Another meaning for DRM: Dishonest Relationship Misinformation

Last year I had a conversation at CopyCamp with Barry Sookman, a Canadian lawyer and pro-DRM lobbiest for CRIA, about "DRM". In this conversation I suggested that what he wanted would be more honest to consider rental of computer hardware, rather then selling, given people better understood the relationship between vendor and customer with rentals vs. purchases.

When I analyze the situation, I believe that much of the harm of "DRM" would be erradicated if customers were honestly informed about what their relationship was with the technology. This is why I want to call it "Dishonest Relationship Misinformation".

A clear relationship to technology would be to say that the person controlling the technology is the "owner" of the technology, regardless of who is in physical possession or using the technology. Apple "owns" every iPod, not the people who have been misinformed to have "bought" one. Microsoft effectively "owns" every computer that runs Microsoft Vista, not the person who might have paid for the hardware.

Any relationship where hardware/software "owned" by a vendor is made commercially available to someone else is more accurately called a "rental". Rental arrangements are legitimate relationships, and allow for new ways for people to access things which would not be possible if ownership were the only option. In this respect the content industry is correct, that these technologies that redefine ownership can offer more options to their customers, but it is extremely harmful and dishonest to invalidly call it a "sale".

With the relationship more clear, we can then start to enact laws to adequately protect the rights of IT renters. As we have a Tenants Protection Act and other laws which specifically protect the rights of people renting where they live, we would have an IT renters protection act that would deal with the various impacts of non-ownership described in Michael Geist's 30 days of DRM. While some of the problems that Michael Geist discussed relate to anti-interoperability technology, most related to the effects of "Dishonest Relationship Misinformation".

Technological Protection Measures could be legally protected when it protects the rights of the "owner", although this would be more appropriate to have in provincial property and commercial law than unrelated "Copyright" law. Nearly all the current objection to "DRM" would disappear with adequate IT renter protection legislation coupled with laws to protect technologies used to protect IT owners. This clarity and sanity to the debate hasn't been possible as those promoting "Dishonest Relationship Misinformation" (DRM) have been falsely claiming that individual citizens own this technology, and thus allegedly could protect their own rights that would normally be derivatives of ownership rights.