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Explaining DRM to a Less-Experienced PC User?

Cliff posted more than 7 years ago | from the fun-with-analogies dept.


An anonymous reader asks: "I have a question for Slashdot users eager for a challenge. How would one explain – at a casual level – the concept of, and problems with, DRM to someone who is competent using a computer, but with little technical knowledge?"

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there's hardly a casual explanation (5, Interesting)

yagu (721525) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021025)

This topic has been kicked around by

  • our government
  • RIAA
  • Microsoft, and others
  • MPAA
  • SONY, and others
  • slashdot, and others

To date, I have not seen anything approaching a casual description of DRM. In fact, I've seen mostly confusion about and around it. If I were trying to explain to the uninitiated, I would take the tack of describing anything DRM'ed as potentially unusable on one or more devices you own. The fact there is so much turbulence swirling around DRM is an indicator how it hasn't gelled.

Actually I've tried to explain to casual users. For example, I tell Tivo users (who can be extremely passionate) programs on their "Now Showing" list would not be guaranteed to stay around for as long as necessary to be viewed; or may not be viewable more than once; or may be "eaten" as they're viewed, leaving the ability to backtrack and rewatch segments no longer allowed. That usually gets them going.

For CD listeners, I describe CDs that may or may not play on their computer, but are extremely likely to fail on any older CD player, in their car, or in their home entertainment system.

The more I can drive home with examples what DRM looks and feels like, the more I find a spark in the unitiateds' eyes. They don't like it even when only getting a sense of DRM. They don't like it at all.

I think that DRM can't be described casually, and is so amazingly complex, confusing, and potentially onerous lends even more amazement it could ever be allowed to be implemented.

Re:there's hardly a casual explanation (4, Informative)

chris_eineke (634570) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021124)

This talk by Cory Doctorow [] is a good start.

Re:there's hardly a casual explanation (2, Informative)

Lord Prox (521892) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021156)

Even more is an animated short (CC) here on trusted computing DRM [] . Or do a search on ED2K/LegalTorrents/Youtube others for "Trusted Computing" by Benjamin Stephan and Lutz Vogel

Place a curse on those SOB's at the MPAA and RIAA and there damn DRM []

Re:there's hardly a casual explanation (3, Funny)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021167)

*Ahem [] *

Re:there's hardly a casual explanation (1)

Lord Prox (521892) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021221)

What? Did I miss something? The link works for me...
*scratching head* Sorry if I did something to offend...

Re:there's hardly a casual explanation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16021308)

Check the timestamps.

Re:there's hardly a casual explanation (0, Flamebait)

Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021413)

Frickin morons who produced it ruined it by misspelling "belief".

I've got it in one sentence (3, Insightful)

Atario (673917) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021285)

"DRM is a complicated bunch of technical crap that might be tacked on to music, videos, etc., which is designed to keep you from doing what you feel like you should be able to do."

Feel free to submit proposed revisions.

Re:I've got it in one sentence (4, Insightful)

lmpeters (892805) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021589)

Change "you feel like you should be able to do" to "you should be able to do". There is no reason the technology should prevent you from doing any of those things. Thus, the sentence becomes:

"DRM is a complicated bunch of technical crap that might be tacked on to music, videos, etc., which is designed to keep you from doing what you should be able to do."

It might be worth mentioning that it allows producers to get higher profits by selling an inferior product, if the person you're explaining it to asks why producers would want such a thing.

Re:I've got it in one sentence (3, Insightful)

Phillup (317168) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021696)


But you can make it even shorter...

DRM is what keeps you from doing everything you want to do.

End of story.

Re:I've got it in one sentence (4, Funny)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 7 years ago | (#16022240)

Shorter: All your songs are belong to us.


Re:I've got it in one sentence (1)

gettingbraver (987276) | more than 7 years ago | (#16022336)

Straight and to the point, no bullshit! Thanks.

Re:there's hardly a casual explanation (2, Insightful)

carpeweb (949895) | more than 7 years ago | (#16022250)

Well, I certainly agree with the upmods, but this hardly makes the explanation more casual.

Yes, the technology and the law are both somewhat complicated to the uninitiated, but the casual explanation is:

DRM is about restricting the ability to copy, transmit and execute digital media. Pro-DRM forces want the sellers of digital works to have as much power as possible to limit copying, transmission and execution by those who buy the works. Anti-DRM forces want the purchasers of digital works to have as much freedom as possible to copy, transmit and use the works in any time, place or manner of their choosing. The responsible anti-DRM forces recognize that such freedom should extend only to "fair use" as traditionally defined in copyright law.

Oh, and the pro-DRM forces and the anti-DRM forces really don't get along ...

Re:there's hardly a casual explanation (1)

gettingbraver (987276) | more than 7 years ago | (#16022349)

That helps even more--thanks!

Re:there's hardly a casual explanation (2, Interesting)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021148)

I would just explain DRM in terms of something to be got around (so long as we're not advocating doing anything stupid like being an idiot on peer-to-peer). If the person is a competent computer user, you're already off to a head start...

Re:there's hardly a casual explanation (2, Interesting)

MobiusRenoire (931476) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021152)

Most subjects are as hard as you make them out to be.

