Yesterday, the Free Software Foundation launched a new anti-DRM initiative—in real space quite-cleverly in the yellow suits worn to manage toxic wastes and online at defectivebydesign.org (“There is no more important cause for freedom than the call for action to stop DRM from crippling our digital future”). As Peter Brown, Executive Director of the FSF put it: “In any other industry, such limitations or invasions would be considered major flaws. A media player that restricts what you can play is like a car that you won’t let you steer. Products containing DRM are defective—only, unlike other products, these defects are deliberately created by an industry that has long stopped caring about us.”
Earlier this month, I gave a talk on DRM for our alumni weekend (slides available here and a forthcoming paper here). I started the talk with a description of what we might label the three eras of copying technology. Think of these as monk time and the era of the scriptorium; the time of Gutenberg’s asymmetry; and the era of cheap copying, dated say from 1959 with the launch of the Xerox 914, the first automatic plain paper copier.