Digital Rights Management systems (DRM, anti-piracy measures) don’t protect anyone.
The consumer experience is degraded, and pirates either find a way around it or give up on the experience. Never has any pirate decided to buy a movie or a game or a book or an album because he didn’t manage to pirate it.
The opposite is true. Some pirates, post-experience, can become customers. They can evangelize the art. They can become fans. I saw it happen with my first book. When I found it on a piracy site, my attitude was not to tell people not to download it.
I left a comment explaining how the book sales contributed to my quality of life. I asked that, should they enjoy the book, to consider making a purchase, or at least to recommend it to someone.
I made some sales. I won some fans. It was not bad at all.
But copyright laws are not the same thing as DRM. Copyright laws protect an idea, not an object.
It’s a sensitive case because ideas have no barriers. We have no control over what takes over our mind. When we hear a song, we do not know what effect it will have on us before we listen to it; we may very well listen to it without ever intending to.
But once inside, the music can take over our soul, inspire us. Who has the right to tell us what to do with something that they threw into the world, and proceeded to cling to our head like a particularly stubborn mollusk, perhaps even through no fault of our own?
The reverse side of the coin, of course, is that artists deserve to have control over their work, not only over the physical or virtual objects which function as delivery mechanisms to the consumer.
No artist likes to see his work defaced, prostituted, plagiarised. It’s easy to give in to cynicism and assume that the issue of copyright is solely about money, born out of greed. And it may well be like for many people, but not for real artists. Never for those. Art, true art, the kind that outlives trends, is hard labor. The artist sacrifices a piece of their life, of their divine being, one which they will never recover.
To what extent is it our right to cannibalize the product of this sacrifice?
When we send a child into the world, we can’t expect everyone to treat them like we would like. Some people will take advantage of our children. They will mistreat them. And others will steal them from us in the best possible way – captivating them, gaining their love and friendship. This, we must make peace with. It’s part of the social contract that we engage with when we bring a human being in this world.
But accepting that isn’t the same as saying that everyone out there has the right to do whatever they please with that human being.