DRM is simply a compromise. You compromise your ability to freely copy and store your digital materials. Depending on the severity of the DRM, the owner of the media/IP could be compromising their "assurance", let's say, that purchasers of their product won't distribute the product to non-purchasers.

In the same vein as supply and demand, your want or "need" for said media dictates how much you're willing to compromise your rights in order to use the media just as the producer's belief in the demand for the product dictates the magnitude of the lock-down under which they place the product.

Re:there's hardly a casual explanation (4, Insightful)

laughingcoyote (762272) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021197)

To date, I have not seen anything approaching a casual description of DRM.

I'm not sure that's necessarily so. While I use Linux and will not use encumbered media (at least none on which I can't trivially break the "locks", and even then I avoid it as much as possible) most of the less geek-oriented people I know will eventually run into trouble with it...and then they ask me for my help. At this point, you can give them a few basics (lock-in, not wanting things copied, etc.) However, what they inevitably take away from these discussions is exactly what I'd hope:

DRM is what is causing my problem.

At that point, they lump it in with all the other things which cause problems even though they don't have a full technical understanding of what they are. This particular heap also includes viruses, spyware, adware, and good things like that-exactly the classification DRM belongs in.

Re:there's hardly a casual explanation (1)

babbling (952366) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021243)

DRM is essentially just code that disobeys the user's wishes, and acts against the user, on their own computer. Most of us know DRM when we see it, but explaining the differences between DRM and regular software, and making formal definitions of DRM becomes trickier...

Simple (4, Insightful)

sterno (16320) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021300)

It's actually not that hard. Imagine if you bought a car and the car had a key that only you could use. So if you wanted to loan the car to a friend, he couldn't use it. When you wanted to sell the car, you wouldn't be able to sell the car either because it wouldn't work for anybody else. It would work fine for you, but the moment your wife needed to drive it, too bad.

That's DRM in a nutshell. It's actually worse than that but the metaphor degrades somewhat beyond that.

Re:there's hardly a casual explanation (1)

MrAndrews (456547) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021561)

Overly casual explanation? That I can do. []

Also good if your friend speaks German or Chinese (or a bunch of other languages).

A bit light on real-world examples, though.

Maybe a little too metaphorical but... (5, Insightful)

cgenman (325138) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021744)

Imagine a bookstore that has all the books you could ever want. Now imagine that when you buy a book, it remains forever chained to a desk in that bookstore. You can come back and visit it, but you can never take it out of the bookstore. If the bookstore closes or moves, your books go away with it.

Re:Maybe a little too metaphorical but... (1)

Kuroji (990107) | more than 7 years ago | (#16022040)

Maybe, but it sounds almost perfect to me. It's easy to visualize as well, you could probably make a commercial of it on the cheap if you wanted to, if there were an ad campaign against DRM brought into existance.

Re:there's hardly a casual explanation (4, Interesting)

quentin_quayle (868719) | more than 7 years ago | (#16022193)

Refer them to a video [] .

From the page:

ZDNet Executive Editor David Berlind suggests that CRAP or Content, Restriction, Annulment, and Protection, is a catchier phrase than DRM - Digital Rights Management. Why does he think this technology is crap? Once you've bought music or other content to play on one device, it won't play on any other device because of the proprietary layer of CRAP.

This was torrented a while back. Maybe someone will put it on Youtube. It is quite funny and makes the point well.

Renting versus buying. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16021057)

That is all.

Re:Renting versus buying. (1)

EzInKy (115248) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021842)

No that's not really all. DRM also restricts sampling, education, and criticism.

Your SOOOUUUULLLLL!!! (2, Funny)

DoubleRing (908390) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021072)

DRM will feast on the bones of your children! It will send your soul to the firey depths of hellfire, as its deadly claws of DEATH drink your brains through your eyeballs! The D in DRM is for DEVIL!! (not sure what the R and the M stand for...) It is the Dread Pirate Roberts, here for your SOOOUUUUULLLS....

Two words (2, Informative)

corychristison (951993) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021074)

"Copy protection"

Seriously. I've tried explaining the matter to my friends and girlfriend. Those two words saved my life. :-)

Re:Two words (2, Funny)

bangenge (514660) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021249)

I've tried explaining the matter to my friends and girlfriend

someone please revoke this guy's geek license...

Re:Two words (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16022025)

I agree, shame on him. DRM can be copyprotection, but it can be much more than that. Its the 'more than that' which is where I start having problems with it. Maybe call it format shift protection + time shift protection + limited reuse protection.

I'm all for copyprotection for the most part. If you want to put watermarks in a paper that show up when I make a photo copy - fine. If you want to break/distort your signal to stop real COPIES like macrovision does more power to you. If you want to keep a marker in the audio data that says how many copies have been made of something (ala minidisc) thats fine too.

On the other hand if dvd suddenly implodes after being viewed once like a mission impossible message, or a pdf book that I legally purchased wont work after I reinstall my OS, that will make me upset. What about if I buy a expensive HD (either format) dvd player and the manufacturers keys get compromised, and that models keys get revoked, effectively stopping me from playing any new dvds?

