of legal protection for TPM need to be. It moves the discussion from a “copyright” framework to an “economic” framework. Analogies that have little bearing on copyright, have valid application in a purely economic framework. EG: I bought a bottle of water, I “own” (have a license to) the water. Why can’t I transfer the water to my own container?
    When you remove TPM from the framework of copyright, it’s limits and application become clearer. It does have it’s purposes, but it’s overwhelming applications are in a “digital rental” business model, not a “purchase” model.

  23. @Anon-K
    Maybe there shouldn’t be, given that there are rules about owning firearms in this country as well. But that doesn’t really answer the question of WHY TPMs need to be protected above and beyond copyright law, it just points out that there are other cases like it.

    As for the rest, I don’t inherently disagree, but I think that just helps my argument that there shouldn’t be protection for them. If, ultimately, they are deemed worthless, then there’s really no reason to protect them. Since, as oldguy pointed out, market forces have already spoken against TPM.

    Though really my personal view is that if people want to use TPMs, that’s fine. It’s more the protection above and beyond copyright that makes no sense. Why make something legal in copyright, but make it illegal if it has a TPM? I would agree that something I rent/license/lease should have a TPM, and if I break that TPM to keep it then I’ve broken the law. There TPM protection makes sense. But it should not be illegal for me to break a TPM on something I legally purchased just to make sure I can view it on a different deveice or make a backup copy in case the original dies. And the tools to do this should be available either from the creator/publisher/distributor themselves, or it should be done via things people can buy.

  24. @Ki
    Not sure I follow your point about being above and beyond copyright, specifically why TPMs would be a separate issue from copyright.

    Certainly your argument about a rented copy of something makes sense to me; you don’t own the media and therefore you don’t have the right to copy it, even if it weren’t protected by a TPM.

    As oldguy pointed out, TPMs on music, movies, etc, are more a means to protect the means of distribution; when one gets into software it is a bit more convoluted, since with many high end packages what you buy is a license to use; the TPM is a means to enforce the license conditions. For instance, I use a tool called DOORS at work; we have a total of 6 floating licenses for the tool, meaning that it can be installed on as many desks as we want, however only 6 people can use it at any time. The TPM, the license distribution mechanism, exists to ensure that we don’t use more than 6 at any given time, in accordance with our agreement with the company (we actually need more licenses for the use we are making of the tool).

    As such, before we completely write off TPM protection as a result of a single industry, lets make sure that we view it from a more macro level.

  25. …TPMs on music, movies, etc, are more a means to protect the means of distribution; when one gets into software it is a bit more convoluted”

    True, but it is still a matter of economics, not copyright per se. Although copyright protects the works (the program), the license is specifically for X amount of simultaneous users and no more. Even in the more complex scenario of multi-seat software licenses, understanding how legal protection for TPM applies, is better viewed in the realm of economics – not copyright.
    Introducing a purely economic measure into the realm of copyright law can only serve to further muddy the waters of copyright. It really should be in it’s own bill, with a full discussion focused purely on economic measures, and the bounds and limits of those measures.
    Even in the general category of “copyright holders”, you find the views about TPM is often split along the lines of those that depend on the income from copyright vs those that depend on copyright for protection only. This should be a glaring indicator that any reference to TPM doesn’t belong in C-11, and should be moved to a bill that focuses on the economic side of TPM legal protections.

  26. @oldguy
    Agreed, but in many ways copyright is about economics in the first place; the economics of the copyright holder 😉

    Personally, I could get behind the idea of a single bill, but one which contains a number of addenda which covers specific conditions for various industries. There really is no “one size fits all” in this, simply because the concept of copyright is so broad and the needs of the applicable industries and consumers (I want to distinguish this from wants) is so varied.

    At the end of the day I suspect it’ll come down to the SCC and its interpretation, especially if someone makes a Charter complaint on it (in the same way that they effectively legalized copying as a result of the recordable media levy).

  27. …”Agreed, but in many ways copyright is about economics in the first place; the economics of the copyright holder ;-)”

    There is also the balancing between the public good and the copyright holder. Also, copyright protection is required by many that have no interest in the economics.

    As you stated, the concepts of copyright are very broad. They don’t directly reference economics, although there are certainly copyright holders that are interested in the economic side of things. But those economics are ancillary to the concepts. The laws surrounding copyright allow a copyright holder to “make money”, but they don’t require it – and they certainly don’t demand it.
    TPM is even further down the line of “copyright as economics”, which gets farther and farther from the original concepts embodied by the spirit of copyright. Somewhere you have to draw a line, and I think the purpose of legal protection for TPM is way beyond that line. It distorts the concepts around copyright into something that most would not recognise as “copyright” any more.

    If C-11 goes through unchanged, I am pretty sure we will see a Charter complaint very quickly. More time and money wasted, when simply moving the issues around TPM into their own bill would be the smart thing to do – in many ways.