Wednesday, January 17, 2007

I (still) don't understand Linus Torvalds on DRM

UPDATE: Although I feel what I say below is valid, Russell McOrmond does a better job at getting to the point of why Torvalds' determinism should be rejected. He says, "It is our duty as informed technologists to be involved in helping to create sane public policy regulating technology." I agree.


A recent ZDNET article attempted to grok Linus Torvalds' view on DRM. Torvalds says -
"One reason I really dislike DRM is that it is technologically an inferior solution to not doing DRM. It actually makes it harder for people to do what they want to do. It makes it harder to do things that you really should be able to do"
Torvalds then says -
"At the same time, on a completely different tangent -- forget about technology -- I am a big believer in letting people do what they want to do. If somebody wants to do DRM it is their problem."
"Their" problem? I'm confused as to how Linus can reconcile these statements. He says that individuals "should be able to do" things with their files. I agree. But he also claims to be a "big believer in letting people do what they want to do". In general, I agree with this too. I can understand the belief in the freedom to act and speak as one wishes. However, this is obviously dependent on such action and speech not interfering with the freedom of others. This is clearly not the case with either DRM or yelling "fire!" in a crowded room when there's no danger. This is why I find the statement that DRM is "their problem" to be astoundingly naive. If someone has put DRM on my files, I don't see how this problem is not mine as well.


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