Go back to them, and try again. Most people think its okay to try to stop someone from copying their work (including me). DRM goes above and beyond that.

Two words-Wear Protection. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16021262)

DRM is like a condom for the content creators. It keeps them from being infected with pirates.

Re:Two words (1)

saskboy (600063) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021369)

That's a pretty good description.
For further reading you might want to direct them to Michael Geist's site which goes into detail. He was recently featured on Slashdot for his 30 Days of DRM. I wrote about it as well here [] .

Re:Two words (1)

Filik (578890) | more than 7 years ago | (#16022652)

Two words, but they are still totally wrong. DRM has nothing to do with copy protection.

The only thing DRM governs is limiting the choices of playback hardware/software (only licensed dvd-players, etc).


Easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16021084)

Start up your computer and open iTunes. Play an AAC file. Open several other media players and try to play the file. Copy the file to another computer and play it with iTunes. Now try a file that has been licensed on 5 computers. Download the file onto a standard MP3 player (perhaps the user's cell phone) and also an iPod and attempt to play it.

Repeat with an MP3. Explain to the user that the lack of functionality of the AAC is due to a feature called DRM.

Re:Easy (2, Informative)

maztuhblastah (745586) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021140)

Then, should you happen to do this for someone who knows what an AAC file is, watch as you are laughed down.

What you mean is:
1) Go to iTunes Music Store
2) Buy a protected AAC file from the store
3) etc...

AAC is not a proprietary file format, nor is it DRM-encumbered by default. The iTunes Music Store (NOT iTunes... it won't DRM tracks that you rip) uses a DRM wrapper around an AAC file... but these tracks aren't standard AAC files.

Re:Easy (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 7 years ago | (#16022051)

The iTunes Music Store (NOT iTunes... it won't DRM tracks that you rip) uses a DRM wrapper around an AAC file... but these tracks aren't standard AAC files.

I like to call them Defective Recorded Music.

No, you can't... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16021085)

"No, you can't. Let me transcode it first."

Simple (1)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021086)

Imagine a vendor who has absolutely no respect for you as a human being. That's someone who uses DRM.



Simplistic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16021335)

"Imagine a [customer] who has absolutely no respect for you as a human being. That's someone who pirates."

There's two sides to every issue, and slashdot will only present one of them. Yours is (+2). Mine's (0).

Re:Simplistic (3, Insightful)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021364)

That's like putting innocent people in prison because someone may violate the law.

DRM takes away your rights and freedoms to protect against the minority who would infringe on their [producers] rights.

The very real fact is that the government grants you copyright protection which INCLUDES fair use. DRM is a way of abusing the monopoly of copyright without honouring the other side of the deal. In all honesty, DRM applied to copyrighted works should be illegal. It isn't. Hmm, I wonder why that is...


easy... (1)

RuBLed (995686) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021087)

It is like hiring (paying) a private eye to spy on yourself, or like having one of those "angel" that pops behind your shoulder when you're going to do something "not so" good. (I don't know if it is really an angel, it might be a devil in disguise)

Go Go Gadget Inappropriate Metaphor! (5, Funny)

Lord Bitman (95493) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021096)

DRM is somebody saying "You can have this lawnmower, but only if you always take this ball and chain with it. Just so I'm sure you don't run off with it. So that you can still use it, it also comes with a butler who will unlock it for you. He unlocks it by flipping a switch from "locked" to "unlocked". You may not flip the switch yourself. The butler only works on tuesdays."

Cars (1)

Travoltus (110240) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021775)

DRM is like buying a Ford Expedition SUV that you think you own, but lo and behold, the hood is welded shut to prevent non Ford technicians from servicing, and to keep you from buying after market parts for it. It's like having a black box in your Expedition that shuts you down or calls the cops on you if you drive 66mph or cross state lines without paying a Ford interstate crossing fee. DRM is also like Chevron slapping in a gasoline meter that dings you an extra $1 per gallon for choosing Valero gasoline, or just shuts your car down and voids your warranty.

That's Easy! (1)

J053 (673094) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021102)


Montage (1)

EzInKy (115248) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021104)

I usually relate it to something people are familiar with since grade school, creating a montage, which most digital restrictions schemes make impossible.

YouTube to the Rescue! (4, Informative)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021134)

Re:YouTube to the Rescue! (1)

DDLKermit007 (911046) | more than 7 years ago | (#16022565)

Damn...I've never seen it put more perfectly. Thank you for posting that.

Simple (1)

StikyPad (445176) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021138)

Just tell them it saves the children -- that's all they need to know.

Re:Simple (1)

corychristison (951993) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021199)

Just tell them it saves the children -- that's all they need to know.
More like it EATS CHILDREN!


Re:Simple (1)

StikyPad (445176) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021302)

You mean it eats Soylent Green Jr.

