What does ownership mean when it comes to DRM-locked items?
From the outset, ownership seems like a very cut and dry concept. To own an item means to have it in your possession. Few would deny that you have complete control of the items you own. Merriam Webster states that to own is to “to have or hold as property” or “to have power or mastery over.” Given this definition, one can safely say that an owner is entitled to use his property freely and as he so chooses: to manipulate, alter, lend, duplicate, or destroy are all at his discretion. And until recently, this concept has not been questioned.
Within the past several years, digital rights management (DRM) technology has emerged. This technology seeks to limit the usage of digital media (ebooks, music files, DVDs, etc.), often preventing owners from using their property as they wish. Proponents of DRM claim that it is necessary to protect copyright owners from unlawful dissemination of their works. Yet to many others, the approval of this technology flies in the face of the concept of ownership.
Ownership is an essential concept in a mixed economy like the one we have here in the United States. Capitalism, one aspect of our mixed economy, relies on an individual’s right to own property. Yet DRM technology destroys the power of ownership. Individuals are no longer able to truly “own” property if it is protected by DRM technology. The owners are not free, the property is not genuinely “owned” by the individual, and ownership is now more like a rental. You can use your property, but in limited ways. You may listen to your music, but only on approved operating systems. You can read your ebook if you read them on specific readers. Forget about sharing. You cannot lend your ebook to your neighbor like you may lend him a cup of sugar. DRM-protected media have become a different class of property.
We should be increasingly worried as DRM technology essentially steals our property. DRM technology strips us of the true rights of ownership we once enjoyed. When we can no longer use our property as we like, when we no longer have the freedom to make decisions about how our property will be used, ownership becomes meaningless.
What can we do about this DRM infringement? DRM.info has four tips for us here (http://www.drm.info/fsfe/todo), and tip number one is absolutely the most essential. Do not buy it. Do not purchase DRM-locked technology and devices. Purchasing these products only encourages the violation. As Georg Grev correctly proclaims, “The main motive for DRM promotion is financial.” When you won’t purchase, companies will take notice. Protests may draw media attention, but lost profits will evoke real changes. Allow yourself to be a true owner. Buy non-DRM. Use your property as you like. You deserve it. You own it.