Tuesday, September 27, 2011


I've been thinking a lot about DRM lately.

My investigation of Smashwords came up with the fact that they outright refuse to use DRM, and are perfectly fine with people downloading multiple copies of a book so they can play them on all of their different devices.

Thinking about this some more, I came up with an analogy. Back when I was in college, I used to MUD a lot. I still do, although these days I only do pure RP games and I don't do it as much as I once did.

But back then, I was quite happy to spend a couple of hours killing monsters. Now, there are a ton of different kinds of MUDs.

One particular kind is the RPI (Role-Playing Intensive) MUD. The point was not to just kill monsters, but to interact with one another in a realistic manner. Some RPIs even got rid of the unlimited lives of the traditional MUD. I tried a number of different RPIs, thinking they would be more fun than just typing 'kill ' a thousand times.

Were they?

Heck...no. Every single one I tried approached the idea of 'role-play intensive' in the same manner. Instead of encouraging roleplay, providing the tools for it, they chose to enforce it. (In fact, some of these MUDs called themselves 'Roleplay Enforced'). For example, they would disable the tell command (allowing a direct message to another player) because 'people will use it to pass out OOC information'. In fact, it was not uncommon to disallow all communication with characters not in the same room, or limit it to one (very spammy) channel on which staff would jump all over anyone who said anything they didn't like. The result of heavily restricting communication, of course, meant that the only way to actually roleplay was to wander the grid until you bumped into something.

The news files invariably had a long list of code enforced rules with the attitude of 'Players always cheat'. I didn't appreciate being assumed to be a cheater from day one, so I left, gave up, and took my custom elsewhere.

Digital rights management is the same thing as 'role-play intensive'. It approaches the problem from the standpoint of 'Customers always steal'. It restricts perfectly legitimate uses and sometimes declares them 'wrong', 'bad', or 'evil', just as RPI admin said it was 'wrong' to send somebody a tell and ask them if they wanted to roleplay.

People do not appreciate being assumed to be thieves from day one and until some kind of terrible dystopia emerges in which it is impossible to acquire any kind of content without egregious DRM, they will take their custom elsewhere.

If the only elsewhere for them to take their custom is the pirates, then there is a problem for content providers. And, ultimately, for content creators, many of whom are opposed to digital rights management.

As am I.