Explain... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16021149)

Explain that you're nothing more than a filthy thief and that you hate DRM because it means you may have to pay for something for once, you cheap rat bastard.

me-true facts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16021585)

paid for-just one example

rolling stones-vinyl album-60s
rolling stones-8 track-70s
rolling stones-cassette-80s
rolling stones-cd-90s

21st century-AIN'T buying no mo rolling stones on super high def DRM smellovision locked down time release only plays on alternate tuesdays on approved players diskcubes! Enough! Want to know how much new music I have bought since DRM hit? ZERO. ZEE and RO. You took a customer with decades of purchases and made him just go FU! It is now possible to digitally download a full album for pennies of bandwith,or stamp out discs for ridiculous cheap-so where is the cost savings? Where? Computers dropped in price due to high tech advances, why not music, uses all the same tech. A regular desktop used to cost three thousand bucks, now you can get a better one for $300, yet MUSIC COSTS THE SAME AS IT DID BACK THEN. WHY???? The tech *is there* so don't deny it. They want to keep selling, make it a dollar an album download-still plenty of profit, or two dollars a disc, top price, on the rack at the store. 20 bucks for 10 cents worth of plastic is a ripoff! 99 cents for one tune downloaded is STILL a ripoff price! Either pass on tech advances to your customers or be declared a corporate thief and get treated accordingly! Subverting the legislative process through BRIBES, then trying to get a MONOPOLY on technological advances is WRONG! Cartel music pricing is the original ripoff!

Now do you know why people don't care about your old century business practices? It's because they suck! YOU GUYS CHANGE FIRST, you are the ones started ripping people off, you greedy jerks.

Re:me-true facts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16021926)

Whatever. You weren't forced to rebuy anything or even to buy anything in the first place. Go fist yourself. Stop treating this like it's a matter of life and death you self centered faggot.

Easy (1)

kamapuaa (555446) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021181)

"You can't copy it." Jesus how complicated is that? What a leading question.

Re:Easy (1)

DoraLives (622001) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021271)

"You can't copy it."


"You can't use it." (unless you fork over the cash to buy our hardware to play it on)

Simple (4, Insightful)

orthogonal (588627) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021187)

"You don't get to choose when and how to use what you've paid for."

"Someone else gets to decide when and how you can play music you bought, watch the movies you're bought, play the games that you've paid for."

Re:Simple (1)

Propaganda13 (312548) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021570)

This is one of the better descriptions I've read.

Infected (1)

ClamIAm (926466) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021195)

Infected, encryption, and copy protection are the words that I usually use. I then tell them that the point of this is to restrict what you can do with the stuff you've bought. Example:

Mom: "So what's the deal with itunes songs?"

Me: "Well, basically the songs are infected. They've been encrypted in a way that can only be read by itunes and ipod, and they do this to restrict how you can use your songs."

Pop in a random DVD (2, Interesting)

guruevi (827432) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021207)

Pop in a random DVD in their player and let them (try to) skip the ads, the "you don't steal a dvd"-ad, the FBI warnings, the previews and then when you stop the movie for any reason, the fact that you have to watch that crap all over again.

if($subject == devotechristian) {
              include "american pie" . $previews

Then tell them it will only get worse and that DVD was just a begin. Or tell $random_audiophile he won't be able to make back up copies of his "high quality master"...

MOD PARENT UP (2, Insightful)

Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021436)

DVDs are exactly the kind of thing to use to explain DRM to the general public. Start with skipping commercials, and then move on to region coding, CSS, Macrovision (I couldn't transfer my old VHS tapes to DVD using a $200 VCR/DVDRW machine because it mistakes a bad-quality tape for the Macrovision signal distortion), etc.

A Right to Read (2, Informative)

Gopal.V (532678) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021217)

Right to Read [] explains the problem with the associated moral dillemas and pulls at the heartstrings. But it is serving as a sort of Animal Farm for DRM advocates, who seem to point out how much they can gain in the short term by enforcing these schemes to make people more money.

Basically, you have to ask the guy about whether he'd be allowed to own anything. DRM is taking America (and a few other countries) into a dark age where there is really nothing you can buy - you can only rent it or lease it,with the owner living downstairs and always prying into your life. Somewhat like Three's Company Too, but except Mr Roper isn't really one person, but a composite of the company director board.

But let me put my example up - I never bought new textbooks. In my college, it is customary to buy the books off your seniors, with the associated writings on the margin, underlined points and the odd love letter hidden in it. But as Right to Read illustrates, information when it loses its physical form becomes a commodity which can be sold over and over again to the same induvidual - for different uses. Meaning that, if I had an ebook DRM based textbook, all of them would have expired by now - while I still retain some of the CS books which have changed the way I think about computers. OR playing quake1 on my new Radeon box, I don't know if I'll ever be able to play Doom3 legally once the Steam servers go offline.

DRM exploits the transience of information in the digital world to squeeze water from a stone, without adding any extra value to the customer (other than the carrots required for them to bite).

Oblig. UF quote [] (where's pitr these days ?)

Re:A Right to Read (1)

ChildeRoland (949144) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021307)

Doom3? Steam?

Digital Restrictions Management (1)

cyberbian (897119) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021218)

Digital Rights Manglers
Digital Replay Minimizers
Didyaget Rapedbythe Media?
Don't Replay Me
Dumbass Ripoff Manager
Don't sRatch Me
Definitely Repurchase Multiples
Difficult Relating Mechanism
Dildo for RIAA and MPAA

Re:Digital Restrictions Management (1)

ewhac (5844) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021468)

Defective Read-only Media

House Analogy (4, Interesting)

gbobeck (926553) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021220)

I have attempted in the past to explain DRM to my parents by using an analogy based on a house. I know house/lock/weaponry analogies tend to fail rather quickly, however, it strantely worked with my non-tech parents.

I have included a rough transcript of the analogy below.


For our purposes, we have a digital file, which is represented by a house.
We have digital rights management (DRM), which is represented by an elaborite door and lock system which is operated by a rather burly doorman.

Now for the cases...
Case 1: You own the house and the doorman is under your control.
(This is similar to you creating a document and applying your own DRM to it.)

You are the owner of the house. You can tell the doorman to keep people out completely, to let certian people in so that they can see your model train collection in the basement, to let certian people open your refrigerator and take a beer... what ever you want, when you want.

Case 2: You rent the house, but the doorman lets you do what you want
(You get a document and the terms of usage are unlimited.)

You may rent the house, but the doorman lets you do anything you want.

Case 3: You rent the house, but the doorman has strict orders on what you can do
(You get a document with moderate DRM)

You are a tennant, but you can't repaint the walls. The doorman, unknown to you, has been forbidden to let your friends drink your beer.

Case 4: You rent the house, but you have no control.
(You get a document with extreme DRM)

You live at the house, but the doorman can do anything he wants to you. Whenever you put beer in the frige, the doorman is the only person allowed to drink it. You are allowed a dog, but the doorman only allows it to poop in your bedroom. Occasionally, you wakeup and the entire place is redecorated by the landlord. You want to move, but the contract you signed prevents it until a replacement house is built.

Would you buy your music on 8-tracks? (1)

CODiNE (27417) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021223)

You know you can still find some at swap meets these days... but eventually your music won't play anymore. Same with ACME Brand DRM...
someday it will stop working. Then you get to buy it again. Remember records? Tapes? DRM is disposable.

Don't buy
Disposable Restricted Music.
Doomed Regrettable Muck
Digitally Reduced Mush
Doubly Repurchased Music
Damned Retarded Munchkins

I gotta make a script for this!

Re:Would you buy your music on 8-tracks? (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021728)

Would you buy your music on 8-tracks? You know you can still find some at swap meets these days... but eventually your music won't play anymore. Same with ACME Brand DRM.

Eventually we are all dead.

8-Track tapes were disposable media for play in your car.

They broke, they jammed, they melted, You paid for the convenience, not for permanence.

All physical media can be lost to some trivial accident, all physical media degrades in time, all physical media demands storage and maintenance.

Suppose I decide I want to chuck all that and simply maintain an account with a service like Rhapsody? Pay X dollars a year for access to a library of Y million tracks. One click on a playlist programs my Zen for a week or a month.

No time wasted trolling the P2P nets. No settlement costs with the RIAA. Just hour after hour of pristine pro-quality rips.

Tell me exactly what it is that I have lost.

Easily done. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16021251)

Buy two cheap hardcovers at a used-book store. Show them one of the books. Offer to let them read it. Tear all the pages out or deface them in some way. Hand it over.

If they don't understand yet, hit them with the second book.

Maybe.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16021265)

This is your media: ()

                          \ ~~~~~~ /=======
This is your media on DRM: \______/

Any questions?

I'll show you: turn around and bend over (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16021310)

sorry - couldn't resist

If he wears a tinfoil hat after this description.. (1)

Dorceon (928997) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021312)

"Suppose there was a new movie coming out, but they would only let you into the theatre to see it if you had a chip implanted in your brain that stopped you from spoiling any part of the movie to people who hadn't seen it. Maybe it stops you from saying things about the content, or maybe it makes it come out as gibberish that other people who've seen the movie understand. Who knows? For all you know, the chip could stop you from not liking the movie, or force you to pay to see it multiple times, or compel you to see other movies by the same studio. Maybe the chip has a receiver in it and they can make you do anything they want. Maybe someone else can send a signal to that receiver and make you do things a lot more malicious than not spoiling a movie. And of course, they won't let you see what the chip does do because then maybe you could figure out a way to make it not do it. So, would you put a chip in your brain to see a movie? No? Then don't let the music industry install software on your computer to let you listen to music.

Car analogy (4, Funny)

Profound (50789) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021314)

Everyone likes car analogies. Think of an engine in a car.

The big corporations who control the media, they're the piston. The cylinder is your ass.

Re:Car analogy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16021351)

I dunno, you just described a Sybian, and from what I hear they sound like fun! :-p

Re:Car analogy (1)

Guysmiley777 (880063) | more than 7 years ago | (#16022037)

Only in the DRM case there is no oil.

Re:Car analogy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16022385)

The big corporations who control the media, they're the piston.

Yeah, and the piston is the size of a standard transmission... on a big rig truck.

It's easy! (5, Insightful)

kimvette (919543) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021316)

See this CD you bought? You own it. You can make backups of it. You can lend it to a friend. You can make mix CDs for your car. You can make copies for any MP3 player you buy. If your car/mp3 player/etc./and/or CD gets stolen, you can make another MP3 and you can listen to your backup. If you get sick of it you can sell it to someone else who will appreciate it.

See this Napster/Sony/Microsoft/FooDRM media file you "bought?" You do not own it. You cannot make backups. If your PC/Phone/MP3 player dies, so does your music. You cannot lend it to a friend. You cannot make mix CDs for your car. If you upgrade your MP3 player, you may have to "buy" it again. If your MP3 player/PC/etc. is stolen or dies, you also lose your music. If you get sick of the DRM'd music you "bought" you cannot resell it to someone else who will appreciate it. You "bought" nothing.

Re:It's easy! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16022381)

> See this CD you bought?

Okay, now how do you explain to them that the new CD that they just bought is a DRM'd piece of crap that they can't rip instead of an actual CD?

How do you explain to them that it puts "something" on their computer if they want to play it?

they don't care (2, Interesting)

rizzo420 (136707) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021339)

the less experience pc user generally doesn't care about DRM. they care only that they can listen to their music (or watch movies or whatever) in the way it was meant to be, which to them is many times on the ipod (which is the reason i don't consider apple to be any better than microsoft). they can listen to their itunes downloaded songs on their ipod and they don't really care about using it in any other way.

i work in a college. i have student employees. they just don't care. but here's where they do care. we have ruckus, which is drm'd wma files. they don't like that they can't play them on their ipod and consider it to be a fault of ruckus (granted, they have to buy a subscription to play it on a supported playsforsure player, of which the ipod is not one of them, but that's apple's fault, not ruckus's). they think it's stupid. they also don't like that they technically (although we found this to be untrue) cannot even listen to the music without a valid subscription (which is free during hte school year and costs money during the summer). but they don't care about their apple itunes drm... go figure.

so there's almost no point in trying to explain it to them because they just don't care.

Excuse me, but, (1)

gettingbraver (987276) | more than 7 years ago | (#16022581)

please don't make generalizations like that. This less expereinced PC user is interested, self-taught, and realizes there is a hell of a lot more to know than I currently do. (And I am actually finding this to be a damn helpful thread!)

DRM: You listen to what we let you. (1)

rmerry72 (934528) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021491)

DRM is a system that lets everybody but you control when, where and on what you can watch video or listen to music, and how much you'll be paying for the privledge. This includes artists, distributers, copyright owners, manufacturers, and the government.


just take a lesson from metallica (1)

grapeape (137008) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021520)

DRM baaaad....Freedom Goooood

Here's what I do (1)

vga_init (589198) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021555)

I've explained this to a few people over time, and everyone seems to get the picture. What it usually boils down to is me telling the other people, "DRM gives companies control over your computer so that they can arbitrarily decide what you are and aren't allowed to do with it." People hate to hear this.

This sounds like a job for... (1)

ampathee (682788) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021611)

.. BadAnalogyGuy!

I didn't see a link to the kid's book (3, Interesting)

bigbigbison (104532) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021643)

Since this was on boingboing, I'd be surprised if someone didn't mention this already. There's a children's book that explains DRM [] .

Re:I didn't see a link to the kid's book (0)

The New Stan Price (909151) | more than 7 years ago | (#16022090)

That story is not even close to a proper analogy. It's just socialist brainwash.

The point? (2, Interesting)

Bongo Bill (853669) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021714)

In my experience, your normal user (i.e. not Slashdot readers, i.e. 99% of people, i.e. people who can't be made to foam at the mouth over anything tech-related, i.e. people with normal priorities) cares about one thing: does it work the way they expect it to?

If a person buys a song off of iTMS, then their expectation is that they'll be able to play it on their iPod and in iTunes. For this reason, it would be pointless to "educate" the user about the DRM - because they don't care that they can't use it with non-iPod, non-iTunes modes of playback. It's about as likely to get them to care about DRM as it is to get them to care that they can't play VHS tapes in a DVD player.

In general, people aren't stupid - even if they don't understand computers, they can still understand basic consumer skills. If a vendor of DRM'd software explains what the terms of the DRM are, and the user pays for it anyway, then it means that the user has no problem with buying a limited product. A DRM'd file is not a broken file, however much the Slashdot crowd may disagree. The file does exactly what it says it would do. The user doesn't care about being able to convert it to a different format, doesn't care about being able to send it to a different computer, doesn't care about what happens to the file when it goes into the public domain. The user has no problem accepting files that you can't do these things to, because the user never wanted to do any of those things anyway, and the user was never led to believe that any of these things would be possible. The user is not being cheated, any more than you'd be cheated if you had bought a copy of a single-player game, and was shocked to discover that it does not feature a multiplayer mode.

So, we can clearly see that the point of this exercise is not to convince average users that DRM is Evil and that the vendors of DRM'd software are trying to cheat them. This raises the next question: what is the purpose of "educating" non-tech users about DRM? Is it just for the purpose of creating market forces that will enable us to buy non-DRM'd music (even if it costs more)? Is it an attempt to create a grass-roots resistance against the encroachment on technology rights by whatever government-controlling conspiracy it's popular to believe in this week, who no doubt want to make unlicensed software of any variety illegal? I'm not seeing it, here.

Re:The point? (1)

Lussarn (105276) | more than 7 years ago | (#16022547)

How about the privacy issues, You have to tell the company about every computer you want to play the media on. Even if you have bought the track 10 years ago.

The lock-in issues. It has been proven time and time again that DRM does little to protect the actual media, even in iTunes you can just burn it to a cd and re-rep it. Apple on the other hand makes lots and lots of cash from the ipod-itunes lock-in and they protect it using DRM (in the same way as HP tries to use DRM for their ink-cartridges). That makes the market non-funtional. It's much harder to enter the market because it's locked down using DRM. This will in the end creates monopolies and the consumer will not benifit from that. example: Real tried to enter the iPod tunes market and they got sued by Apple. They didn't got sued by the media companies, Real had a license to sell the media. In this case the DRM was used to protect the lock-in. If anybody defends this they should also defend the HP-ink lockin. Same thing. And to me it smells like a rotten Apple. It realy doesn't matter if the consumer cares about this issue or how clear it is explained to them when they buy the DRM media. It's not an issue for the consumer but for the industry.

Shitty contracts. Before the world of DRM we had laws which stated how you could use something you bought, this has now been downgraded to shitty contracts beetween the producer and the consumer. Most rights gets lost in those contracts like the rights of the first sale doctrine. These contracts can also change at will 10 years after purchase, and it's always the producer who chage the contract. Of course, if we can accept that when we buy something we get a floating (as in changleble) "use-case-contract" then it's allright.

No, i don't think everything about DRM is "clear as crystal" to the average consumer.

Re:The point? (1)

gettingbraver (987276) | more than 7 years ago | (#16022633)

So, from your definition, would it be fair to say that DRM has created more of a leasing practice than a sales practice that can be changed at will by the producer of the product? (Taking a wild guess here, and I'm not finished w/this thread yet.)

John Gilmore Article (1)

Matt Perry (793115) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021751)

What's Wrong With Copy Protection [] by John Gilmore. He explains how copy prevention technology prevents him from making proper copies of an original work that he created and owns to copyright to.

by example (1)

naibas (109074) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021823)

DRM means a lot of things, but if you want to explain what it means to music enthusiast Joe Ipod, try using a real-world example:


DRM is a way of limiting what a person is allowed to do with a given computer file. The limits are imposed by the people who create the file.

For example, when you buy music from iTunes, you send them money, and they send you a file. That file contains music. However, the music is wrapped inside of technology called DRM, that limits the access to that music. In order to listen to the music in that file, you have to appease the DRM by getting approval from iTunes. Of course, you just bought it from iTunes, so of course they give you permission to listen to it. However, if you sent that file off to your good friend Alice, and she tried to play it, the DRM is still there, and it asks iTunes if Alice can listen to the music, and iTunes would say, no, Alice does not have the right to listen to it, because she hasn't paid for that right.

The full extent of what this means is contrary to how people are used to dealing with purchased music. With CD's, for example, there is a single original copy, and you can sell that copy to someone else if you no longer want it. A music file limited by DRM, on the other hand, cannot be sold or given away. You are stuck with it. At least as long as iTunes remains up and running. If iTunes ceased to exist, then when you go to play the file, and the DRM asks iTunes if you can listen to the music, without the proper response, the DRM will not let you at the music, and thus you can no longer listen to it.

If you then extend this to files containing other types of information, like books and movies, the same set of rules apply: if you cannot prove that you are allowed to access a file you have, then you cannot access it. Guilty until proven innocent.


In general, if you are speaking to the non-geek, I find it's good to use common place terminology, even if it is technically not accurate (like calling all digital audio "mp3" for example). Also, try to give an unbiased overview before launching into the reasons why it is the devil incarnate. Trying to remain neutral helps me to keep my thoughts organized, and also keeps the n00b from being turned off by a hateful geek rant.

Short and simple (1)

The Master Control P (655590) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021834)

"They want to stop your computer from doing what you want it to do, and I won't be able to fix it for you."

Copy protection was the old days. (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021848)

DRM isn't about copy protection any more. Now it's more about renting, instead of buying.

"Sooner or later, you're going to have to buy all your music and videos again".

The challenge is... (2, Insightful)

dr.badass (25287) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021870)

The challenge of this question is coming up with a description of the "problems" of DRM that actually sound like problems to "less-experienced users".

If you tell someone "When you buy from music from iTunes, you'll only be able to play it on all of your computers, all of your iPods, and all of your CD players.", chances are they aren't going to understand just how "obviously" oppressive and stifling that is.

Tell them (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021877)

DRM is a way of punishing paying consumers because the people who don't pay anyway get a superior unencumbered version online, for free. You see, companies want to give you incentive to NOT pay, er, um...... wait.

A Brain Analogy (1)

jx100 (453615) | more than 7 years ago | (#16021952)

You have a brain. Inside are memories. As things are right now, there are no legal restrictions on you thinking about or even recalling these memories. What DRM does is place restrictions on these memories. Everyone involved in these memories now must give you permission before you can access them. If someone says something stupid in front of you, you now need their permission to remember it. If someone has sex with you, you now need their permission to recall it. If you see a murder, you now need the murderer's permission to remember it.

DRM is about giving control of information *permanently* to the creator. This is not where it belongs. It belongs (eventually at least) in the public domain for everyone to do with as they please.

Piracy protection (1)

The New Stan Price (909151) | more than 7 years ago | (#16022050)

Digital media is too easy to copy without degradation. DRM is an attempt to cut down on piracy by locking a piece of digital media to some entity that has the rights to use it.

DRM in realistic terms (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16022062)

This is what I told one of my friends when he asked about DRM.
I create a doc and give it to you, also I control how you use it say, whether u can print it, make a copy of it, etc..

Getting kind of Zen, you know? (3, Insightful)

Pinback (80041) | more than 7 years ago | (#16022078)

DRM is ripping movies you bought so you can skip the FBI warning.

DRM is ripping music you bought so it works on the player they don't want it to.

DRM is downloading a crack for software you bought, so you don't have register it.

DRM is changing a CMOS bit so your wireless card works in a system it isn't type accepted for.

Anything you have to break to make it work is DRM.

Why Explain it? Show it! (4, Insightful)

fuzzybunny (112938) | more than 7 years ago | (#16022172)

I would use the following definition, or a variant thereof: "DRM is the name given to technology used by the people who sell you digital content to control how, when and where you view/listen, store or copy that content. It includes laws to make it illegal for you to get around those controls." Beyond that, don't bother explaining, show them what it is and how it works, read on:

In years of trying to make my girlfriend, who is a strategy consultant and all-around pretty competent 'business' PC user (i.e. knows her way around Windows reasonably well, knows end-user apps, etc.) and a very bright person, I couldn't get her to care ("I buy all my music/films".)

What'd it take for her to understand why this is important and to listen to me on how it works? Well, we're spending a year on another continent and all of a sudden, her DVDs don't work in the player in our furnished apartment. Oops. Boy, was she pissed. Boy, did she want to know how it worked, why it sucked and how to get around it all of a sudden.

Same with why Windows is broken ("but it just works for what I want to do.") Until it didn't "just work." Same with data privacy ("I don't have anything to hide") until someone stole her credit card number.

The phrase you need to remember is "show me the money" or, in consulting terminology, "where's the 'so what'?" Most people won't care or give a rat's ass until it affects them directly.

How I would explain it (2, Insightful)

NetRAVEN5000 (905777) | more than 7 years ago | (#16022261)

With DRM the company you "bought" it from has a say in what you can and can't do with it. If they have a deal with Microsoft, you can't listen to your music on a PC with MacOS or Linux (or anything else, for that matter) unless you download a hack, and you also won't be able to listen to it on your iPod or any other device that doesn't use MS software or hardware.

That means that if you buy a CD with MS' DRM, you won't be able to listen on it on: - many CD players, including those built into stereos (car and home) - most DVD players with CD playing capabilities - your iPod, or any or a wide range of other MP3 players, again including those built into expensive stereos (both car and home) - your Mac or Linux PC - your PS/PS2/PS3/PSP / GameCube/Wii / any other non-Xbox game system - regardless of whether or not it has multimedia capabilities.

Note that all of these devices you paid good money for. You also paid good money for the music; however, the music requires you to buy new devices. Why? Simply because the maker of the device didn't pay for the music company's DRM. Maybe they couldn't afford it, maybe it only supported certain media codecs, but most likely because that form of DRM wasn't invented yet - meaning that any device made before the DRM is 100% incompatible with any media that uses that form of DRM.

But perhaps the biggest problem with DRM is that it solves nothing. Pirates can still hack the DRM and sell cheap copies, or make them available online -- and any true pirate not only knows how, but is completely comfortable with doing this. It's no sweat off the pirate's back - they can simply download a tool off the Internet (or program their own) to get rid of the DRM. It doesn't matter how tough the DRM is, the pirates will find a way around it - it's their job.

So in short, DRM is a way for media companies to force you to pay more and buy only from them and their partners.

DRM is sugar cubes (2, Insightful)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 7 years ago | (#16022303)

Sugar cubes wich you cannot grind up and use as regular sugar because it is forbidden. Neither can you use them after they have been on the shelve for two months because that is forbidden. You can't put them in your tea you are drinking out of an old jam jar because that is forbidden. You can't made your own tea blend because that is forbidden. You most certainly can't use them in class-room chem experiments like making it burn (example of catalysts), because, you guessed it that is forbidden. Horses will just have to chased down before riding instead of attracted by the lure of a sugarcube.

Who forbids it? Why the company that sold you the sugar cubes offcourse. Why do you have to obey them? Because DRM tells you too and if you do not you go to jail for longer then for rape or murder.

That is DRM. It is like trusted computing, wich really means, we don't trust you computing. DRM and Trusted computing are about the seller telling the buyer what he can do with the product. This is a totally new idea.

As said, nobody on the world would think of it to suggest that a sugar cube wich is clearly designed to be put into hot drinks cannot be used in any other way as the buyer sees fit. I can literally do anything with the sugar cubes I buy that I want with the only hindrance that the act may not be against the normal law. The seller has NOTHING whatsoever to say about it.

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